Some very sensitive individuals with food chemical intolerance require a diet that is restricted beyond the level required by the failsafe elimination diet. This is particularly true of individuals who have severe/chronic symptoms, autism or autistic-like traits, and of those with chronic pain and fatigue syndromes.
Before introducing further restrictions, it may be worth trying the following:
- Avoid taking the pill or hormone replacement therapy. Oestrogen appears to lower food chemical tolerance in some women.
- Avoid soy and other foods that contain pseudo-oestrogens (chickpeas and some other legumes). For the same reasons as above.
- Have your thyroid tested for normal function. Poor thyroid function appears to worsen tolerance in some – although food chemical intolerance symptoms often also mimic poor thyroid function, so do not make assumptions about what is wrong.
- Avoid taking all non-essential medications, particularly antidepressants and psychoactive drugs. Some (not all) psychoactive drugs affect tolerance levels. This is particularly true of MAOIs, which can induce food chemical intolerance symptoms in previously tolerant individuals. Different psychoactive drugs can improve or worsen different symptoms in different individuals.
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine appears to exacerbate some symptoms that are related to food chemical intolerance, such as insomnia, dermatitis, rosacea, etc. It can also induce ‘manic’ happy-high reactions in some.
- Vitamins: folate and B12 in particular have differing effects in different individuals. Some people experience an improvement of symptoms, others experience a worsening of symptoms. Folate and B12 can strongly affect mood and clarity (inducing mania or clearing brain fog depending on the individual and dosage) and affecting seizure threshold. Adequate vitamin D and sunlight (both UVB and SAD lighting) appear to improve tolerance during the winter months when symptoms are at their worst, this is particularly true of those who have a poor tolerance of stress. A number of failsafers have reported negative reactions to zinc – probably because it antagonises copper, a rate-limiting factor in the monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzyme, and potentially induces angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), an enzyme implicated in food chemical intolerance. When ACE is a problem, individuals tend to feel better when they avoid salt (sodium chloride) and/or season with lo-salt (potassium chloride) instead.
- A ketogenic diet, whilst not suitable for everyone, appears to dramatically increase tolerance and symptom threshold in some individuals. It is particularly useful for mental/mood symptoms and seizures.
- Be patient! A number of symptoms associated with food chemical intolerance are due to depression of the immune system and an infection may be present (such as in skin conditions, ear aches, thrush, some (not all) cases of digestive upset, and possibly fibromyalgia). The body may need extra time to fight off an infection or a little extra help from antibiotics or antifungals to do so.
Foods to Test
If you continue to have chronic symptoms on the failsafe diet, it is essential you try the following before giving up:
- Ensure you have double-checked allowed foods and you have examined the checklist of common mistakes on the FIN website
- All individuals whose symptoms do not clear up on the failsafe diet should also go gluten and casein free for at least two weeks (see the gluten and casein responders page)
- Test for reactions to eggs (some individuals have severe non-IgE idiosyncratic reactions to eggs)
- Be certain you are following amine handling guidelines correctly (most people make this mistake)
- Try cutting out sulphurous vegetables such as allowed cruciferous vegetables and garlic (some people do not tolerate garlic at all)
- Try cutting out fruit and vegetables partially or completely, as per the guidelines below
- Restrict the amount of fruit, vegetables and legumes you eat to two serves per day
- Then, restrict to one serve per day
- Finally, restrict to one serve every other day
This should help to clarify whether you react to very small amounts of salicylates and SLAs, as you may notice digestive upset, or a ‘hangover’ reaction on the day after eating salicylates.
White sugar is the safest sweetener, followed by maple syrup, then golden syrup.
A number of gluten-free grains/seeds can be problematic. Gluten-free flours are notorious for causing problems, so stick to unprocessed grains to begin with. Quinoa can cause reactions in some individuals, and amaranth is thought to be safer than quinoa. Buckwheat has been reported to cause urticaria in some individuals.
Potatoes must be large, mature, brown skinned, white fleshed, and thickly peeled. They must not have green patches or sprouts. Sensitive failsafers do not tolerate new potatoes and potatoes with skins. Trying different varieties can help a lot. I find that I tolerate Maris Piper very well, but some creamy tasting baking potato varieties give me salicylate/solanine symptoms like heart palpitations.
Brown split lentils are tolerated better than red split lentils. You may find that you tolerate beans better than lentils. White, colourless beans like lima beans and butter beans seem to be more tolerable. Generally, the reactivity of beans and pulses is higher than that of some vegetables.
Buy varieties of pears that do not have a strong aromatic smell. Williams pears have a lemony scent and are more reactive than conference pears, which are relatively quite safe and subtly flavoured.
Sweet chestnuts have not been tested for salicylate content and do not appear on any failsafe lists, however they seem to be well tolerated and may be useful for those individuals who have to restrict many foods. The wild/châtaigne variety with a number of separate kernels in one nut is safer than the single kernel marron variety.
