Saturday, 18 August 2012

My Salicylate Survival Tips - Part 1

I've been asked many times about the salicylate levels in the food that I eat.

There are many websites out there about the contents of salicylate in food and they contradict each other. Some say it's negligible and another says that it is low or even moderate.

I use the Anne Swain research as my guide. I also follow the Failsafe Diet (though not 100% as I am able to tolerate a few different types of food). That being said, I also believe that each and everyone of us function differently. Some may not even tolerate even low levels of salicylate. I am able to.

However, being a person who experienced anaphylaxis due to an overload of salicylates, I still have to be careful and vigilant where my diet is concerned.

Here are some tips which I learned through experience and by researching:

1. Butter Is Not Yellow

I grew up thinking that butter was a dark, golden yellow as all the butter that we bought from supermarkets are in dark, golden yellow. Until a friend shared with me that the yellow colour is from COLOURING!

Annatto is used to give butter that deep yellow colour as the colour of butter range from creamy white to golden yellow. The colour of butter depends on the diet of the cow!

Annatto is derived from the seeds of the achiote trees. The seeds are sourced to produce a carotenoid-based-yellow to orange food coloring and flavour!

click on ANNATTO to read more

As annatto is from a plant, it does not surprise me when I read that it causes rare allergic reactions. To me, plants = salicylates. And when I searched for a link between annatto and salicylates, I found this:


Do take time to read this!

The best part is, even when I did not know of this, I was reacting to butter. According to the salicylate table content, the level of salicylate in butter is negligible! But yet, after every time I butter up my home-made bread, within a few minutes, the lid of my eye would break out in a tiny pimple and it would itch like crazy! I guess this 'annatto' must be the culprit.

2. The Promising Pear Isn't So Promising After All

The relapse which I had that sent me rushing to the ER after sticking the EpiPen into my thigh was triggered by a peeled PECKHAM PEAR!

And a peeled Peckham pear is supposed to be salicylate-free!

Well, it burned my mouth so badly that it felt like the fires of Hades were residing in my mouth. And the allergy-migraine-from-the-bowels-of-Hades struck. And then I couldn't breathe.

Could it have been triggered by the insecticide that was sprayed on the skin of the pears? Could it have been caused by something in the pear that I did not know of?

And so I did some research and discovered that pears contain a moderate amount of OXALATES!

The first thing that came to mind was, 'WHAT THE HELL ARE OXALATES?'

***Oxalates are crystals that may form in the body upon the ingestion of foods high in oxalic acid, such as spinach and soy. The crystals are needle -sharp, and can cause kidney stones as well as unexplained pain in any soft tissue, such as the muscles, eyes and heart.

***taken from here

The solution to oxalate sensitivity include avoidance of high-oxalate vegetables and fruits and increased mineral supplements both to prevent oxalate formation and to facilitate oxalate removal from the body.

To people who are salicylate sensitive, they may cross-react to many other things, which may include oxalates.

Am I oxalate sensitive? I have no idea. But it is good to be aware of oxalates.

Click here for an interesting read on oxalates.

3. The Anti-Caking Agent

When I first started the salicylate-free journey 41 months ago, I saw that corn flour is salicylate-free. Therefore I would be safe. Boy, was I wrong!

The burning sensation was horrible and the same allergy-migraine-from-hell came soon after.

Why did it happen?

What triggered the attack?

Most products in loose forms have anti-caking agents in them to prevent the formation of lumps. And it is an ADDITIVE!

The anti-caking agent (554) which is sodium aluminosilicate is a man-made product. It is mostly used in table salt. And this is present is dried milks, sugar products and even in flours!

An interesting link. Do read it.

4. The Sulphuric Cabbage

41 months back, I thought that cabbage was a very fine vegetable. I mean it was salicylate-free! And I LOVE cabbage. Yummy to the tummy.

But the smell of cabbage made me sick.

It was as though I was smelling rotten food. It gave out this gas which made me sick. Really sick.

After researching, I discovered that it was the sulphur! It was a sulphuric food. So was petai, durian and nangka (jackfruit). And I could not tolerate all these smells after the anaphylactic attack.

Here is a list of sulphur containing food.

People being salicylate-sensitive could cross react with sulphuric foods.

5. Of Beans & Sprouts

Just because the mung bean is salicylate-free, it does not mean you can pig out on bean-sprouts.
The beans have no salicylates. The sprouts do. They are low in salicylates. Bear in mind of the differences!

My allergist/immunologist shared that salicylate is negligible in sunflower oil. But not in the flower! So if you plant sunflower in your garden, and are VERY sensitive to salicylates, it is good to have this information in mind.

... to be continued


  1. You probably know about this already, you can homemake butter from doublecream!

    But I'm not sure whether it has the Annatto ingredient, so you probably want to check.

    And alternatively, try margarine instead of butter (and check of the annatto ingredient before buying)

    1. Doublecream in packagings in the supermarket have a lot of funny ingredients which burn my mouth.

      Margarine is WORSE than butter.

      Check this out:

  2. The answer is correcting thyroid levels and gut bacteria. All foods have different components that one might react to, including myself, but I'm finding that avoiding and overanalyzing sals/oxalates/etc., can make one sicker than just letting go.

    Pesticides are another issue however...

    1. If your thyroid levels are all fine and gut bacteria is fine too, what would you do then? Avoidance would be the best thing don't you think? Of course overanalyzing anything will never do any good. But a little knowledge does go a long way.

    2. You will be less sensitive to food. Lookup 'leaky gut' online and see how it can cause it. Your thyroid manages many important systems in your body. It can be problematic because of an unhealthy gut flora and even autoimmune diseases.

    3. Yes, the gut is the key to many things.

  3. Hi. I have allergy symptoms to ibuprofen and have just discovered that my mouth ulcers, itchy skin and IBS are related to annatto. Thanks for making the connection for me!

    1. As you realise, salicylate allergy or intolerance is a big headache or gut ache. Nothing seems straight forward and I continue to learn on a regular basis.Diets are tricky, but I am now ok for 90%+ of the time. I note Ann Swain's points about corn flour usually being 'wheat flour', but I think UK corn flour is Corn mixes lumps. I have noted that since I have stopped using corn flour, my gut symptoms have gone. I am fortunate that I only suffer gastro intestinal symptoms due to intolerance, but as you can imagine, it can (and did ) make me housebound for 36 hours.

    2. Yes, it has caused great pain and yes, many times bed bound too. Thank you for stopping by.

  4. Annatto is very high in phenols. Phenols are salicylates, beta carotenes, and flavonoids. look up phenol intolerance and sulfation pathways, etc... PST deficiency. might help you

  5. Is Pho beef soup low in salicylates if the soup is cooked with onions but they are strained out?

    1. Unless you’re worried about FODMAPS, then cooking with onions shouldn’t be problem unless you’re sensitive to it. You could replace onions with the green parts of chives/spring onions if you want to be on the safe side. Hope this helps.