The FAILSAFE diet is a diet designed to be free of additives, low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers. It is Sue Dengate‘s term for the low-chemical exclusion diet formulated by allergists at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia. It is designed to treat sensitivities to specific natural and man-made flavouring, colouring and preservative chemicals found in foods.
Sensitivities to food chemicals are pharmacological and dose-related (like the side effects of drugs), rather than immune-mediated like allergies. Different people have dramatically different tolerance levels to salicylates, amines, glutamates, sulphites, food colourings and other additives, and sensitivity symptoms (intolerances), occur when a person’s tolerance levels are exceeded.
The symptoms caused by food chemicals appear to be allergy-like which can make determining their true cause very confusing. Despite food chemical intolerance being more common than true allergy, a lack of knowledge about this syndrome means that the symptoms are rarely understood properly by the layperson or the medical practitioner. There are specific metabolic reasons for these symptoms.
The failsafe diet excludes strong tasting and smelling foods and environmental chemicals, in particular:
About fifty additives including colours (like tartrazine, sunset yellow), flavours, preservatives and antioxidants (sulphites, nitrates, benzoates, sorbates, parabens). Salicylates (aspirin) and polyphenols (natural flavours, colours and preservatives) found in a wide range of fruits and vegetables as well as in man-made NSAIDs and COX II inhibitors. Neurotransmitters: free glutamates (MSG) and amines (histamine, serotonin, dopamine, phenylethylamine, tyramine and others) in aged proteins and fermented foods like cheese, game and hung meat. Environmental chemicals and strong smells like perfumes, most commercial cosmetics, scented and coloured toiletries and especially mint and menthol products. Some pharmaceutical drugs, including aspirin, all NSAIDS including ibuprofen, and the methyl-salicylates found in decongestants and anti-inflammatory creams.
Willow bark, which has long been used to ease pain and fever, contains salicylate which is the basis for aspirin. Some plants make salicylates to protect themselves from insects and disease. While salicylate-containing medicines such as aspirin can offer benefits, and plants that contain salicylates can be very nourishing, they are not well tolerated by everyone.
Many people believe that by measuring the salicylate content of various foods, we can assume that those with the highest levels are the ones that will cause problems. Unfortunately, it is just not that simple. Here's why:
There are various kinds of salicylates; we don't know which ones are most likely to cause adverse reactions - and even if we did, we don't know which ones are in which fruits and vegetables.
The amount of salicylate can vary from one variety of a fruit to another, and even the levels in a particular plant can change. For example, organic fruits in an orchard that has been attacked by pests will make more salicylate than other fruits.
Different parts of a plant might have different levels of salicylate. The amounts can vary between the pulp, seeds, and peel of a fruit or vegetable.
Sensitivity can vary depending on whether the fruit or vegetable is raw or cooked. For example, fresh pineapple may cause a problem for the same person who tolerates canned pineapple or pineapple juice.
Foods grown in one region might not be the same as foods grown in another. We don't even know that it is only the salicylate in a food that is to blame; there could be other naturally-occurring chemicals that play a part. Typically, a salicylate-sensitive person has problems with only some - not all - salicylates.
Salicylate sensitivity can change; frequently a person who avoids them for a year or so can later tolerate moderate amounts of them.
But despite all these confusing issues, and all that we do not know about salicylates, we do have a useful method for finding out if they are a problem and identifying which ones are the likely culprits.
In his allergy clinic at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, Dr. Feingold searched for help to identify which salicylates were likely to bother the patients. The only list of foods with suspected salicylates was decades old, but he decided to use this list as a starting point, with plans to refine it as he gained more experience with patients. Actually, the list of salicylate-containing foods turned out to be useful and he did not have to make many changes.
People who are interested in eating healthy food generally consume many of the salicylate-containing fruits and vegetables, and those who give nutrition advice typically encourage the consumption of these foods. For most people, this is good advice, but for someone who is salicylate-sensitive, it can make things worse.
Advice given to Sal by a doctor at the Southampton General Hospital Allergy Clinic
Low Salicylate Diet
Salicylates occur naturally in many foods. Some people are more sensitive to salicylates than others. Salicylate intolerance causes rashes, swelling and diarrhoea. It does not lead to more serious conditions.
