Salicylates and Salicylate Foods – What to know when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Salicylates and Salicylate Foods – What to know when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

When thinking about foods, most people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome mainly think about Histamine Intolerance. But there are also intolerances to Lectins, Oxalates, FODMAPs

And for some of the people I work with, Salicylate Intolerance.

I want to share “Camila’s” story with you. (I’ve changed her name for privacy reasons.)

Camila was really struggling when I met her. She’d been trying so hard to eat well. She’d gone low histamine and started eating a lot more veggies.

But her ear ringing kept getting worse. She had rashes she couldn’t explain. The skin in her mouth would peel sometimes.

She kept trying to get the right supplements on board. Especially the mast cell supporting ones. But these seemed to backfire, too.

She was pulling her hair out when I met her. She was confused and scared.

She already knew she couldn’t handle aspirin. And she’d figured out that the fruits and veggies she ate were making her feel worse, short term.

She also had a history of mold exposure.

The pieces started to add up in my mind as she shared her story.

So, we got to work. We had to work on her haywire mast cells. We also started to work on the mold and her detox pathways.

And…She needed to lower the salicylate levels that had built up in her body.

It took time lowering the salicylates that had built up in her body. But, gradually, things improved for her.

Over time, she was able to start eating more vegetables. Eventually, she was able to slowly start eating some fruits, too!

It was a slow road, but finally something helped!

I want to share about salicylates, in case you’re dealing with some of the same things.

But…this is VERY IMPORTANT!

DO NOT go on a low salicylate diet long term without your healthcare practitioner’s supervision.

Talk It over with your health care practitioner Mast Cell 360

DO seek support and guidance from your healthcare practitioner when working with a low salicylate diet.

Limiting foods can cause a lot of problems. You don’t want to limit foods unnecessarily. Especially if you are already reducing histamines.

It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone.

Before you change your diet on your own, please make sure you’re working with a healthcare practitioner who can help you with this.  

In this blog post, you’ll learn which foods are high salicylate. But first, let’s start with what salicylates are…

What Are Salicylates? What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Question_ Mast Cell 360

Salicylates are found in plants. They serve as a part of the plant’s defense system. They protect plants from insects, bacteria, and fungal diseases.

Many herbs and spices are high in salicylates. Salicylates can also be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oils.

They can even show up in cosmetics and personal care products. They can hide in creams, cleansers, toothpaste, and perfumes.

Essential oils can be really high in salicylates, too! After all, oils come from plants. And essential oils are super concentrated.

Peppermint, wintergreen, basil, and rosemary are especially high in salicylates. So, their essential oils are high in salicylates, too.

Aspirin is a salicylate that you’ve likely tried at some point. It originally came from salicylate-rich willow bark.

A number of studies have shown that salicylates have anti-inflammatory properties. That’s what generally makes these foods and essential oils so good for you. And salicylates are what make aspirin such a powerful pain reliever.

Salicylates have a lot of other powerful benefits. This is why you definitely don’t want to get rid of them if you don’t have salicylate issues! They can be very helpful for many people.

Salicylates are only a problem when you develop a salicylate intolerance. This can include an aspirin intolerance. If you have an aspirin allergy (and you’re not reacting to the colors or additives), you may be salicylate sensitive.

Salicylate intolerance means that you can’t eat a normal amount of salicylates in foods. Or take higher salicylate supplements without developing symptoms.

So, how do you know if you have salicylate intolerance? I’ll go over what to look for in the next section.

Symptoms of Salicylate Intolerance: What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Uncomfortable Mast Cell 360

There are certain clues to watch for if you think you may have salicylate intolerance. Some symptoms of salicylate intolerance can include:

  • Aspirin allergy
  • Ear ringing (tinnitus)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sinus infection and inflammation
  • Nasal or sinus polyps
  • Chronic cough
  • Asthma
  • Itchy skin, Hives
  • Rashes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation of the GI tract, including colitis
  • Tissue swelling
  • Fatigue

Anything sound familiar? A lot of these symptoms are also present with Mast Cell Activation and Histamine Intolerance!

So how can you tell them apart?

Here’s how…For people with Salicylate Intolerance, these symptoms get worse when eating low histamine, high salicylate foods.

Or taking high salicylate supplements – even if they are histamine and mast cell supporting.

So let’s take a look at some effects salicylates have on mast cells next.

