Salicylates & Paleo diet NSAIDS allergies-min

Salicylates & Paleo

Salicylates occur naturally in plants as a defence mechanism, to protect the plant against any threat such as disease or pests. Most people have no issues with eating plants containing Salicylates – but some people however can experience all sorts of problems from these natural chemicals, from migraines, hives, IBS, asthma and even sleep issues and ADHD. Since aspirin and NSAID’s are Salicylates, most people with these intolerances will react badly to these drugs.

If I eat a lot of foods containing high levels of Salicylates, my skin becomes itchy, swollen and covered in hives. Since I've been eating a Paleo diet I've not had a bad reaction and I'm conscious to reduce my consumption of the foods that I know are high in Salicylates – and seem to affect me the worst. Unfortunately (because they are a favourites) tomatoes seem to be a particular trigger. Other people with Salicylate sensitivity seem to react in different ways to different foods.

It appears that in those with Salicylate sensitivity, there is an acceptable level of exposure to foods containing high levels – but once “too large” a dose of the high Salicylate food is eaten the effects of the sensitivity kick in. I can eat a tomato based sauce with no problems, but if I eat several meals in a row containing high levels of these foods, my skin starts to break out in hives! People with Salicylate sensitivity seems to have very varied tolerance levels.

Salicylates and Paleo

As Salicylates are naturally occurring, this is one intolerance that a Paleo or Primal diet can’t solve. However, processed food often contains ingredients high in salicylates, so a Paleo diet enables you to control and know exactly what you are eating. It’s certainly possible to eat a low Salicylate Paleo diet as there are plenty of foods that contain negligible, low or moderate levels of Salicylates.

Salicylates & Paleo diet NSAIDS allergies-min

Food High In Salicylates

Broadly speaking, foods such as tomatoes, peppers, capsicum, cucumber, sweet potato and watercress seem to be high in Salicylates. Lots of fruits have high levels, particularly dried fruit. Coconut and olive oil are also reported to contain high levels of Salicylates, though I've never had a reaction from them and use these oils almost everyday. Fortunately meat (in a Paleo – i.e. unprocessed) capacity seems to contain very low levels.

A Low-Salicylate Paleo Diet

With some planning and substitutions, there’s no reason not to keep a Paleo diet low in Salicylates. One of the hardest things to replace is tomatoes (also a nightshade), as tomatoes are a common base for sauces and recipes. I've been experimenting with some tomato-free Paleo sauces and will share the recipe I've come up with tomorrow. It’s definitely possible to make a tomato-like sauce without tomatoes!

Do you have a Salicylate intolerance? I’d love to hear which foods you are sensitive to and how you incorporate this into your Paleo diet.

Paleo Cookbooks cavemanfeast paleo-recipe-book
18 replies
  1. Zara
    Zara says:

    I found this so enlightening, as I’ve had to stop eating tomatoes. As how can I put this ? They caused problems with my gums & other similar soreness though not IBS.

  2. Lois
    Lois says:

    About 15 months ago I started to have gut related health problems (acid reflux, bloating etc.), headaches, and a really weird thing of sneezing a lot – like a bout of 10-20 sneezes! and often when eating a meal my nose, or more precisely one nostril, would start to run – and I mean like a tap was turned on! Also had awful facial rosacea for a number of years.

    My GP suggested a salicylate/food intolerance and I started to pin point the foods that set me off. Evidently the body doesn’t eliminate the salicylate enough and eventually there’s a build up in the system and the bucket overflows. The only way to turn this around is to eliminate the foods for a while.

    Yes, tomatoes set me off and I can live without them, but avocados seem to be much worse which is much harder for me to do without as I used to practically live on them! Even a small amount sets my skin off again (though not as bad as before 🙂

    A terrific site for lists of foods etc is Sue Dengate’s Food Intolerance Network at

    I also found taking a good digestive enzyme called Trienza helped, and all my symptoms subsided to a tolerable level. My runny nose though is a dead give-away when I eat an offending food though sometimes it’s hard to figure out which food in the meal is the culprit. Hence the dreaded ‘elimination diet’ if you can stand it!

    Luckily all this is what led me to the Paleo way of eating and many other health problems have subsided – especially arthritic stiffness (bloody grains!)

    Therese – loved the tomatoesareevil site! Sending this to my niece who can’t stand the things!

    Keep well……..

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      I haven’t tried taking an enzyme, definitely worth considering. I’m completely fine with avocados thankfully, but not too many tomatoes! Thanks for that link – very interesting.

