Sunday, 29 April 2012

Salicylate Part 4 - Cross Sensitivity

Definition of cross sensitivity:

A sensitivity to one substance that predisposes an individual to sensitivity to other substances that are related in chemical structure. Cross sensitivity with allergic reactions may develop between antibiotics of similar chemical structures.

The Penicillin and Cephalosporin antibiotics are cousins. Some people who are allergic to Penicillin may react to antibiotics from the Cephalosporin group.

Thus, it is the same where natural compounds in food are concerned.

People who are sensitive to salicylates, may develop sensitivity to natural benzoates and natural gallates. 

Food that contain natural benzoates are cinnamon, tea and berries.

Food that contain natural gallates are tea leaves, sumac, witch hazel, and oak bark. 

* However, food chemical intolerant individuals appear to react to a diverse range of plant derived aromatic chemicals, not merely to salicylates. This is called cross-reactivity and occurs when chemicals are similar enough in structure that they fire the same receptors in the body. What this range of chemicals have in common is that they exhibit the ability to interfere with arachidonic acid metabolism and prostaglandin production, and a tendency to increase inflammatory leukotriene production through the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX) I/II and/or the induction of lipoxygenase (LOX). Many of these chemicals also suppress the production of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). The group includes relatively strong COX II inhibitors like salicylates, and also weaker COX I/II inhibitors from a broad range of polyphenols and flavinoids. Even some carotinoids are weak COX II inhibitors that may affect those with extreme sensitivities (however vitamin A in the form of all-trans retinoic acid actually induces COX II enzymes). While salicylates act as selective COX II inhibitors, some polyphenols also inhibit COX I, an enzyme whose activity is required by the whole digestive system for normal function and protection. Other polyphenols simultaneously suppress COX I/II and LOX production. Though LOX induction is problematic and leukotrienes are involved in a number of food chemical intolerance syndromes such as asthma and eczema, COX inhibition in and of itself appears to be problematic too, as prostaglandins are responsible for regulating autonomic neurotransmitters and interact with dopamine in the brain.
Polyphenols that intolerant individuals probably also react to include the following COX inhibitors (not an exhaustive list):
  • Anthocyanidins
    • Cyanidin (cherries, berries)
    • Proanthocyanidins (chocolate, broad beans, nuts, wine)
    • Delphinidin (berries, wine)
  • Flavinoids
    • Hesperetin (citrus fruits, peppermint)
    • Naringenin (citrus fruits)
    • Apigenin (parsley, peppermint, thyme, salad vegetables)
    • Luteolin (thyme, parsley, peppermint, peppers, rosemary, citrus, leafy green vegetables)
    • Isorhamnetin (parsley, dill, chives, onions) Kaempferol (capers, dill, kale)
    • Myricetin (parsley, berries, broadbeans, tea, citrus)
    • Quercetin (capers, dill, buckwheat, cocoa, onions, peppers, berries)
    • Rutin (grapes, buckwheat)
  • Gallates and catechins
    • Catechin (broadbeans, fruits)
    • Epigallocatechin (broadbeans, tea)
    • Epicatechin (broadbeans, fruit, tea, wine)
    • Theaflavin (tea, buckwheat)
    • Gallates (tea)
  • Other polyphenols
    • Curcumin (turmeric)
    • Tannins (tea, coffee, wine, fruits, wild rice)
  • Carotinoids
    • Beta and alpha carotene
    • Lutein/zeaxanthin
  • Glycoalkaloids (nightshades e.g. potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum, tobacco)
    • Solanine
    • Chaconine

* taken from

It has always been my belief to take everything I read with a pinch of salt. Before I came across these interesting facts on the Internet, I was already experiencing the 'sick' sensation whenever I came across certain smells. And some of those smells are not synthetic chemicals. 

Some of the smells from the list above that bother me are wine, citrus fruit (especially oranges), coffee and (occasionally capsicum). I was thinking that maybe the reason that I am not bothered by some of the smells above is that because they differ slightly in their chemical structures? I am not sure. 

Maybe any of you who have the same ailment as I do could share about what makes you sick and what are the things that you can tolerate? And if you have any good articles/websites, please feel free to share.


  1. Fascinating! Quercetin makes me moody - interesting that cocoa which also makes me moody is in the same category. I don't seem to react to the other foods within the category - I don't think I do anyway!!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Evelyn!

    Right now any smell that I encounter suddenly gives me symptoms. Natural or artificial. The biggest reactions I've had have been to the smell of garlic, cinnamon, curry powder, unscented cleaner, antibacterial soap, hairspray, spicy thai food dish...that's all I can recall of the top of my head. I think my system has PTSD and therefore gives me symptoms now if I smell ANYTHING. I hope this settles. What I can do is cook my safe foods if I stay around them and let them build up slowly. But even someone else cooking them would bother me.

    Oh right, wine is a BIG bother, coffee, and lately the smell of tea too. Oh, and men's aftershave/cologne, scented detergent, shampoos, conditioners on other people, flavoured gum (stunk up our house for days).

    My sister went through this too and years later still has mold, detergent, perfume sensitivity to smell but the others have improved and she is much more able to function. I hope you and I get there!

    What smells can you tolerate?

    1. Hey, Anaphylaxing, the PTSD theory for smells isn't too far off. I was told by an environmental medicine specialist it's your hypothalmus in overdrive, our bodies trying to protect us and registering strong smells as a warning sign.

    2. @Ana: Leafy green vegetables (not mustard), onions, chives, buckwheat, cocoa. :) Yes, we will get there one day!!!

    3. @MCS: That was what my immunologist/allergist told me. Even the burning sensation in the mouth. It is a warning sign that if we continue on to eat or expose ourselves to the triggers, anaphylaxis will be the next thing that happens!

  3. Some things to consider re salicylate/phenol intolerance:

    Supplement with calcium d-glucurate and glycine -- both help to process/detoxify salicylate and phenols, Also thiamine -- B1 -- is inhibited by polyphenolic compounds, and thiamine deficiency can account for a huge amount of the symptoms, and actually cause death if not repleted, which can take months.

    Also increase sulfates (again to help process and detox sals/phenols) through magnesium sulfate soaks, or glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate.

    1. Thank you for sharing Andrea. Will read it up. :)

  4. my daughter has this issue with sals. can she take these supplements? she is only 7

    1. Hi there. Thanks for dropping by. I personally do not take any supplements except for a probiotics which my immunologist/allergist recommended. In your daughter's case, I think it would be best to consult a specialist who is knowledgeable where this sensitivity is concerned and also who knows how your daughter's health is.

      I wish you and your daughter all the best. Good health to your daughter and may she recover and be strengthened.