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Is it IBS or Salicylate Intolerance?

Salicylate intolerance is not fully understood as a condition, it is often misdiagnosed and a lot of foods have them! Some salicylates are easy to avoid while others are hidden and almost impossible to avoid. Most people can tolerate regular amounts of salicylates without any problems but some people can’t even stand a small dose. Salicylate intolerance or salicylate sensitivity is mostly seen in adults who may have asthma and sinus problems and can be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What are Salicylates?

Salicylates are compounds that have salicylic acid as their base ingredient. Salicylic acid is naturally found in many plants and they use it as a defense against pathogen attack and environmental stress. Salicylic acid is also used as a synthetic ingredient in products like Aspirin.

What are symptoms of Salicylate intolerance?

General symptoms of salicylate intolerance can include: Hives, fever, swelling, asthma, nasal polyps, diarrhoea and inflammation of the large intestine-symptoms may be similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as bloating and discomfort.

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What foods contain Salicylates?

Unfortunately, many foods naturally contain salicylates although the level can differ depending on where the food was grown and the conditions they were grown in. So far, we believe that the highest amount of salicylates are found in spices, fruits, and vegetables with very little to none found in meats, fish and dairy products. Some examples of foods and products that contain salicylate in higher concentrations include the following:

Fruit: apples, apricots, avocados, dates, kiwi fruit, peaches, figs, grapes, plums, cherries, grapefruit, prunes, and berries including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries.

Nuts: pine nuts, peanuts, pistachios, and almonds.

Vegetables: alfalfa, cauliflower, chicory, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes, olives, broad beans, eggplant, spinach, zucchini, broccoli and hot pepper.

Herbs, spices, and condiments: dry spices and powders (e.g. aniseed, cayenne, curry, dill, thyme, white vinegar, Worcester sauce), tomato paste and sauces, vinegar, soy sauce, jams and jellies.

Beverages: coffee, wine, beer, orange juice, apple cider, regular and herbal tea.

Sweets: peppermints, liquorice, mint-flavoured gum, breath mints, ice cream and gelatin.

Health and beauty products: fragrances, perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, herbal remedies, lipsticks, moisturisers, cleansers, mouthwash, mint-flavoured toothpaste, shaving cream, sunscreens, tanning lotions creams for muscle pain.

Medications: Alka Seltzer, aspirin, acetylsalicylic/salicylic acid/salicylates, 5-ASA compounds (e.g. mesalazine), various non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), artificial food colouring and flavouring such as menthol, mint, peppermint and spearmint.

Other ingredients to watch out for and avoid: Aloe Vera, azo dyes, benzoates (preservatives), benzyl salicylate, BHA, BHT, disalcid, eucalyptus oils, oil of wintergreen, red dye (#40), salicylaldehyde, salicylamide, salsalate, yellow dyes (#5, #6).

(Information sourced from:

So, what to do?

You need a plan so it's best to see your dietitian as you may have to do a Low FODMAP and then an elimination diet. These can be very drawn out but if it changes your life it's worth it!

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