  3. Sherrie
    Sherrie says:

    Oh wow!! It’s so great to see I’m not the only person struggling with this. Thanks for your article, Suz – it’s great to see this topic being discussed. And thanks for your post, Lois: it’s given me some hope that things may subside eventually :-), and I will definitely look up the digestive enzyme you mentioned.

    I’d been trying to understand why I suddenly developed hives about 10 years ago, which sometimes became so bad that they joined together to earn me several mis-diagnosis, including herpes! I tried eliminating sugar, dairy, gluten and processed foods from my diet which helped for a while, but the ‘healthier’ I ate, the sicker I got. A couple of months ago I carried out a strict low chemical elimination diet, and sure enough, my hives disappeared. Turns out I’m very sensitive to salicylates.

    I have just started eating paleo about a month ago, which I am really enjoying because my general health and digestion are definitely better. I’m struggling to find good low salicylate paleo recipes, though, so if anyone has any, please do share!

  4. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    Hi – I have been allergic to aspirin since childhood, and avoid salicylates in cosmetics but only recently figured out that dietary salicylates were causing trouble as well. I started a gluten free diet about 6 months ago and felt great, but then started feeling worse again. I think it was because I started putting coconut oil in my daily coffee about 3 months ago. I just found out that coconut oil is considered very high in salicylates. I am currently trying to cut way back on salicylates in my diet and see if that makes a difference.

  5. Megan
    Megan says:

    I have real trouble with spcies – just a bit of chilli on the tip of my tongue will give me a migraine. As well a spices, all forms of tea and coffee are particualrly bad for me, and pretty much anything with an artificial flavour.
    I am managing my condition better ove rtime, although I still egualrly find new things to cut out of my diet. The latest was a great probiotic powder (not even a green one). After I had been taking that for 3 months, my right arm was almost competely useless – it hurt all the time , had no strength. Once I realised what it was (long story), it took another 3 months for the arm to recover.
    So we do need to be careful!

  6. Rochelle
    Rochelle says:

    My main problem is citrus fruits.. Even a few bites of a mandarin or pineapple will give me brain fog, dizziness and blurry vision. Tomatoes in large doses also have a similar effect, but not so intense. Paleo has been great for me, but unfortunately I just need to stay away from most fruits which makes it hard.
    I saw an iridologist a few years ago and he put me on Bromezyme, an enzyme, which was fanastic but I don’t like taking tablets every day so I’m trying to heal my leaky gut at the moment with Paleo/GAPS. Fingers crossed!

  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Great site, I have just had a few anaphylaxis reactions and changing my diet to suit my Salicylates allergy. I have started a Paleo diet of sorts.nso looking forward to your no tomato sauce.
    Looking forward to your recipes
    Thank you

  8. Carol
    Carol says:

    Just beginning to research the sensitivity to salicylates. Have always had mild reaction to aspirin as made me hyper. Since starting paleo I have noticed many good changes but still working on leaky gut and better health

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      That’s good you’ve noticed good changes, Carol. It seems that some people are more affected by certain salycilates than others.

  9. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I have just broken out in hives (16 days and counting) after starting the changing habits program 1 Jan which is similar to Paleo. Any hints/tips on healthy clean eating with low salicylate levels??? Meals, snacks etc. how long does it take for hive systems to go down??

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      Sorry to hear that Amanda, it’s horrible having hives. I found the only way to get rid of them was to completely avoid anything containing even moderate levels of salicilates for a while. Once they’ve gone, I can then tolerate things with moderate levels, but once my levels are high, just the slightest thing has a huge effect. It’s quite boring foods that have negligible amounts like white rice and pears. I’d just be really careful to completely avoid things like tomatoes.

      Have you seen a specialist? Mine put me on two different types of antihistamine (from memory loratadine and certirizine), which helped a lot. They also did some testing, so would definitely recommend you find a good doctor to help! Good luck

  10. Coby
    Coby says:

    I’m on day 7 of a low salicylate diet and I have one more week to go before I can introduce some moderate salicylates. I have been on a Paleo – sugar, dairy free keeping carbohydrates to a minimum diet and now I find myself having to use oils, grains and other foods that I have been avoiding. I don’t eat night shades (tomatoes or capsicum) but I do eat (did eat) greens from my vegetable garden, which I’m going to have to leave alone for now. This is so very frustrating. Although it is a good reference, I find that many of the recipes in Sue Debgates books contain a lot of sugar and refined carbohydrates that I don’t want to eat. Is there anything else out there?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] This blog post is all the way from Australia from a Paleo diet blog site.  Several friends of mine follow Paleo and other than the nut and sugar part, they are eating like my some of my food allergic friends!  They avoid dairy and gluten. Today’s post is about the Paleo and Salicylates sensitivities:   Paleo and Salicylates. […]

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