How Salicylates Can Affect Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

Salicylates can be a major trigger for mast cells. If you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance, your mast cells are easily triggered, anyway.

And if you also have an intolerance to salicylates, it generally results in even more mast cell inflammation.

You may get mast cell inflammation signs like pain, redness, swelling, or heat. That can be triggered by high salicylate foods or supplements.

Other types of symptoms of salicylate intolerance can also include things like

  • abdominal pain
  • gas
  • ear ringing
  • trouble breathing
  • sinus issues
  • asthma

As you know, any kind of inflammation can trigger more Mast Cell Activation and Histamine issues.

And salicylates can be a big trigger as well.

Basically, salicylates can add to the mast cell inflammation bucket — just like these other types of mast cell triggers:

  • histamine
  • oxalates
  • mold
  • toxins
  • chemicals
  • other inflammatory foods.

Here is how Mast Cell Activation works. Once your inflammation bucket reaches your body’s threshold, your mast cells get overactivated. And this causes a variety of symptoms.

This is why inflammation from excess salicylates can trigger Mast Cell Activation. Which can cause the mast cells to produce more inflammation. Which can trigger even more Mast Cell Activation.

This can cause a Mast Cell Cascade – kind of a snowball effect.

What causes this whole cascade in the first place? And how do salicylates play a role?

We’ll cover that next…

What Can Cause Salicylate Intolerance in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance?

Salicylate Intolerance can be caused by a number of problems, such as:

  • Taking in too many salicylates (through food or supplements)
  • Mold toxicity clogging the detox pathways that get rid of salicylates
  • Lack of needed nutrients for reducing salicylates in your body
  • Issues with oxalates
  • Lack of sulfur in diet (from meats and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and garlic)
  • Too many inflammatory mast cell mediators like histamine

These are a few of the most common causes of salicylate intolerance.

You’ll learn about more of these in a future blog post. For now, I want you to know why mold toxicity can cause salicylate intolerance.

The Salicylate Intolerance – Mold Toxicity Link: What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Mold Mast Cell 360

There’s a major link between salicylate intolerance and mold toxicity.

Sometimes mold toxins can build in the body. The body gets rid of mold toxins through detox pathways.

If you have mold toxicity, your body is using these detox pathways to get rid of these mold toxins.

This in turn leaves fewer detox enzymes for breaking down salicylates.

You can learn more about mold toxicity by reading these articles:

And here’s another link between mold and salicylate intolerance…

Mold toxicity tends to lead to higher oxalate levels. Breaking down oxalates uses up a lot of sulfur. Sulfur is also used for breaking down salicylates.

When your body is using sulfur for detoxing mold, this leaves less sulfur for breaking down salicylates.

You get sulfur from eating meat. Veggies like broccoli, onions, and garlic are sources of sulfur, too.

Addressing mold toxicity can go a long way toward reducing oxalate production. This can help with salicylate intolerance — because it frees the sulfur in your body for breaking down salicylates.

Now we know that molds may produce oxalates. Let’s take a deeper look at how oxalate and salicylate intolerance are connected.

The Oxalate-Salicylate Intolerance Link: What to know when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Oxalates

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably read how oxalates can be an issue for Mast Cell Activation and Histamine Intolerance.

If not, you can catch up by reading these articles:

Here are the basics on oxalates…

Oxalates are found in many plant foods. Particularly foods like sweet potatoes, beets, spinach, swiss chard, and almonds.

Too many oxalates tend to cause issues with histamine and mast cells. They also can contribute to salicylate intolerance.

As you now know, salicylates are detoxed from the body via sulfur.

Unfortunately, oxalates use up sulfur in the body. And that leaves fewer sulfates to detox salicylates.

DON’T attempt to reduce oxalates on your own, though. It’s very important not to reduce oxalates cold turkey. Doing so can make you very ill. Be sure to work with a healthcare practitioner who is experienced in this area.

Now you know a little bit about some of the causes of salicylate intolerance. And you know that foods can be high in salicylates. So, what are some high and low salicylate foods?

High Salicylate Foods: What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Broccoli & Cuke Mast Cell 360

Again, it’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone.

Before you change your diet on your own, please make sure you’re working with a healthcare practitioner who can help you with this.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already worked on lowering histamine foods.

But if you have Salicylate Intolerance you’re probably wondering…what low histamine foods are high salicylate?

