Salicylates are organic chemicals that occur naturally in many plants, which act as a natural preservative and pesticide to protect the plants against various funghi, bacteria and disease.

Salicylates are found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices, jams, honey, yeast extracts, tea, coffee, juices, beer and wine. In addition to food, they are also present in natural flavourings used in foods, drinks and liquid medications, as well as scents in perfumes, beauty and natural health products, from shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and cosmetics. They can even be found in sun cream, soap, toothpaste, cleaning products, washing powders, scented toilet paper and tissue, and botanical oils (e.g. lavender, eucalyptus, tea-tree).

Aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) is also a member of the salicylate family. Natural salicylates are active ingredients of many herbal medications because of their pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Salicylates are amongst the hundreds of compounds found in food that can have varying effects on us depending on how much we eat of them (loading) and how sensitive we are. They are highest in unripened fruit, decreasing as fruit ripens.

Some people suffer from salicylate intolerance or sensitivity. This differs to an allergy where certain foods or products have to be avoided completely because they can have a severe adverse reaction every time they are consumed or used. An intolerance or sensitivity is purely dose related. Depending on how sensitive you are either eating large or frequent small amounts of food or using products containing salicylates can cause an overload, leaving you with the symptoms associated with a food intolerance. These include but may not be limited to:

  • Headaches, migraines
  • Itchy skin rashes such as hives, eczema.
  • Irritable bowel symptoms – reflux in babies or adults, nausea, vomiting, stomach bloating and discomfort, wind, diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • Bed wetting, cystitis and increased frequency of urination
  • Asthma, sinus congestion, itching, sneezing and excessive phlegm
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Behaviour problems such as irritability, restlessness, inattention and learning difficulties
  • Sleep disturbance and sleep apnoea
  • Anxiety, depression, panic attacks
  • Tinnitus
  • Joint pain, inflammation and arthritis
  • Swelling and fluid retention
  • Mouth Ulcers or raw red rash around mouth
  • Persistent cough
  • Sore, itchy, puffy, watery or burning eyes
  • Muscle cramps, twitches


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways causing people difficulty with breathing. In susceptible individuals, this inflammation causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning. These episodes are usually associated with the obstruction of airflow to the lungs that is often alleviated spontaneously or with treatment/medications. Asthma symptoms are characteristically worse during sleep and may be intensified by emotion.

Causes of asthma

There are several causes and triggers to asthma but the main risk factors include:

  • Allergies and sensitivities
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Occupational exposure – wood work, some healthcare and beauty professions, detergent manufacturing, baking
  • Medications – particularly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and ACE-inhibitors
  • Exercise
  • Infections – e.g. viral infections, chest

Targeted Nutritional Strategies

  • Vitamin D – vital role in regulating a broad range of immune processes and anti-inflammatory reactions.
  • Antioxidants – Vitamin C, E, Selenium – acts as an anti-inflammatory and may reduce bronchoconstriction
  • Omega-3’s – anti-inflammatory
  • Probiotics – modulate the immune response and inflammatory processes
  • Magnesium – may assist with relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles
  • Curcumin – powerful anti-inflammatory agent as well as antioxidant and anti-bacterial

Diet and Lifestyle

  • Establish/maintain an allergen-free environment.
  • Cover pillows and mattresses with plastic/allergy covers.
  • Use synthetic materials (foam mattresses, acrylics) instead of animal products (wool, horsehair).
  • Minimise dust-collecting household items (i.e. carpets, cushions, rugs, curtains).
  • Regularly wash soft toys.
  • Use of an air purifier/dust filter may help.
  • Reduce pro-inflammatory foods in the diet including saturated fats (meats, especially poultry, and dairy), refined foods, and sugar. Patients sensitive to antibiotics should eat only organic meats to avoid antibiotic residues.
  • Avoid foods with a high content of mould or leftover food, yeasts, pickles, vinegars, etc.
  • Eat a minimally processed diet rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and bioflavonoids.
  • Eliminate any known food allergies or sensitivities.