097: Are Your Rashes Triggered By A Salicylate Sensitivity?

It's pretty common when your skin won't stop flaring to be told that you might have salicylate sensitivity.

It's become an (unfortunately) popular test for people with eczema.

I get asked a lot about it and whether I think that people should follow it. Being that I'm not a fan of restrictive elimination diets for chronic skin rash issues, I wanted to share my two cents.

The truth is — salicylate-rich foods are VERY healthy.

They're not bad for you… and reacting to them often means something entirely different than “You should avoid them.”

In fact, outright avoiding salicylate-rich foods if you don't have a salicylate allergy is not a smart move. (And I mean a legit allergy… not a sensitivity.)

It puts you at great risk for nutrient deficiencies and can make you unnecessarily miserable in the process.

In today's episode, I'm sharing what a “Salicylate sensitivity” means to me AND what I do about it.

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In this episode:

  • What are salicylates and where are they found?
  • Using a low salicylate diet for reducing skin rash flares
  • What does being sensitive to salicylate-rich foods mean?
  • Salicylate connection to your liver
  • What nutrients + foods help your liver process salicylates

Quotes:

Salicylates are (for the most part) naturally-occurring in plants (fruits & veggies) with one exception- Aspirin (and any drugs that contain it) contain salicylic acid as the main ingredient.

Being sensitive to salicylates means that you don't have a gut problem… you have a liver detoxification problem.

Woman looking at her computer and thinking hard

097: Are Your Rashes Triggered By A Salicylate Sensitivity? [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

Welcome back to episode #97 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today's episode, I wanted to talk to you about phytochemicals called salicylates.

If you've been dealing with skin rashes for some time, you may have heard of the low Salicylate diet and some people may have suggested that you give it a try.

The question is, is it worth it to give the diet a try and what does reacting to salicylates really mean?

If you can't tolerate salicylates, you're probably going to be surprised because it's not what most people think.

Fresh vegetables

What Are Salicylates?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's talk about what salicylates are!

Salicylates are naturally-occurring phytochemicals that exist in plants. Some plant foods have a higher quantity of Salicylates in them.

The amount of salicylates present is food is not the result of cooking a certain type of food for a period of time.

Nor is it something that is sprayed on the plant while it's being cultivated by a farmer like fertilizer or some sort of herbicides. It is naturally-occurring inside of the plant itself.

Take white potatoes as an example — they are considered to be high in salicylates! One exception many people don't know is that the salicylates are concentrated in the skin. Removing the skin actually drops the salicylate content of the potato flesh to a low level.

When you look online, some websites will claim that salicylates are really bad for you or even toxic! In some instances, I've seen websites claim that salicylates will kill you… and that is not the case.

Salicylates are (for the most part) naturally-occurring in plants (fruits & veggies) with one exception. Aspirin (and any drugs that contain aspirin) contain salicylic acid as its main ingredient.

Aspirin is the pharmaceutical version of the botanical agent called Willow bark. Willow bark, when digested in your gut, produces salicylic acid.

Fresh root vegetables

Are Salicylates In Food Bad For You (And Your Rashes)?

So if salicylic acid or salicylates are naturally occurring, then can they be bad for you?

Well, it is possible to have a salicylate allergy potentially ending up with anaphylaxis. But that's a very small number of people.

When we discuss salicylates in terms of skin rashes and dietary changes, we're talking about salicylate sensitivity or salicylate intolerance.

And this is where things get a bit murky because being sensitive to salicylates means that you don't have a gut problem.

You have a liver detoxification problem.

We're used to thinking of intolerances and sensitivities as a food-digestive-gut problem, but in this particular case, that's not accurate.

Salicylates are not proteins that would normally be the culprit behind a sensitivity or intolerance. They're not processed in the digestive system in the same way that proteins typically are.

Because they're a phytochemical., they go to the liver which will end up processing them.

So if you react to salicylates, it's a clue that your liver needs support… not that you have a gut problem.

This also does not mean that your liver needs to be detoxed. There are natural detoxification pathways in your liver ready and able to do the task at hand.