Rice: remember that basmati and jasmine rice are not failsafe. White rices are safer than brown rices. Short grain rices appear to be safer than long grain rices. The safest rice of all is sushi rice. Super-responders should check the rice table below.
Limiting Salicylates – Stage One (Problematic Intolerance)
The following plant foods contain zero salicylates. Although some foods also contain traces of amines and also salicylate-like aromatics, it may be worth restricting allowed foods to those in this list:
|Peas, dried green split||0|
Limiting Salicylates – Stage Two (Strong Intolerance)
As many fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds contain other salicylate-like aromatics (SLAs), including colours, flavours and smells, some very sensitive people do not tolerate a zero salicylate diet. This is the next stage of restrictions for those people, based on the accumulated advice of failsafers:
Limiting Salicylates – Stage Three (Serious Intolerance)
White carbohydrates only – no fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Limiting Salicylates – Stage Four (Severe Intolerance)
A number of the white carbohydrates listed above contain gluten, which can be problematic in itself. This is what the diet looks like without gluten grains and sweeteners.
Not everyone tolerates millet or oats, leaving potatoes and rice as the safest carbohydrate foods. Please follow the potato and rice guidelines as above. People this sensitive usually only tolerate sushi rice and have to be very selective about potato consumption.
Fine Tuning Rice Tolerance
This is a subjective compilation of tolerance levels to different varieties and brands of rice from two severe salicylate super-responders in the UK. Most reactive varieties are listed first in red.
|Type of Rice||Elena’s reaction||Emma’s reaction|
|Basmati rice (any brand)||Severe fatigue/exhaustion, brain fog, fibromyalgia symptoms the following day. Worse than a regular salicylate reaction.|
|Short grain pudding rice (any brand)||Insomnia and nightmares.|
|Carnaroli risotto rice (any brand)||Insomnia and nightmares.|
|Arborio risotto rice (any brand)||Insomnia and nightmares.|
|Paella rice (any brand)||Insomnia and nightmares.|
|Kokuho Rose Sushi Rice||Very aspie/hyper – I found out this one is fortified with folic acid.|
|Nishiki Sushi Rice||Hypoglycemia, I feel high and clear temporarily.|
|Okomesan Sushi Rice||Hypoglycemia, I feel high and clear temporarily.|
|Sun Rice Sushi Rice||Very sleepy, bloated, my head feels fine.|
|Yutaka Sushi Rice||Head does not feel so clear but otherwise I’m fine.||Insomnia for an hour or two on the first night it’s eaten, then get used to it.|
|Clearspring Organic Sushi Rice||A bit sleepy but clear headed.||No reaction at all.|
Amine and Glutamate Super-Responders
For a full overview of how to limit amines, please see the guidelines for minimising amines in foods.
- Don’t buy meat from the supermarket
- Don’t buy vacuum packed meat
- Avoid beef until you are able to test it properly
- Avoid shellfish, squid and crustaceans (except lobster) until you are able to test them properly
- Cook and eat meat the day you buy it or else freeze it
- Eat meat within a month of freezing
- Avoid sourdough bread and soaked and fermented grains and beans
- Avoid soups, stocks and broths until you are able to test them properly
- Avoid long slow roasting until you are able to test properly
- Remember that pork and game are not failsafe!
Limiting Amines in Dairy Products
Listed from most reactive in red to least reactive in green.
|Type of Dairy Product||Notes|
|Strong yellow cheeses||The stronger the taste of the cheese, the higher in amines and particularly glutamates it will be.|
|Mild white cheeses||Mild brie and fresh goat’s and sheep’s cheeses are sometimes tolerable. Feta and mozzarella are not safe for failsafers.|
|Kefir||According to published analyses, kefir cultures are very variable in bacterial makeup. A variety of species found commonly in kefir are known to make free glutamate and amines. Lactococcus lactis (found in cheese and kefir) and a variety of lactobacillus and bifidus species produce amines.|
|Probiotic yoghurt||A variety of species found commonly in so-called probiotic yoghurts are known to make free glutamate and amines. Lactobacillus casei, a common probiotic, forms free glutamates. A variety of lactobacillus and bifidus species produce amines.|
|Fromage frais, fromage blanc, maquée, quark||Usually safe, but should not be left in the fridge for too long after opening.|
|Cottage cheese, cream cheese, crème fraîche||Usually safe, but should not be left in the fridge for too long after opening.|
|Non-probiotic (traditional) yoghurt||Traditional yoghurt cultures are made with the species lactobacillus acidophilus, streptococcus thermophilus, and lactobacillus bulgaricus. These three species do not form amines. If the yoghurt is made in a properly controlled environment (not contaminated) it will be safe.|
|Fresh milk||Failsafers sometimes report unusual reactions to UHT milk. Raw milk does not appear to be beneficial.|
Gluten and Casein Responders
For a full overview of how to test and limit gluten and casein, please see the gluten and casein responders page.