S is for Salicylate



I know what you are thinking, not another chemistry lesson! Please keep reading because THIS one is important, at least it has been VERY important to OUR family.

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I remember being told never to take Aspirin, and that I was allergic to it. My parents don’t really remember why. I remember having really bad nosebleeds in school, maybe that was my reaction to those memorable little orange flavored St.John’s “Baby Aspirin”, who knows. I haven’t thought about it much over the years (other than writing it on a few medical forms here and there under the medication allergies category)….until recently.

As you may know from reading this blog, my daughter is currently being evaluated for mitochondrial disorder/metabolic disorder. We still do not have a definitive diagnosis and may not for some time. And while we do not know, yet, what to call the “thing” that is happening in her little body, we do know one “thing”: She is EXTREMELY sensitive to certain foods and chemicals. For the last year I have been on a quest (an thus the inspiration for this blog) to feed her the healthiest diet I could: organic fruits, vegetables, and meat. As we slowly introduced foods over the last year, we had a short list of things her body could tolerate and a LONGER list of things her body could no tolerate (as in it came FLYING through her with lots of screaming and crying to boot, sorry for the TMI). Being the chemist I once was (and still am in my heart!), it concerned me every time the DO NOT EAT list grew, especially when the foods I was adding to it were WHOLE ORGANIC FRUITS and VEGETABLES. How could this be, I wondered, the healthier I seemed to feed her, the worse things seemed to be getting (or if they weren’t getting worse, they surely weren’t getting any better). I sat down with a spreadsheet (geeky, I know!) and filled in all the foods she could not eat…and asked myself what they all had in common. After many a google search later, I realized that the foods on her DO NOT EAT list all contained: PHENOLIC compounds (a benzene ring with an alcohol group hanging off of it!)

As I read further I found links to the AUTISM community and children there who are highly sensitive to phenols  (editor’s note- the FOOD LIST on this website is not the one we follow, see below) and then I had my A-HA moment she was reacting toSALICYLATES (an aspirin like compound that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables as the plants natural defense mechanism against insects…aka a natural pesticide built right into the food by God!)

So for those of you who are following along (thank you for reading this far!), here are some links that helped me realize how all these foods my daughter was reacting to were linked and how I realized there are other people out there who are struggling with Salicylate Sensitivity (kids), and adults, even Wikipedia has a listing about it!

So off I went, searching and searching for more answers…and what I found along the way was really eye-opening to me. I truly believe God has led me on this path of discovery to help my daughter, but also to help someone else (hopefully lots of someone elses!)

There are 4 major “clues”  that have links to Salicylates that I have discovered:

Here is my Hypothesis:  Salicylate Sensitivity is a symptom of an underlying metabolic malfunction involving intermediates of the Krebs Cycle (Citric Acid Cycle) and oxidative phosphorylation in Mitochondrial energy production (ATP), and for those who have this underlying metabolic issue (either genetic and Inborn or toxicity induced), salicylates can add insult to injury (further disrupting this perhaps already damage metabolic cycle). I believe this hypersensitivity can extend to natural salicylates found in fruits and vegetables (causing similar physiologic symptoms that aspirin can cause in sensitive individuals), since it is possible to ingest nearly equivalent amounts to a baby aspirin (81mg) of salicylates in a few servings of HIGH salicylate containing foods.

A database of adverse side effects of ASPIRIN- here

Here are the References I have found for each of the 4 Areas:


One of the initial clues that salicylates may be a problem was after listening to this Webinar about mitochondrial Toxicity on http://www.mitoaction.org:  http://www.mitoaction.org/blog/medication-exposures-mitochondrial-toxicity

And seeing Aspirin (as well as MANY other well known medications (both prescription and OTC) on this MITOCHONDRIAL TOXICITY chart: http://www.mitoaction.org/files/Mito%20Toxins%20Chart.pdf

1962 Paper Salicylates Uncouple Oxidative phosphorylation in Rat Liver:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1243602/pdf/biochemj00802-0191.pdf

Aspirin Textbook referencing Mitochondrial toxicity

Oxidative Stress Is Responsible for Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Induction by Salicylate in Liver Mitochondria:  http://www.jbc.org/content/280/40/33864.full.pdf

