whICH foods CONTAIN SALICYLATES?
Salicylates are generally found in foods derived from plants. Salicylates are the plants' chemicals that act as their immune system- reducing risk of pathogens invading. Most fruits and fruit juices and many vegetables contain varying amounts of salicylates as well as herbs and spices, pepper, most nuts and seeds, and fruit flavoured foods such as fruit flavoured lollies, peppermint and mint flavours, honey, tea, herbal teas and coffee.
Many non food items such as mint tooth paste, and many personal hygiene and cleaning products that have a fragrance. If you have ever been overwhelmed by the strong perfume fragrances in the perfume section then you are having a salicylate overdose. Many people sensitive to salicylates find that they are very sensitive to fragrances, the smells of strong washing powder, fragrant candles and many other chemicals in the environment.
Salicylates function in nature to protect plants against pathogens, so is often found in the outer layers of fruits and vegetables. For this reason, fruit and vegetables need to be peeled whenever possible and the darker outer leaves of lettuce removed.
Salicylates are also found in many medications as an added ingredient such as botanical extracts. Aspirin is actually salicylate and may be a problem is you are salicylate sensitive.
whICH foods CONTAIN amines?
Amines are a little different to salicylates in that there are different types of amines such as histamine, tyramine, dopamine and phenylalanine. There are the amines in chocolates, the amines in meat and in meat that has aged or been over cooked, amines in fish, there are amines in selected fruits and vegetables like banana and tomato and amines in matured dairy foods such as some yoghurt and many cheeses.
A lot of amine formation comes about because of natural breakdown of protein over time. Fresh cheeses like cream cheese are low in amines but matured cheese such as cheddar contain amines. The same happens with meat, especially fish. Over short periods of time the meat breaks down to amines, so meat that is not super fresh, or over browned, or cooked for long periods of time (for example > 1 hour 1/2 ), or kept in the fridge for an extended period will develop amines. Some meats like pork are naturally high in amines to begin with. Fish very easily develops amines so needs to be extremely fresh to be suitable. Not many fruits contain amines, most contain salicylates. Bananas is one fruit that does contain amines and will increase in amine content as they ripen- if included in the diet need to be just ripe.
It is preferable to lightly cook meats, avoid prolonged cooking time, buy very fresh meats and fish, and avoid extended freezing of fresh raw meat or leftovers.
Fermentation also produces amines, so yoghurt needs to be fresher rather than older, fermented foods and drinks such as kombucha are high in amines and even probiotics will be a significant sources of amines.
Amines are also found in foods such as meat extracts, yeast extracts (think vegemite), wines and chocolate.
Chocolate is often associated with headaches and migraines in sensitive people and that is due to this particular type of amine specific for cocoa. Carob powder is a useful substitute but if using carob solids, watch out for added milk or soy if you are avoiding these.
whICH foods CONTAIN GLUTAMATES?
Glutamate is an amino acid which can be an issue for some sensitive people when it is in its free form (not when bound up in protein). All foods that contain protein will have glutamate bound into the protein- this is not an issue, only the free glutamates.
Glutamates in their free form are used to enhance flavour so it follows that foods such as soy sauce, stock cubes and liquid stock, cheese, tomato and many savoury snack foods that are so very tasty and bursting with flavour are naturally high in free glutamates.
MSG (621) is glutamate that has sodium attached. MSG can exist naturally in foods or added to enhance flavour.
Probably in response to the poor marketing profile of MSG, MSG has been removed from many foods, for example rice crackers, but natural MSG sources such as soy sauce powder are used instead as well as closely related glutamates that can cause the same reactions as MSG in sensitive people.
whICH foods CONTAIN ADDITIVES?
There are over 300 additives approved for use in Australia and only a small number of these are found to be a problem for some sensitive people (see below).
About 5% of adults are sensitive to one or more food additives.
In Australia, additives have to be listed by law on the food label by name or number.
Additives that are avoided on the Low Chemical Elimination Diet:
Yellow: 102, 104, 110
NATURAL COLOUR: Annatto: 160b (160a is ok)
ARTIFICIAL ANTIOXIDANTS: 310-312, 319-321, 'natural antioxidant', 'herb', 'rosemary'
FLAVOUR ENHANCERS: glutamates (620-625), others (627, 63, 636-637, 640-641)
Reactions to food additives can be easier to pinpoint than reactions to salicylates, amines or glutamates due to the comparatively higher levels of food additives used.
A low chemical diet
Foods that are high in salicylates, amines, glutamates and food additives are often very tasty foods which is great for our taste buds but if these food chemicals are producing unacceptable symptoms such as Irritable bowel, eczema, irritability or mood changes, ADHD, reflux or colic in babies, extreme fatigue...... (the list goes on) then you may feel that the pleasure of these foods is just not worth it.
Often people who are sensitive to these food chemicals naturally veer towards more bland diets in order to reduce their symptoms.
The foods included in the Chemical Elimination Diet: are low or moderate in salicylate/amine/glutamate and food additive diet. The diet is commonly referred to as the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital- RPAH- elimination diet. Another term sometimes used is the FAILSAFE diet which is the strict level of the RPAH diet iand includes only foods low in these naturally occurring chemicals.
1. Skypala IJ, Williams M, Reeves L, Meyer R, Venter C. Sensitivity to food additives, vaso-active amines and salicylates: a review of the evidence. Clinical and Translational Allergy. 2015;5:34. doi:10.1186/s13601-015-0078-3.
2. Swain, A., Soutter, V, & Loblay, R. (2011). RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook with food and shopping guide. Australia: Allergy Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
3. Joy Anderson. Food-sensitive babies: dietary investigation for breastfed babies. Specialist Dietetics and Lactation services, 2016.