Challenging Summer Behaviors and Salicylates – How Popular Summer Foods Can Sabotage Your Child’s Mood and Behavior
If you were hoping that summertime – a time with no school, fresh air, sunshine, and exercise – would help your child feel better and improve their behavior…. but it hasn’t, then salicylates might be your culprit.
Salicylates in Food
Salicylates are naturally-occurring food chemicals in fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods like herbs, spices, nuts, etc. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Dr. Ben Feingold observed that artificial additives and high salicylate foods cause hyperactivity and other symptoms in some children. Biochemically, salicylates are a type of “phenolic acid” or “phenol.” Phenols need to be broken down in the body, i.e. “detoxified,” which occurs through a process called sulfation.
For children with salicylate sensitivity, summer can be particularly challenging because so many of the abundant summertime fruits are very high in salicylates.
Summer Fruits High in Salicylate
Cinnamon and spices
Cucumbers and pickles
Many of these foods are delicious and plentiful, children eat quite a bit more during summer than any other time. The resulting increase in salicylate consumption can cause a child’s body to become overloaded, and cause physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.
Junk food with artificial additives are more plentiful during summer. Artificial additives such as artificial colors (red 40, blue 1 and yellow 5), flavors (such as artificial strawberry flavor and vanillin) and preservatives (BHA, BHT and TBHQ) are strong phenols–and require the same biochemical processes.
If you don’t consume these, good for you. You shouldn’t.
In the average American family, however, blue-colored sports drinks on hot days, cotton candy from the beach boardwalk or fair, shaved ice or blended slushies from the amusement park are all too common occurrences (sadly). Alone they are known to cause hyperactivity, combined with these other stressors and they can be particularly problematic.
Symptoms vary by individual, but some of the most common salicylate sensitivity symptoms are:
Behavioral and Neurological Symptoms
Aggression toward self or others
Cries and gets upset easily
Sadness or depression
Short attention span
Rapid, extreme changes in mood
Math, spelling, and reading difficulty
Disordered sensory processing
Slow information processing
Auditory processing challenges
While this article focuses on the behavioral ramifications of salicylate sensitivity, there can also be common physical symptoms which can help you as a parent or caregiver really pinpoint whether what you are seeing is a reaction to salicylates. Together, these two lists can broaden the picture as to whether your child is salicylate sensitive and could benefit from dietary intervention.
Red cheeks and ears (not from the heat)
Bedwetting and day-wetting accidents
Headaches or migraines
Hives or itchy skin
Rashes and dry skin
If you’d like more information on how these foods can cause behavior challenges, along with the foods to avoid and those to eat, see my post on salicylates and behavior challenges.
Additional, yet lesser seen, symptoms can include tics, stammering, tinnitus, and even vertigo. So this is another reminder, if your child’s diet changes or you find they are eating certain foods or food compounds more frequently and new behaviors emerge or old ones return, it is worth it to do a diet review.
Chlorine in Swimming Pools
Chlorine from the swimming pool is another summertime stressor. Your child doesn’t even need to drink the water, just soaking in a chlorinated pool will cause it to absorb into the body.
Chlorine is processed by the same sulfation pathway as salicylates in fruits. Sulfation requires proper methylation and transulfuration, as well as adequate sulfate (sulfur) and many other needed nutrients.
Each of these stressors (the fruit and chlorine) will deplete the sulfate and detoxification pool further, making each that much more difficult to handle. After working with many children with autism in my nutrition practice, I’ve found that most react poorly to chlorine from swimming pools. Add this fruit consumption to chlorine from swimming pools, and a child can fairly easily hit “overload.” Crying, meltdowns, increase in stimming, and hyperactivity can result.
Summer 2022 High Salicylate Food Substitutes
I hope this summer is better than ever. Here are some ideas to get you off to a good start. The following foods high in salicylates and for lower salicylate substitutions.
Please note: it might not be that you or your child can’t have ANY high salicylate summer fruits and veggies, it might just mean you have to pay attention to the amount and limit it, along with avoiding all artificial additives. Also, peeling certain fruits and vegetables can lower salicylate levels.
Knowing what healthier swaps you can make is important. Salicylate tolerance is personal. Some people are moderately intolerant and some are very sensitive. So the recommendations below will vary depending on the individual.
Artificial additives can be particularly problematic. So, instead of a blue sports drink you can pick a natural electrolyte drink without artificial colors. . Rather than buying artificial flavored candy you can find natural ones. Traditional shaved ice can be very high in both salicylates and sugar. You can buy your own shaved ice machine and use pear juice to flavor. Instead of standard Popsicles or freezer pops you can make your own with pear juice or other tolerated juice.Instead of commercial ice pops, you can make your own using low salicylate fruits and vegetables.
Also, the peel of the fruit or vegetable often contains a lot of salicylates so for some people that have a moderate intolerance, peeling cucumbers and zucchini may provide a sufficient reduction in salicylates.
And salicylates are cumulative, so you can start by focusing on reducing the servings or serving sizes of those high salicylate fruits.
What Can You Do?
Avoid food additives. Firstly, if your child eats artificial additives, cut them all out.
Identify salicylate intolerance: If you want to determine if your child may have an intolerance to salicylates, start by simply observing your child within the hour after they eat, and before bedtime—making correlations with high salicylate consumption. The best way to determine salicylate intolerance is to avoid high salicylate foods for a period of time and observe any improvements, and then add them back and see if you notice a reaction. You can also try digestive enzymes such as No-Fenol by Houston Enzymes to help the body process polyphenolic compounds.
Try a low salicylate diet trial. There are two diets that I like that address this: The Feingold Diet and The Failsafe Diet. The Feingold Diet is a smaller list of salicylates to avoid—it includes many of the big offenders (but misses some) and is easier to do. The Failsafe diet is much more comprehensive, but more complex and restricts more foods.
Determine swimming pool solutions. The best part about having your own swimming pool is that you can choose a less toxic sanitizing option. While I’m not an expert at this, you can Google and research: salt water chlorination, ionizers, ozonators, and more. At public pools, these other options are not usually available, though you can ask around about any public pools that might use them (as some do).
Consider epsom salt topically for support. You can ask your doctor about Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths or magnesium sulfate cream before or after a swim in the pool—the sulfate absorbs and helps supply sulfate for sulfation/detoxification. This can help a child process the chlorine better, hopefully, creating less (or no) reaction. An Epsom salt bath or Epsom salt cream can also help reduce salicylate reactions too. You can apply cream before or after swimming. Not everyone likes or can take a bath. Showering after swimming and then applying Epsom salt cream can provide similar support to a bath.
In our Nourishing Hope for Healing Kids nutrition program for parents I cover everything you need to know about addressing salicylate reactions and improving your child’s behavior, focus, and mood.
Enjoy your summer and the time with your family! And keep nourishing hope.
Share your family’s experience with salicylates and summertime in our comment section below.
Amazon Disclaimer: Julie Matthews and Nourishing Hope is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
FTC Disclaimer: Some of the links above may be affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Nourishing Hope may earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost you. I do not recommend products and services lightly and would not recommend anything here that I haven’t or wouldn’t use myself.
The post Challenging Summer Behaviors and Salicylates – How Popular Summer Foods Can Sabotage Your Child’s Mood and Behavior appeared first on Nourishing Hope.