What is a salicylate and how can a sensitivity affect my child?

It should be no surprise when I say my son has a salicylate allergy that people give me a double take. I often find myself explaining over and over either virtually or in person what a salicylate allergy is. I find it hard to explain myself as it is complicated.

I have luckily found myself in a couple of private Facebook groups for kids like my son and suddenly I don’t feel so alone. One group in Australia is way ahead in truly understanding how salicylates affect their kids not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. They are working with bio-medical doctors and dieticians who know and understand the impact of how foods affect our bodies. It makes me want to move there… ok not really. But I now understand salicylates even better than I did before. I will try to simplify for you what is a salicylate sensitivity and its common side effects.

What is a salicylate?

A salicylate is part of phenol family. A phenol is a chemical that occurs naturally as an immune hormone that protects plants such as herbs, fruits and vegetables. The produce or plant herb emit this chemical to help protect plants from bacteria, bugs, animals and diseases. It is a naturally occurring substance to protect these plants, it is found in 99% of fruits, about 85% of vegetables and 95% of herbs and spices

Salicylates are also man-made and found in perfumes, toothpastes, personal care products such as shampoos and lotions. It is also found in food dyes, food preservatives such as BHT and BHA, artificial flavors and artificial enhancers. This is the foundation of the Feingold Diet, which linked these foods additives and some foods to hyperactivity back in 1967. Many still follow this diet today, but there is a longer list of foods that are high in salicylates than even he found back then.

Let’s not forget medicines. You may be familiar with its cousin, salicylic acid, which is in aspirin. It is also in many anti-aging and acne based products. If one has a sensitivity to salicylates, then you often cannot have anything with salicylic acid. I am sensitive to salicylic acid that goes on my face, which I discovered after I had a reaction years ago during a facial. My father has a life-threatening allergy to salicylic acid (aspirin), so for us there is a genetic component. However, there does not have to be a genetic component either, just a disruption in our gut bacteria can also affect our ability to digest certain types of foods properly.

Signs and Symptoms of a Salicylate Sensitivity

There are many signs and symptoms, many cross-over with other sensitivities such as gluten, soy, dairy, corn, peanuts, etc, but it is something to look into.

  • Skin issues such as acne, hives, eczema and psoriasis. For my son, it helped to clear up his psoriasis.
  • Bed-wetting or urgency having to go to the bathroom (see my past post on Bed-wetting and Bladder Allergies)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Digestive issues such as bloating, stomach aches, IBS, constipation, diarrhea
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Sensitivity to light and noise (possible link to Sensory Processing Disorder)
  • Migraines
  • Difficulty sleeping or difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Heavy body odor and/or bad breath
  • Flushed cheeks and ears after eating offending foods
  • Mood disorders such as Hyperactivity (possible ADHD/ADD and Sensory Processing Disorder), depression, Autism, Schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts
  • PMS, horrible cramps
  • Often gets “silly” after eating
  • Aggressive behavior or easily angered
  • And more.

Also check this site called FailSafe Diet based out of Australia

Remember this is just a list of possibilities. My son had clear signs such as red cheeks after eating fruits, horrible diapers, crying from stomach pains, psoriasis, he also had difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep at night. He also has a Sensory Processing Disorder and have noticed he much more organized, well behaved and less whiny when he is off of “sals.”

I first started my journey in May 2012 when my son had the stomach flu. He didn’t eat for about four days and his psoriasis cleared right up. I knew it was something he was eating, it took another year before I finally figured it out. That was a whole year of seeing whole host of doctors and alternative doctors.

I did an elimination diet in April and learned the connection and had the discussion with our allergist. I am still learning and finding new things about salicylate sensitivity. Unfortunately there is not true blood test to verify this, it has to be done as an elimination diet, which our allergist approved.

I know from my own work experience and helping others to get healthy, the foods we crave the most are the ones we tend to be intolerant too. My son’s favorite foods are really high is salicylates.

Right now we are doing a very modified GAPS program, getting my son to eat anything lately has been challenging as I slowly take out many of his favorite “safe” foods. I will stay persistent and consistent. The Facebook support group has been an amazing source even for me.

I came across this quote and while I am being challenged in ways that I could not even imagine. I break down and cry, but I know there are better things that lie ahead.

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.” ~ Unknown


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