Salicylate Toxicity/Aspirin Overdose which explains how Salicylates influence metabolism: “Meanwhile organic acids (pyruvate & lactate) accumulate in the periphery because ATP is no longer being generated through the Krebs cycle, as several of the Krebs cycle enzymes are blocked by excess salicylate. The body becomes increasingly dependent on the less efficient anaerobic energy pathways by way of which more energy is dissipated as heat. This produces fever & increased utilization of glucose. This inhibition of glucose oxidative metabolism is particularly hazardous to the brain because of the inability of neuronal tissue to employ fatty acids as an alternative fuel. The resulting lipolysis increases production of ketones & organic acids culminating in metabolic acidosis when the body’s buffering capacity becomes sufficiently depleted. These metabolic changes eventually lead to renal depletion of fluid & electrolytes, hypoglycemia, hypokalemia & a mixed picture of respiratory & metabolic alkalosis coupled with metabolic acidosis which may provoke cardiac dysrhythmias, acute pulmonary edema, renal failure or neurological injury.” excerpt from here

Effect of organic synthetic food colours on mitochondrial respiration.


Eleven organic synthetic dyes, currently or formerly used as food colours in Brazil, were tested to determine their effect on mitochondrial respiration in mitochondria isolated from rat liver and kidney. The compounds tested were: Erythrosine, Ponceau 4R, Allura Red, Sunset yellow, Tartrazine, Amaranth, Brilliant Blue, Blue, Fast Red E, Orange GGN and Scarlet GN. All food colours tested inhibited mitochondrial respiration (State III respiration, uncoupled) supported either by alpha-ketoglutarate or succinate. This inhibition varied largely, e.g. from 100% to 16% for Erythrosine and Tartrazine respectively, at a concentration of 0.1 mg food colour per mitochondrial protein. Both rat liver and kidney mitochondria showed similar patterns of inhibition among the food colours tested. This effect was dose related and the concentration to give 50% inhibition was determined for some of the dyes. The xanthene dye Erythrosine, which showed the strongest effect, was selected for further investigation on mitochondria in vivo. reference here.


The pathophysiology of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-induced mucosal injuries in stomach and small intestine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21373261

Mitochondrial disorders in NSAIDs-induced small bowel injury: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21373263

2005 paper  SIGNIFICANCE OF SALICYLATE INTOLERANCE IN DISEASES OF THE LOWER GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT: http://www.jpp.krakow.pl/journal/archive/09_05_s5/pdf/89_09_05_s5_article.pdf

Uncoupling of intestinal mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and inhibition of cyclooxygenase are required for the development of NSAID-enteropathy in the rat:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10792129

A scientific journal article written in 2006, Germany, all about Salicylate Intolerance:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696737/


Many more studies listed here (particularly for artificial salicylates (food additives and coloring): http://feingold.org/research.php  

(We found the Feingold resources to be useful, however our daughter reacted to MANY of the foods allowed in STAGE 1 of their program.)

Salicylate sensitivity in children reported to respond to salicylate exclusion:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/364260?dopt=Abstract

Hypersensitivity Of Salicylates from 1964 paper: http://www.feingold.org/Research/shelley.html

Reye’s Syndrome:


Biochemical relationships between Reye’s and Reye’s-like metabolic and toxicological syndromes:   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2671597

Effect of Salicylic Acid on Mitochondrial Peroxisomal Fatty Acid Catabolism: www.reyessyndrome.org/pdfs/Effect_of_Salicylic_Acid_on_Mitochondrial-Peroxisomal_Fatty_Acid_Catabolism.pdf

Reye syndrome and Reye-like syndrome




“Reye syndrome (RS) is an acute metabolic encephalopathy and hepatopathy affecting children and adolescents. Outbreaks of RS were common in United States until the early 1980s. However, after the abolition of salicylate (aspirin) therapy for infectious diseases such as influenza or varicella in patients under 18 years of age the incidence decreased. Now classical RS is rare and RS is considered a secondary mitochondrial disease. Reye-like syndrome (RLS), resulting from congenital errors of mitochondrial fatty oxidation, especially medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, has increased due to progress in diagnostic techniques and methods after 1990. Diagnostic differentiation between RS and RLS is difficult because the end results of mitochondrial dysfunction inRS and RLS may be similar.”