We have divided foods up into low, moderate and high salicylate concentrations labelled as green, yellow and red (a traffic light) system. Use foods mainly from green and yellow groups. Red group foods are not banned but should be tolerated in small quantities as part of an otherwise low salicylate meal. Unlike more serious food allergies red group foods do not have to be strictly avoided. Most families find the right balance for their children.
To avoid additives and hidden preservatives (benzoate), all bread, biscuits, cakes etc. would need to be home-made. Benzoate preservatives may cross react in some individuals and may need to be avoided in high concentrations. These would include E211 to E219
Margarine and processed rapeseed, safflower, soya bean and sunflower oils although low in salicylates are likely to contain preservatives.
Raw foods, dried foods and juices contain higher levels of salicylates than cooked foods. The salicylate content in foods is highest in unripened fruit and reduces as the fruit ripens. All fruit and vegetables should be ripe and thickly peeled before eating.
Some of the non-food items that may contain salicylates include: Cosmetics, perfumes, gums, hair products, herbal remedies, lozenges, mouthwash, toothpastes, medications- ask your pharmacist for help with this if required.
(information has been borrowed and adapted with kind permission of Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust, nutrition and Dietetics Departments)
Super Superfoods for people with Salicylate Sensitivity
Peeled Golden or Red Delicious Apples
Over 7,500 varieties of apple are grown throughout the world. They are packed full of antioxidants, especially vitamin C for healthy skin and gums - one apple provides a quarter of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Apples also contain a form of soluble fibre called pectin that can help to lower blood cholesterol levels and keep the digestive system healthy. An apple is also a carbohydrate with a low glycaemic index (GI) type. Low GI foods are digested slowly; once they are finally broken down in the intestine they are gradually absorbed into the bloodstreams as glucose, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. They may help with weight control, as well as improving diabetics' long-term control of blood sugar levels.
Whether you prefer kidney, pinto, borlotti or black beans, you can’t find better nutrition than that provided by beans. They are very high in fibere giving you about 1/3 of your daily requirement in just a ½ cup and are also good sources of magnesium, and potassium.
They are considered starchy vegetables but a ½ cup provides as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat. To save time you can use canned beans, but be sure to drain and rinse them to get rid of as much salt as possible.
Homemade Wholemeal Seeded Bread
Breads containing a lot of seeds and wholegrain have a low GI, which can protect against heart disease, reduce hunger pangs, and help with weight control. They are also packed with fibre, which keeps the gut working efficiently; and seeded breads contain essential fatty acids. Studies show that including four slices of soya and linseed bread a day can give a dose of phytoestrogens, throught to relieve "hot flushes" in menopausal women.
All fish is a source of good-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, but oily fish such as salmon also contains omega 3 fats that reduce blood clotting and inflammation. Studies show that eating oily fish dramatically recues the risk of having a heart attack, even in older adults. Omega 3 fats also help to prevent depression, and protect against the onset of dementia. Fish really is an all-round brain food.
An old standby where everyone can find a favourite. Avoid tomato sauce, puree or tinned tomatoes. Replace tinned tomatoes in a recipe with a fresh one and you’re eating vital nutrients like vitamin C, iron, vitamin E.
Yogurt is an easily absorbed source of calcium. It's also a useful milk subsitute for people who can't digest large amounts of the milk sugar, lactose. Yogurt has long been credited with a range of therapeutic benefits, many of which involve the health of the large intestine and the relief of gastrointestinal upsets. The bacteria Lactobacillus GG, added to some yoghurt, are not digested, and reach the large intestine intact where they top up the other friendly bacteria living there. The friendly bacteria fight harmful bacteria, including Clostridium difficile that can cause diarrhoea after a course of antibiotics.
It's a myth that bananas are fattening. Bananas are slightly higher in energy than other fruits but the calories come mainly from carbohydrate; excellent for refuelling before, during or after exercise. All types of fruit and vegetables contain plant chemicals or phytochemicals known as antioxidants. These antioxidants protect cells in the body against damage from free radicals that can cause heart disease and cancer. Bananas are also jam-packed with potassium that helps lower blood pressure, and vitamin B6 for healthy skin and hair.