If you're not clear on your liver's Phase II Detox pathways, check out episode #47 where I dive pretty deep into the whole process of liver detoxification.

Foods rich in Vitamin B6

Your Liver Deals With Salicylates — Not Your Gut

What is most imperative for you to know is that any salicylates you eat head straight to your liver. Your liver sends them down Phase II detox pathways in order to be processed.

Most of the salicylate load is processed through the glycine pathway, which requires glycine and vitamin B6.

A smaller portion is processed through the glucuronidation pathway.

It's not that your gut can't handle the salicylates in the foods which is what most people think.

Instead, if you seem to have a skin rash flare-up after consuming high salicylate foods, it's a clear sign that your liver needs support.

It doesn't mean that you necessarily need to remove high Salicylate foods. The low salicylate diet is in and of itself is a bandaid.

It's not addressing the root cause of the problem which is your liver doesn't have the nutrients available to it to process the salicylates in the first place.

See, these pathways in the liver are nutrient-dependent. If you don't have enough of these specific nutrients available for the liver to work with, detox pathways slow down to a snail's pace.

Another problem with the low salicylate diet is that it's very restrictive.

It's pretty common for my chronic skin rash clients to be nutrient-depleted.

By unnecessarily cutting out so many foods, you reduce diversity and nutrient-density. And as a result, you can find yourself in a bit of a jam.

Unsurprisingly, many clients of mine have tried a low salicylate diet and seen next to no improvement at all.

If that's been your experience, then salicylates probably aren't your problem and I would recommend beginning to add them back into your diet.

[Nervous about reintroducing foods that you cut out WITHOUT triggering a skin rash flare? READ MORE HERE]

Though it's not common, there can be instances where someone may have some genetic SNPs that impact the functioning of these liver enzymes.

If you believe that you might have some sort of SNP impacting the Phase II Detox pathways, it may be worthwhile to sit down with a doctor who understands genetic information.

Cauliflower and other calciferous vegetables

How To Support Your Liver If You Have Salicylate Sensitivity

My recommendation if you believe that you have salicylate sensitivity is to focus on supporting your phase II liver detoxification pathways.

The particular pathways in question include the glycine pathway and glucuronidation.

First, glycine and vitamin B6 are necessary to support the Glycine pathway.

As for vitamin B6, the active form is preferable typically called P5P.

Before supplementing with higher doses of Vitamin B6, consult with a practitioner. You can over-supplement B6 and cause some very unpleasant symptoms.

Second, certain foods may be helpful to support proper glucuronidation. Cruciferous vegetables and citrus are great options to add to your diet daily.

I realize that citrus can be a trigger for people with skin rashes as some find it can trigger a flare.

And you can also try adding in a daily cup of rooibos tea (which is naturally caffeine-free).

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of research out there that exactly pinpoints the best food to support glucuronidation. I feel like it's safe to say that more research is needed!

In some instances, there's conflicting information about what supports glucuronidation and what slows it down. Studies done in test tubes and human beings haven't always matched up.

I have had good luck supporting clients who are sensitive to salicylates with supplementation. I recognize that some people prefer to deal with health issues through diet. You can try adding in some of these foods and see if this makes an improvement.

If not, you may need more than what your diet provides from a nutritional perspective.

And if you're not properly absorbing the nutrients, supplementation may be warranted. THIS is one of the Phase II detox support supplements that I use in my clinical practice.

Got any questions or comments?  Leave them below so we can keep the conversation going!

If someone you know has been thinking that they've got to eliminate all these foods and they are freaking out…

Or they're really miserable on a low salicylate diet (especially that they haven't seen any results on it), share this episode with them.

This could be really helpful for them to realize that a low salicylate diet is not necessary to help them support their skin.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

REFERENCES

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2015/760689/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414920/

Salicylates are (for the most part) naturally-occurring in plants (fruits & veggies) with one exception- Aspirin (and any drugs that contain it) contain salicylic acid as the main ingredient.


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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