Here’s a list of High Salicylates foods you’ll find on our Low Histamine foods list. That’s why this isn’t a fully comprehensive high salicylate list. This list focuses on what specifically is high salicylate, low histamine.

HIGH SALICYLATE (Low Histamine) FOODS:

Fruit

  • Apricots, Fresh
  • All apples other than peeled Golden Delicious (green variety) or Red Delicious
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe melon (rock melon)
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Figs, Dried
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Raspberry
  • Watermelon

Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Chicory (endive)
  • Cucumber
  • Endive
  • Parsnip
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Sweet potato
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini (Courgette)

Meats

  • Processed Meats

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds (blanched or with skin)
  • Brazil nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame Seeds

Sweeteners

  • Coconut sugar
  • Stevia and Monk Fruit – unknown salicylate levels. These haven’t been tested but clinical observation shows they are likely high salicylate. Only try after salicylate levels improve.

Seasonings

  • Aniseed
  • Allspice
  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Cardamom
  • Caraway
  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Cumin
  • Curry Powder
  • Dill
  • Fenugreek
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric

Oils and Fats

  • Almond oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil

Grains

  • Corn

Beverages

  • Peppermint tea
  • Tea: Black, green, white
  • Tea: Herbal except what’s on the low salicylate list

So, what foods are both low in salicylates and histamines?

There are plenty of delicious options. Keep reading…

Low Salicylate, Low Histamine Foods: What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

carrot and cauliflower Mast Cell 360

Here’s a list of Low Salicylate foods. Good news! These also happen to be Low Histamine and Low Oxalate.

LOW SALICYLATE & LOW HISTAMINE FOOD OPTIONS:

Salicylate Key:

NS = Negligible Salicylates

LS = Low Salicylates

MS = Moderate Salicylates

L = Lectin

O = Oxalate

Fruit

  • Apple, golden delicious – peeled (green variety only) – LS
  • Apple, red delicious – peeled – MS
  • Kiwi- MS, O
  • Lemon (½ teaspoon. Okay for some people, can raise histamine) – LS
  • Lime (½ teaspoon. Okay for some people, can raise histamine) – NS
  • Figs, Fresh -LS, O
  • Loquat – MS
  • Mango – LS
  • Passion Fruit – LS
  • Pear, peeled – NS
  • Pear, with peel – MS
  • Pomegranate – LS, O

Vegetables

  • Asparagus – LS
  • Bean Sprouts – LS, L
  • Brussels Sprouts – LS
  • Cabbage – green/white – NS
  • Cabbage, red – LS
  • Carrots – MS
  • Cauliflower – LS
  • Celery – NS
  • Chives – LS
  • Green Split peas, dried – NS, L
  • Leeks – LS
  • Lentils – Brown & Red- NS, L (keep below ½ cup cooked to keep medium oxalate)
  • Lettuce (iceberg) – NS
  • Lettuce (other than iceberg) – MS
  • Onion – LS
  • Rutabaga / Swede- NS
  • Shallots – LS
  • Turnip – LS
  • Yellow Split Peas – LS, L

Nuts and Seeds

  • Coconut -Dried – MS (can be a little higher histamine)
  • Pecans – LS, O
  • Poppy seeds – NS, O
  • Sesame Seeds – MS, O
  • Sunflower Seeds – LS, L

Sweeteners

(Use only in small quantities. Spikes in blood sugar affect histamine release.)

  • Maple syrup – NS

Seasonings

  • Chives – LS
  • Cilantro / Fresh Coriander Leaves- LS
  • Fennel – LS
  • Garlic – LS
  • Parsley – Flat Leaf-  (curly is high oxalate) – LS
  • Poppy Seeds – O
  • Saffron – LS
  • Sea Salt – NS
  • Shallots – LS

Oils and fats

  • Butter- Grass Fed  – NS
  • Cold Pressed oils such as sunflower – NS
  • Ghee – Grass Fed  – LS

Grains & Starches

  • Brown Rice – NS, L (Higher oxalate – limit)
  • Buckwheat – L, O
  • Cassava – likely LS to MS, O
  • Millet – NS (Higher oxalate – limit)
  • Oats – NS, L (Higher oxalate – limit)
  • White rice – NS (Medium oxalate)

Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs

Be sure to follow the meat handling tips in this post. Meat, poultry and eggs are generally salicylate free.