Oatmeal is a source of fibre and potassium. It has a low glycemic index or GI which makes you feel full up for longer
Just two florets - raw or lightly cooked - count as a veggie portion. Not only does broccoli contain antioxidants including vitamin C but it's a particularly good source of folate (naturally occuring folic acid). Increasing your intake of folic acid is thought to be of major benefit in preventing heart disease. Broccoli also contains an antioxidant called lutein that can delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This affects 10 per cent of people over 60 and is a major cause of impaired vision and blindness. Finally, broccoli also contains a phytochemical called sulphoraphane that has specific anti-cancer properties.
Several large studies suggest that the monosaturated fat in olive oil is good for the heart. Olive oil lower bad cholesterol levels and increases the good levels. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants - it's probably one of the key protective aspects of the so-called Mediterranean diet. Watch out for the calories - a little goes a long way. A tablespoon of oil contains 120 kilocalories, which is the same as a large slice of bread and butter.
The drink loved by all Britons has a range of useful properties. The caffeine content is helpful for stimulating alertness, mood and motivation. Tea counts towards the recommended eight cups of fluid daily, which is the minimum to avoid dehydration. Tea, whether black or green, is a rich source of the antioxidant called catechins. Studies suggest that catechins protect the artery walls against the damage that causes heart disease and prevents formation of sticky blood clots. Some population studies suggest as little as one cuppa a day seems to offer some protection.
All nuts are generally full of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Recent studies suggest that eating a small handful of nuts four times a week can help reduce heart disease and satisfy food cravings. Brazil nuts are one of the few good sources of selenium that may help protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer's disease
Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, these berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory.
This powerhouse food is so low in calories and carbohydrate, you can’t eat too much.
Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes. Pick your favourites and get part of your daily dose of soluble fibre and vitamin C.
A starchy vegetable packed full of vitamin A and fibre. Try in place of regular potatoes for a lower GI alternative.
tia: I am salicylate-sensitive and I also have to avoid foods that will bring on a gout attack...I am so limited help!
May 5, 2016 20:20:08 GMT
Sal: Sorry I've been inactive on here for a while because I started a new job a year ago!! Going to try and update the forum weekly. Lots of images are not showing correctly so I'll replace them and update information as things have changed in the last year.
Apr 15, 2015 10:16:24 GMT
Mark: finding alphabetical lists of sal levels in food usefull
Feb 11, 2014 22:24:32 GMT
Sal: Thanks wing I am learning each day how food affects my body, my mood, my energy level and my general health
Dec 12, 2013 15:42:19 GMT
wing: Great site Sal, I'm keenly aware of how important things are as I have heath issues that affect my diet and all sorts in my daily life.
Dec 8, 2013 11:25:21 GMT
Sal: That'll be great Pat- I try and add something new each week (1)
Dec 7, 2013 18:47:49 GMT
Pat: My ENT Consultant advised me recently to start a Low Sal, this site is only one of a few in uk and full of useful suggestions will visit regularly!
Dec 2, 2013 13:14:10 GMT
flavioana: thank you for your hard work!!!
Oct 23, 2013 13:21:51 GMT
Sal: Thanks Liz, glad you found us!
Sept 16, 2013 9:08:11 GMT
Liz: Good luck with your new website- I shall bookmark you and come back.
Sept 16, 2013 8:53:18 GMT
dandelion coffee pear juice
Herbs and Spices
loquat custard apple lychee pear with peel
Meat Fish Eggs
Oils and Fats
Seeds and Nuts
peanut butter walnuts pumpkin seeds
molasses raw sugar
peeled aubergine carrot lettuce other than iceberg tomato juice mushrooms tinned asparagus beetroot black olives sweetcorn dessicated coconut new potatoes snow peas
port wine rum
Herbs and Spices
most apples cantaloupe melon cherries grapefruit mandarin mulberry nectarine peach watermelon tangerine