I do not have full access to this journal article but recently salicylate intoxication has been noted in infants through teething gel exposure:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21299491

Medical Subject Heading for Reye’s:


Reye’s Statistics/History:


Resources for Implementing a LOW SALICYLATE DIET:

A video on Salicylate Sensitivity and Diet:  http://fedup.com.au/images/stories/VSalicylates.mp4

and link to a fact sheet on salicylates:                    http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/salicylates

The most comprehensive testing and list of measured amounts of Salicylates in Foods (starting on pg. 32): Anne Swain’s Thesis:  http://www.sswahs.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/research/students/1988/AnneSwainPhDThesis.pdf

Top 10 foods with HIGH Salicylates (if you or your child has problems with these, they may have a salicylate issue…): http://www.ifood.tv/blog/top-10-food-contianing-salicylates

I like this easy to read chart (handy to print and take to the grocery store):  Salicylate level Chart

Here is a LONG list of Salicylate Sensitivity Symptoms (say that 5 times fast!)

2 COOK BOOKS for Salicyalte Sensitivity Cooking:

http://www.salicylatesensitivity.com/downloads/the_salicylate_sensitivity_cookbook.pdf  (online and FREE)

http://www.salicylate.org/www.salicylate.org.html (Costs around $20 but WELL WORTH IT FOR IDEAS!)

A great blog about Salicylate Sensitivity:  http://salicylate.org/www.salicylate.org.html

Eating Fruits and vegetables can Equal nearly a “baby” aspirin’s worth of Salicylate “Vegetable and fruit intake at a level consumed by vegetarians provides a level of dietary salicylates that appears to be equivalent to 75 mg of aspirin”                     Urinary excretion of salicyluric and salicylic acids by non-vegetarians, vegetarians, and patients taking low dose aspirin:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12944546

Cranberry Juice (high in salicylates) excretion in urine: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf040393b

Salicylic Acid Content of Spices (high in salicylates) and Its Implications:  http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf058158w

So what does this all mean… well for us it means a VERY limited diet for my daughter which consists of about 25 foods that we attempt to rotate on a daily basis, trying each day to make them look and taste “new” to her and attempting to broaden her diet slowly and carefully. But discovering  our little gals sensitivity to this chemical (by the grace of God!) has meant the difference for her (and us) BETWEEN: pain, misery, tears AND joy, laughter, and smiles. For you or your family it may mean nothing…because you do not have a genetic predisposition or toxic exposure that makes you sensitive to this compound (salicylates)… for your family “it” may be something different… casein, gluten, sulfates, nitrates, histamine, oxalates, etc. I challenge you to investigate and look for the “it” that troubles your health and your families!

It NOW makes PERFECT sense to me how Brilliant this quote by Lucretius is:

What is food to one man is bitter poison to others.   

Others I have met on this journey who are also dealing with Salicylate Sensitivity-

The Paleo Mom

Are your veggies attacking you? You might have salicylate sensitivity!

About Empowered Advocacy

www.EmpoweredAdvocacy.com Pediatric Patient Advocate
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46 Responses to S is for Salicylate

  1. Colleen says:

    You’ve done some awesome research here Kristi!

  2. Great job Kristi! This really should be published somewhere, like other than your blog 🙂 I’m seeing an ebook in your future!!!

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  4. Lisa C says:

    I love that quote, too. That’s why I hate one-size-fits-all diets.

    Wow, this post really does include a lot of resources. I have like seven tabs open now to go look at. I had also determined that salicylate sensitivity must be a symptom. For my son I figured it was probably gluten intolerance. That’s not mentioned above, specifically, but it could fall under ‘GI irritation.’ I’m not certain, though.

    Thanks for telling me about this post of yours!

  5. Susie Hansen says:


  6. Casey says:

    Thanks for the great post. My kids react to sals, amines, gluten, dairy, soy, chemicals, perfumes. Pretty much the same stuff as your girls it looks like! This was a great overview and a good place to send people who look at me like I’m nuts when I try to explain all of the dietary limitations we have.

  7. Kristi,
    What an awesome post and what an amazing job you’ve done researching your daughter’s issues. I’m sure you give the doctors a run for their money when you are conversing with them. LOL I did want to ask you a question then. . . my son is now TPN dependent due to complete intestinal failure secondary to suspected, but undiagnosed, mitochondrial disorder. He was never oral fed to begin with, only tube feed with a formula called Peptamin JR. I am interested, chemically, in other names or prefixes that would indicated Salicycic acids. I would like to review his TPN formula for possible offenders as well as his previous enteral formula to see if I can identify a way to link the two. Since he’s never eating by mouth and we are at the mercy of tube feeding formulas or TPN, I find it difficult to nail down a group that may be expediting this mito destruction he is having.
    Thank you for any help or even a pointer to a link would be all I need to get started.

