A low Salicylate diet has assisted many people with allergy and asthma symptoms and unpredictable behaviour to reach their potential. When the underlying cause is identified it is possible for a compromised anxious person, to become one with a clear head and positive energy.

Asthma type symptoms and unpredictable behaviour are often seen together. It is a combination often medicated with several different pharmaceutical drugs. The medications may provide relief in the short term, they do not address the underlying cause. An individualised diet is a more often an effective alternative and provides a long-term solution.

Salicylate intolerance

Salicylate intolerance or sensitivity is just one of the potential underlying causes for allergy type symptoms. It was first identified in 1970’s by Dr Feingold who linked hyperactivity and other behavioural problems with food additives. Since then there has been extensive research into the impact Salicylates have on children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Some people grow out of it, or more likely learn to instinctively stay away from foods and chemicals that cause the debilitating symptoms.

Salicylate symptoms

Symptoms of Salicylate intolerance include the physical and emotional/behaviour symptoms of:

  • asthma-like symptoms: trouble breathing, wheezing, persistent cough
  • headaches, sinus problems, nasal congestion and polyps
  • changes in skin colour, itching, skin rash or hives, urticaria, psoriasis, swollen hands, feet and or face
  • stomach pain or irritation
  • speech difficulty, visual problems, tinnitus, reading writing problems, dyslexia.
Emotional, behaviour and symptoms
  • anxiety and agitation, without an obvious reason
  • bouts of excessive energy, followed by fatigue
  • confused thinking, hyperactivity, unpredictability, sudden highs, impatient, lack of concentration.

These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for allergies. However, Salicylate intolerance is not a classical allergy with immune system involvement. It is defined as a non-specific antigen-induced pseudo-allergic hypersensitivity reaction to Salicylic acid or chemically similar molecules.

Low Salicylate Diet

A low Salicylate diet removes foods high in Salicylates, either short or long term. Individuals have differing sensitivity thresholds to Salicylates, the intolerance does not necessarily involve the entire spectrum of Salicylate-containing products. If successful in relieving symptoms, some foods can be gradually reintroduced to challenge the intolerance. If symptoms don’t improve in four weeks, your Nutritionist may recommend you review the low phenolic diet. A low phenolic diet also removes foods high amine and glutamate content.

What to avoid

Salicylates are organic chemicals containing Salicylic acid, found naturally in many herbs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Salicylates act like preservatives and a protective mechanism in foods. They prevent rot and disease and protect against pests. They are stored in the most vulnerable plant parts; the leaves, bark, roots, skin and seeds. Examples of foods highest in Salicylates are avocado, tomatoes, pineapple, dried fruits, olives, mushrooms and spinach (and others). While salicylates are a common in fruits and vegetables, the most widely recognised high Salicylate compounds are Aspirin, red food colouring’s and preservatives.

Jack’s story

Recently, in clinic I worked with a mum and her 5-year-old son who was about to start school. His kindergarten teacher and their local school principal recommended the family consider a special ed class, as they genuinely felt her son was unlikely to be able to assimilate into a mainstream environment. Mum was shocked, she knew her son’s behaviour was unpredictable, and the outbursts were quite confronting, but she did not want him to carry a label throughout his school life. She only had a short time to convince the school her son should attend his local school, in a mainstream class.

A friend of hers recommended they come and see me. They had previously tried Gluten free and Dairy free diet, and while it made a little difference it was not enough.

Over the school holidays, we worked together to introduce a low Salicylate diet, gradually introducing new low Salicylate friendly foods and remove the high Salicylate foods. Mum excitedly phoned last week to tell me her son had started at the local school and had settled in well. They still have his Asthma plan, just in case, but he had not had an attack since the first week of the diet. Nor had he had a serious temper tantrum at school since he started.

Cyclical bouts of illness (including asthma symptoms) and behavioural patterns are extremely common amongst people who are Salicylate sensitive. It is just one of the compounds we review when investigating your diet and health.

Is a low Salicylate diet the only solution?

The starting point is to identify if there is a Salicylates intolerance, or another compound that is causing physical and emotional issues. We do this in clinic by reviewing your health and diet with questionnaire, tests and analysis.

Salicylate avoidance may not be required long term. However, by the time people with a Salicylate sensitivity see me their body may have reached a point that it cannot recover until all high and very high Salicylate foods and additives have been removed. For some this may be for a few weeks for others longer.

The good news is that it is not a difficult diet to follow and there is loads of support available.


Sample menu for a low Salicylate diet

Fresh pear donuts, with yogurt and cacao/sesame spread

Breakfast  Overnight oats with golden delicious grated apple

Snack       Pear and banana muffins

lunch        Chicken and pumpkin pikelets

snack      Fresh pear donuts

Dinner    Low Salicylate bolognaise

Recipe for Low Salicylate Bolognaise

  • I onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 large carrots, grated or diced
  • 500g pumpkin, grated or diced
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 700mls of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  •  salt an pepper to taste
  1. Heat 2 tabs of olive oil in pan, saute onion and leek for 4 minutes, add garlic for 2 minutes.
  2. Add carrot, pumpkin, lentils and vegetable stock simmer for 45-60 minutes until vegetables or soft and cooked through.
  3. Add parsley in last 10 minutes of cooking, season to taste
  4. Serve with rice, gluten-free pasta, extra greens, with meat balls or your favourite protein.

If you suspect you or your family member has a Salicylate sensitivity or intolerance, please give me a call 0417 820 292 or go to my contacts page to book in for a health review consultation.