Ginger Yazak on Salicylate Sensitivity

Ginger Yazak on Salicylate Sensitivity

Born in rural New York, Ginger Yazak enlisted in the military following graduation. After leaving the Air Force, she settled in Arizona, and today works as a customer service advisor for a road-side assist company and rescues stranded motorists all over the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. For two years, Ginger has written about her salicylate sensitivity as well as other health-related topics.

What are salicylates?

Salicylates are natural chemicals produced by plants. They act as natural preservatives, pesticides, and fungicides. They keep a plant from rotting; protect it from outside attacks by insects, pests, and fungus; so the fruit so it has time to germinate and create a new plant. Not all salicylates have the word salicylate in their name--though some do, like magnesium salicylate and sodium salicylate. Menthol, mint, benzoates, and beta-hydroxy acid are a few of the different names of salicylate compounds.

If a person is sensitive to salicylates, what kind of symptoms can they expect?

People with a sensitivity to salicylates or any other substance can experience the exact same symptoms as a person with an allergy. There are two ways to tell if it a misdiagnosis may have been made:

  1. Your doctor's diagnosis of your condition does not exactly fit the "textbook definition" and it does not respond well to traditional treatments.
  2. You eliminate the potential source of the allergy or sensitivity and the problem gets better or goes away.

When I first discovered I had salicylate sensitivity, I had more than 32 of these "symptoms" and all but 8 of them improved or went away after I started avoiding salicylates.

Salicylate Sensitivity Physical Symptoms
Abdominal pain Aching muscles and joints Acne Addictions
Anaphylaxis Arthritis Asthma Athlete's foot
Bad breath Bed wetting Blackouts Bloating
Blood sugar problems Blurred vision Breast pain Catarrh
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Coated tongue Colitis Constant hunger
Constipation Crawling sensation on skin Diarrhea Difficulty swallowing
Dizziness Eczema Excessive thirst Excessive or no sweating
Fatigue Feeling drained Flushes Food cravings
Frequent urination Gall bladder problems Gritty eyes Headaches
Heavy body odor High/low blood pressure Hives Indigestion
Insomnia IBS Itching Itchy, red ears
Joint paint, stiffness, swelling Lethargy Menstrul problems Metallic taste
Migraine Mouth ulcers Muscle aches and cramps Muscle tremors
Muscle weakness Nausea Palpitations Persistent cough
Poor balance Post-nasal drip Pre-menstrual problems Racing pulse
Rashes Recurring ear infections Restless legs syndrome Sensitivity to light and noise
Sinusitis Sleep disturbances Sore tongue Sore, itching, puffy or burning eyes
Stiff neck Styes Temperature fluctuations Thrush
Tics Tinnitus Urticaria Vertigo
Watering eyes Weight problems Wheezing
Mind, Emotions, and Behavior
Accident-prone Anxiety Anger for no reason ADD
Behavioral problems Blankness Brain fogging Changes in handwriting
Clumsiness Confusion Delusions Depression
Detached or unreal feelings Difficulty waking Disorientation Dyslexia
Feelings of dissociation Fidgeting Hallucinations Hearing without comprehension
Hyperactivity Inability to think clearly Indifference Irritability
Math and spelling errors Memory loss Mental exhaustion Mood swings
Panic attacks Phobias Poor concentration Poor self image
Poor memory Reading problems Restlessness Slow processing information
Slurred speech Stammering Suicidal feelings Tenseness
Uncontrolled rage Weepiness Withdrawn

Can symptoms be life-threatening?

Yes, anaphylaxis can be deadly if not treated promptly. This is a rare condition that can be caused by salicylate sensitivity; especially, if the source of salicylates is in a concentrated form like aspirin.

How did you learn you had salicylate sensitivity?

My doctors kept saying I had allergies. Skin tests showed reactions to substances as varied as bell peppers to different pollens. As I got older I had more and more reactions to foods and scents. It wasn't until I had a severe reaction to aspirin that I got my first clue.

When reading labels to make sure I didn't take anything that said "Do not take if you have ever had an allergic reaction to aspirin"; I discovered one that said, "Do not take if you have ever had a reaction to salicylates: A little checking told me that aspirin is "acetasalicylic acid" or a "salicylate".

I found a table with a list of salicylates and all the items I had previously been told I was "allergic to" were listed as high in salicylates. When I eliminated everything high in salicylates from my diet and environment, my allergy symptoms improved dramatically.

My research showed that most doctors and medical professionals in the US have never heard of salicylate sensitivity or think it doesn't exist. They have heard of "aspirin allergy"; but, only recommend avoiding aspirin and other NSAIDs. However, medical professionals in the UK and other countries have been diagnosing and treating this condition for years.

I had to educate my doctor and he still has trouble grasping how far-reaching salicylate sensitivity is; but he agrees that eliminating as many salicylates as possible from my diet and environment has made a big difference in my overall health.

What kinds of foods and products contain salicylates?

Almost all fruits and vegetables contain salicylates. Herbs have high concentrations of salicylates. Pollen, fragrances, flavorings, toiletries, makeup, and cleaning products all have salicylates. Pesticides, preservatives, and medications are also sources of salicylates.

What treatments are available for salicylates sensitivity?

The best treatment is avoidance; but; because salicylates can be found in the air and absorbed through skin contact; avoidance is not always possible. Other treatments are the same ones people use to deal with allergies; anything that stops histamine production will work; but salicylate sensitive people do need to avoid herbal allergy remedies. The herbs that help some allergy sufferers actually make a person with salicylate sensitivity worse.

What adjustments have you made to your diet?

I eliminated most fruits and vegetables from my diet and have done my best to eliminate artificial ingredients and preservatives. I have had to "get back to basics" and prepare my foods from scratch. When I need to "eat out"; I order foods low in salicylates and take an antihistamine an hour before eating.

Do you have any advice for those who think they may be suffering from salicylates sensitivity?

Visit which lists the amount of salicylates in various foods. Limit yourself to foods in the "negligible" column for 10 days. Avoid fragrances and other chemicals as much as possible. Symptoms should improve in a couple of days. You may experience a temporary worsening of symptoms during days 4 - 8 but then they should improve. That temporary worsening is called "histamine withdrawal". It happens when a person's body is accustomed to a constant level of histamines and the production of those histamines is suddenly diminished.

If diet change improves symptoms; you probably are salicylate sensitive. Make a concerted effort to rid your environment of sources of salicylates. Then slowly add salicylates into you diet by adding foods from the "low" column and maybe (if your symptoms don't coming back) you can add occasional foods from the "moderate" column>.

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Ginger Yazak on Salicylate Sensitivity