    Great job mom!!

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  9. Maggie R says:

    Thank you for commenting on my pin at Pinterest and leading me to your great website! I have now spent hours here, following many of your links, and I thank you from my heart.
    Five weeks ago an allergy doctor told me that he thought I was intolerant to salicylates, and since then I’ve been searching the internet for helpful sites and recipes.
    I will subscribe to your blog 🙂

  10. Alissa says:

    This is really great. I’m about 3 weeks into the sal-battle with my almost-two-year-old and already battling despair. I’m just thankful that we caught this now before there were irreversible developmental issues and other diagnoses. You can either use your energy to lament or to kick its butt and girl, you are kicking butt and taking names. Nice work mamma.

  11. T1Mamma says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. We are just now beginning to see new signs of mito disease in my teen daughter (who was dx’s at 9 mo’s old). She is showing signs of lactic acidosis following intense workouts (swim). We had seen her have these episodes in the past (almost like asthma), but swim is so intense that the last one was really bad and we pulled her off the team. It seems overwhelming and lonely at times, so it’s good to know that there are others out there fighting this battle as well. Thank you so much!

    • Baby(food)Steps says:

      So glad you found my blog! I would love to compare notes on Mito and diet! Just learning about the diabetes part now! message me at babyfoodsteps AT gmail DOT com

  12. Becky says:

    I just stumbled across your blog while looking up info on salicylate allergy. I was just diagnosed with Sampter’s Triad/Triad asthma. It is basically a salicylate allergy that causes nasal polyps and asthma, but can also cause a host of other symptoms as well. I also have a son with autism and a son with ADHD, so your post really got my attention. There is also a lot of evidence of children with autism having mito disfunction, and some having full blown mito disease. I think you are spot on that this is all connected. My ASD son used to get bright red ears when he ate high phenol foods. We did five years of intensive dietary interventions as well as targeted supplements with the support of a doctor. He is now considered recovered, with only residual autism symptoms; he receives no supports at school.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi there. I am a mum of a four year old boy who has autism. He is at a specialist nursery and receives a lot of help. I have only recently discovered that he is salicylate intolerant, and that this makes his condition worse.
      I stumbled upon this realization by trying to cure myself- i have every disease under the sun it seems!- and beginning a gluten free, salicylate free diet, and my son ate what I did, and his behaviour, health and mood improved drastically!
      I am also positive that this is all connected, but don’t know how to proceed with his diet. He only eats 7 foods- 5 are high salicylate junk, and 2 are sals free ( rice and chicken). He refuses to even look at other food, and will gag and have a tantrum if it is even next to him.
      I have been feeding him chicken and rice everyday for 3 weeks but he is now bored and refuses to eat it- he only wants his other “junk” foods, and his behaviour and health are going downhill again.
      I don’t know what to do or how to help him with his diet.
      Has anyone else got any experience with this? Can somebody guide me? My email address is Iqueenofhearts@outlook.com. Any help or advise would be wholeheartedly welcome. Thank you 🙂

      • Hello Mum of a four year old boy with Autism-
        I am so sorry you are suffering through this with your son but I am glad you found my blog and have reached out! For our daughter there was a time her diet was limited also, we had to get creative adding some of her safe foods in other foods she liked (search for my oatmeal cookie recipe!).
        I would be happy to talk with you further. I will send you an email with my contact info.
        where there is a will there is a way… and all of us mommas want to help our babies feel better!

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  14. This is incredible Kristi! Another piece of “connecting the dots” between mitochondrial disorders and salicylates – if there is not adequate levels of sulfate (for sulfation to process salicylates), oxalate can be shuttled on the sulfate transporter into the cell and the mitochondria. This can affect ATP and energy. I’d love to partner together! How can I help?!

