Up to 70 percent of food sensitivities are due to salicylates, chemicals found in many vegetables, fruit, and herbs, reveals pioneering Australian research. “Salicylates serve a protective function for plants,” says Leo Galland, MD, author of The Allergy Solution. “But people who are sensitive to them get symptoms like headaches and fatigue when exposed.” And most doctors misdiagnose it. “Even allergists miss it since it doesn’t appear on tests.”
Exposure to salicylates has risen in the past 30 years, Donna Beck, ND, says, “Salicylates are used in farming to force plants to grow faster.” But plants aren’t the only source: The chemicals are found in medications, like aspirin, and cosmetics (look for “salicylate” on the ingredient list).
An elimination test can help identify a sensitivity, says Dr. Galland. To Do: Eat a low-salicylate diet for five days, avoiding foods like berries, grapes, zucchini, honey, and tea. “If your symptoms clear up, start eating the high-salicylate foods and see if symptoms return.”
Taking 1,000 milligrams of fish oil daily can help. “One cause of salicylate sensitivity is low production of prostaglandins, hormones that regulate inflammation,” says Dr. Galland. “Fish oil increases prostaglandin production to help the body better respond to salicylates.” In a UK study, subjects with salicylate intolerance who took fish oil daily saw almost all symptoms disappear after six weeks.
Take an Epsom salts bath three times a week, advises Dr. Galland. Your body will soak up the magnesium sulfate, a precursor to an enzyme that breaks down salicylates.
Peel your produce. “Salicylates are concentrated in a plant’s peel,” says Dr. Beck. To avoid them, remove the peel and a bit of the meat underneath. Tip: Cooking veggies lowers salicylates.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.