  • All pure, freshly cooked meat (except beef) or poultry. Pasture-raised is best.
  • Bison (not ground)
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Eggs, if tolerated
  • Goose
  • Lamb
  • Liver
  • Ostrich
  • Pork
  • Quail
  • Rabbit
  • Salmon gutted and frozen within 30 minutes of catch (like Vital Choice King Salmon*)
  • Turkey

For meats frozen quickly after slaughter, try a farmer’s market or US Wellness Meats. This is important for lower histamine levels.

Dairy
***These dairy products are technically low histamine. But many people have casein and lactose issues. So this is only if tolerated. 

  • Butter, if tolerated – NS
  • Cream – Grass Fed  -NS (some people are very casein sensitive and react to cream)
  • Ghee – NS
  • Rice Milk – NS (fresh made – boxed will be higher histamine)

Baking Supplies

  • Arrowroot – NS (medium to high oxalate)
  • Brown Rice Flour – NS, L (much higher oxalate)
  • Carob – L, O
  • Casssava Flour – Otto’s recently tested and likely LS to MS, usually tolerated in small amounts
  • Maple syrup – NS
  • White Rice Flour – NS (medium oxalate)

Beverages

  • Chamomile Tea
  • Coffee – Decaf only – Low histamine, mold free, organic coffee like Purity Coffee* – LS
  • Dandelion Root Tea – LS
  • Pear Juice – Pure – Homemade – NS
  • Rice Milk – Homemade  – NS, L
  • Water – NS

We’ve covered a lot about salicylate intolerance. And there is still so much more to this topic! But my goal is to give you a starting point for talking with your doctor.

Options For What To Do Next If You Have Food Sensitivities and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Addressing the Haywire Mast Cells is also key to lowering inflammation. And lessening your sensitivities to foods.

It’s the #1 step the people I work with take at Mast Cell 360. In fact, fixing Haywire Mast Cells is 50% of the healing process.

If you want to learn more and haven’t yet registered for my Mast Cell Nervous System Reboot, you can sign up for the class by clicking the link below.

Mast Cell Reboot button

*Some links in this website are affiliate links, which means Mast Cell 360 may make a very small commission if you purchase through the link. It never costs you any more to purchase through the links, and we try to find the best deals we can. We only recommend products that we love and use personally or use in the Mast Cell 360 practice. Any commissions help support the newsletter, website, and ongoing research so Mast Cell 360 can continue to offer you free tips, recipes, and info. Thank you for your support!

References on Salicylates for those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

Baenkler H. W. (2008). Salicylate intolerance: pathophysiology, clinical spectrum, diagnosis and treatment. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 105(8), 137–142. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2008.0137

Casterline C. L. (1975). Intolerance to aspirin. American family physician, 12(5), 119–122.

McInnes I. B. (2003). Leukotrienes, mast cells, and T cells. Arthritis research & therapy, 5(6), 288–289. https://doi.org/10.1186/ar1017

Narayanankutty, A., Reséndiz-Hernández, J. M., Falfán-Valencia, R., & Teran, L. M. (2013). Biochemical pathogenesis of aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD). Clinical biochemistry, 46(7-8), 566–578. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2012.12.005

Race, S. Salicylate Sensitivity. Food Can Make You Ill website. n.d. Accessed December 10, 2020.

Rechenauer, T., Raithel, M., Götze, T., Siebenlist, G., Rückel, A., Baenkler, H. W., Hartmann, A., Haller, F., & Hoerning, A. (2018). Idiopathic Mast Cell Activation Syndrome With Associated Salicylate Intolerance. Frontiers in pediatrics, 6, 73. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2018.00073

Swain, A. R., Dutton, S. P., & Truswell, A. S. (1985). Salicylates in foods. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 85(8), 950–960.

Comments

  1. Sandra Reed

    Great information Beth. I wish there were a definitive test for salicylate. I did organic acid test it was high. However In the beginning I was using Quercetin and I actually did well with it. I stopped upon learning more about Salicsylate and saw Organic test. Now really confused.

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Getting all the pieces of the puzzle in place can take some time and a lot of work. We understand! That’s where a practice like ours or working with a nutritionist 1:1 can be helpful.
      Suz

  2. Helia

    Thank you Beth for this invaluable information. I’m very salicylate sensitive. can’t even tolerate low sal only negligible ones. I also have a erosive duodenum. what supplements do you recommend to heal the gut?

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