    • Baby(food)Steps says:

      thank you so much Julie! And thank you for raising my awareness of oxalates…that will be my next research endeavor…though when i look at our daughter’s food list there are only 2-4 food that may be problamatic…so maybe by cutting salicylates we also lowered her oxalate exposure too which could explain why we have seen some improvements! 🙂

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  19. Joan Ablahani says:

    Hi Kristi, I finally just got through reading your whole blog and many of the links. This is a great blog site with a lot of technical information. Its so wonderful to have a chemist on board the Sal Train. Thank you. I just want to mention that theres a good site that could also help some people called sickfromsalicylates.com and a good book with a very accurate list of foods to avoid called, “Salicylate Intolerance and The Healthier I Ate the Sicker I Got.” Take care, Joan

  20. Evelyn says:

    HALO Miss Chemist! I linked this post to my salicylate post. If I missed anything, do feel free to add to it!


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  22. Dawn S. says:

    This is a great blog/site. Has a particular mitochondrial disorder been specifically linked to issues with salicylates? I am being tested for a mitochondrial disorder currently and had Reyes Syndrome as a 15 year old girl. My maternal line is full of high IQ people afflicted with auto-immune disorders, hypoglycemia, depression, migraines, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, POTS, connective tissue disorders/hypermobility of joints, and more.

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  24. Thank you so much for doing such amazing research and putting out so many resources for people suffering from salicylate intolerances! Amazing work, I will link you on my blog I have just started that gives health tips, recipes and affirmations for sufferers 🙂 http://thehealthyjessie.wordpress.com/

    • thank you so much healthyjessie for your sweet comment! I just checked out your blog and bookmarked it! Thank you also for sharing your knowledge too! I wish you luck in your health quest and please keep in touch!

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  28. Christy says:

    I had an anaphylactic (sp?) reaction to asprin as a child. But I don’t seem to have problems with many foods. Just peppermint (gastro effects) and when I get tomato or orange products (skin redness [of course could be the acidicity] ). Could products containing ethylyhexl salicylate cause such a severe reaction as asprin if foods don’t? I asked my doc and she did’nt so I thought I would try asking people like me.

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  30. Kay says:

    Great. This is my problem! 61 years old and just figured it out.m

  31. I have sulphite/salicylate sensitivity and my dear friends Sarah and Becky have come up with some amazing recipes to help me out! I hope they will help you and your readers, too … they are delicious!


  32. Kelly says:

    Hi — you said above: “Here is my Hypothesis: Salicylate Sensitivity is a symptom of an underlying metabolic malfunction involving intermediates of the Krebs Cycle (Citric Acid Cycle) and oxidative phosphorylation in Mitochondrial energy production…”

    Actually, I believe it’s the other way around. That Salicylates cause the Krebs Cycle malfunction and mitochondrial problems. At least that’s what I’ve gathered from reading several studies and also the work of Ruth Waring…

    ??? 🙂

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  34. zahra says:

    I too suffer from this as well as my daughter. I think all the scientist-moms should work together on this to raise awareness!! For how many of us was this a self diagnosis ,because we happened to be scientists? How many other ppl suffer because they haven’t done the research or have never heard the word salicylic acid? I’ve written a little about my issues on my blog. Come check it out (:

  35. Annie says:

    So happy to have found this post (via a comment you made on Paleo Mom’s salicylate post). My daughter is highly sensitive to salicylates too. I’ve been blogging about our journey here: http://babygaps.blogspot.com/. My daughter also has Oral Allergy Syndrome, so these two things combined severely restrict her diet. I am so intrigued by the science you’re writing about here but I am totally not a scientist and am having a hard time interpreting what you wrote (I also have a baby and my brain is working with very little sleep 🙂

    My daughter takes Ketotifen (a prescription drug) which allows her to eat some salicylate foods with no problem. It’s totally an issue of dosing and it’s hard to find the threshold that works for her without going past it. I also find that if she is given the opportunity to eat a high saliyclate food (like there is a bowl of strawberries out at a potluck, for example) she will overeat them to the point that she becomes symptomatic. Does this happen with your daughter?

    Thanks again for writing about this. I would love to connect via email if you’re open to it.

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  39. Anonymous says:

    oxidative stress, reactant oxygen species, toxic intermediaries…I am not sure the mechanisms, but one might see benefit from supplimentation with ALA DPA DHA 3grams once daily of the standard ratios and standard Vitamin E once or twice daily and 1g Vitamin C 4 times a day. I have a gout sensitivity to salicylates and also have ADD – during a gout attack I am extremely sensitive to all kinds of things and I believe I have read about positive and no negative affects of the above.

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