Salicylates occur naturally in a wide variety of foods, so they do not have 'E' numbers, and are not listed as an ingredient. In high enough doses salicylates are harmful to everyone, but most people can handle average amounts of salicylates without any adverse affects on their health. However there are a small percentage of the population for who even a small dose of salicylates can be a problem and it is dose-related. Salicylate Sensitivity is not an allergy, but an intolerance where people are unable to handle more than a certain amount of salicylates at a time. The tolerated amount and items vary slightly from person to person. Salicylates also have a cumulative effect in the body and build up over time, this means that a salicylate sensitive person may be able to tolerate a small amount of salicylates but will experience symptoms after excessive exposure.
The following are just a few symptoms which may be associated with salicylate sensitivity. This list is not meant as a tool for diagnosis, as symptoms could also (more likely) be the result of other serious problems, so do not assume that just because you have some of the symptoms listed on this site that you are salicylate intolerant or that salicylates are the cause of your symptoms. Always consult a doctor/professional and do not self diagnose.
Physical symptoms include itchy skin, rashes, upset stomach, asthma, migraine, ulcers, cough, polyuria, fatigue, diarrhoea, nausea, bloating, blurred vision, dizziness, weakness. There may also be mental/behavioural symptoms like memory loss, depression, confusion, irritability. Some people need to limit their salicylates intake as they are on blood thinner drugs like warfarin; for more information see here.
If you have been advised to limit your salicylate intake, please refer to the list:
Natural sources of salicylates
- Fruits: Apples (some varieties - Golden Delicious are ok), Apricots, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, cherries, cranberries, dates, grapefruit, grapes, guava, kiwi fruit, loganberry, lychees, melons (all types), nectarines, oranges, mandarins, satsumas, tangerines, peaches, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, plum dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants, prunes)
- Any product made from the above fruits, e.g. jams, marmalade
- Soft drinks and fruit juices of the above fruits
- Vegetables: Alfalfa sprouts, artichoke, broad beans, broccoli, chicory, chilli, courgette, cucumber, gherkins, okra, olives, peppers, spinach, radish, sweet potato, tomato & tomato products, watercress, zucchini
- Nuts & seeds: Almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, peanuts with skins on, pistachio nuts, water chestnuts
- Tea, coffee
- Wine, beer, cider
- Ice cream
- Sweets: Liquorice, chewing gum, fruit flavoured sweets, mints, peppermints
- Maize, corn, sweetcorn and products made from corn or maize, e.g. fast food French fries, maize-based snacks, popcorn
- Cake mixes
- Spices, condiments & sauces: Commercial gravies & sauces, all-spice, aniseed, bay leaves, basil, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, cayenne, cider vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, fenugreek, garam masala, ginger, Marmite, Vegemite and other yeast extracts, mint, mixed herbs, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, pimiento, rosemary, sage, tabasco, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, pepper, vinegar, Worcester Sauce
- Oils: coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, walnut oil
- Meats: Any processed meat/fish in sauces (check), canned, processed meats
Non-food sources of salicylates
- Aspirin and any medication containing aspirin or similar drugs
If in doubt consult your pharmacist
It's also advisable to stick to a healthy diet, avoiding processed foods and junk. Watch your intake of fat and refined carbohydrates, consume plenty of fibre and drink lots of water. The following example meal plan has been designed for someone who needs to eliminate salicylates from their diet. It's based on an average weight individual with a sedentary job for weight maintenance. Use this to give you an idea of what are healthy nutritious foods to include, but don't forget to vary your food choices and to drink plenty of water through the day.