BEYOND THE SALICYLATE HANDBOOK - THE INTRODUCTION
The last edition of The Salicylate Handbook was published in 2012, and since then I have regularly checked the medical literature for new research dealing with salicylate sensitivity and salicylate levels in food. For many years nothing of significance appeared and then, in 2017, a trickle of papers began to emerge. My initial joy turned to some serious head shaking as the levels of salicylate found in some foods was the exact opposite of what earlier researchers had found. Some foods that had been classed as high in salicylate were now classed as low, and some that had been classed as low in salicylate were now classed as high.
Not all the findings were contradictory and I assumed that I would update The Salicylate Handbook incorporating the new information. As I began to collate the information, I found that it simply did not fit into the lists easily. The differences in the various studies meant that some foods jumped to a higher or lower grouping from the results in one paper and the other way round when you looked at the statistics in a different paper.
Fully amalgamating the information was also difficult because studies measured salicylate levels in different ways. It was not just the techniques that varied but the food itself – whether it was cooked or raw, how fresh it was, peeled/unpeeled, frozen/unfrozen, organic or not organic and so on.
Over time I came to two conclusions:
- The new information is important and useful, but
- The current lists in The Salicylate Handbook are also still relevant.
But surely the more recent studies mean the lists in the Handbook are wrong? Well, maybe but maybe not. Just because a study is more recent does not necessarily mean it is more accurate or valid.
The key element to understanding and dealing with your salicylate sensitivity is lowering the level of salicylate in your body. In respect of food that does not mean avoiding salicylate completely (an impossibility) but it does mean reducing the level to a point at which your body can manage without giving you unwanted symptoms.
The lists in The Salicylate Handbook and in earlier studies still work because they help you to reduce the amount of salicylate you eat and drink. The key factor is that you simply need to reduce your salicylate level and then find a diet that helps you keep the levels low.
Future studies will provide even more contradictory data because there will always be anomalies due to the way food is grown, manufactured, stored and cooked. And there will also be differences due to standards and methods of testing.
As individuals we will also experience the findings in different ways because our biochemistry is unique to us. We can make some generalised statements about what happens with a salicylate sensitivity and we can provide lists of foods that are high/low but the individual, subjective, experience is always going to be an essential aspect of dealing with this condition.
What I find happens is that after the first frustrating 6-18 months – when it seems like nothing is working quite right and no list seems to make sense and safe foods seem to be a problem and you just don’t know what to eat – things do settle down. Once they have settled down, you know very quickly when you have eaten something that is too high, for you, in salicylate and you make choices as to what is okay for you to eat and what isn’t.
So, The Salicylate Handbook, for the moment, remains as it is and is the go-to book for anyone trying to understand salicylate sensitivity. This book, Beyond the Salicylate Handbook, is mainly aimed at people who have already established a low salicylate diet and environment that works for them but would still like more information.
In this book, I provide information on research published since 2012 (with a few earlier studies not mentioned in the Handbook), share some more of my own experience, and try answer some of the questions I get asked most frequently.
It is now over twenty years since I discovered I had a salicylate sensitivity. Whilst the early years were difficult, life has become a lot easier. I am still salicylate sensitive but rarely get adverse reactions and, when I do, they pass quickly and with little stress. Reaching this point takes time and there is no quick easy way of doing it. I hope by sharing what I have learnt along the way is of some help to others on the same journey.
For the sake of accuracy, I have expressed each set of research findings using the methods of measurement the researchers used. If you find this confusing simply focus on the fact that a lower number will always indicate a lower salicylate level – the higher the number, the greater the amount of salicylate present.