by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady asked,
I wondered if you knew about the ototoxicity of food products such as decaffeinated tea. I read that tea is high in Salicylates, as are also a lot of fruits. Does this mean that drinking/eating these things can make my existing tinnitus worse?
Interesting question. It is true that Salicylates occur naturally in a good number of foods, and in some in some spices, in quite high concentrations. So the question is whether you can ingest enough Salicylates in your food to cause the typical ototoxic side effects of too much Salicylates in your system such as tinnitus, reversible hearing loss, dizziness and vertigo.
Some people are allergic or sensitive to Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) and foods high in Salicylates. These people may indeed suffer the above side effects. However, for the majority of people that ingest foods higher in Salicylates, I’d be surprised if they notice any change in their tinnitus.
For example, the average “Western diet” has an estimated Salicylate intake ranging from 10 to 200 mg. a day. In comparison, the average dose of (adult) aspirin contains 650 mg. of Salicylic acid, while a baby aspirin contains 81 mg. of Salicylic acid.
Conventional wisdom says that a person has to take 5 or 6 adult Aspirin tablets a day before they notice a change in their tinnitus.
Foods high in Salicylates include fruits, vegetables, dried spices, tea and food flavorings. In addition, Salicylates are used in a wide range of cosmetic products.
Let’s compare 4 foods high in Salicylates to a person taking a single baby aspirin (81 mg.) a day. Here’s how it stacks up.
Curry powder has the highest Salicylate content of any food—218 mg. per 100 g. To get 81 mg. of Salicylate, you would have to ingest 1.31 oz. of Curry powder at a sitting if you could stand it!
Or how about Worcestershire sauce, at 64.3 mg. per 100 g. You would have to dump almost half a bottle (4.5 oz.) of this stuff on your food to equal the Salicylic acid in just one baby aspirin.
As far as fruits go, raisins are high in Salicylates (6.62 mg. per 100 g.). To even get just one baby’s aspirin worth of Salicylic acid, you’d have to eat about 3 pounds of raisins—at one sitting mind you.
Almonds are also considered high in Salicylates at 3 mg. per 100 g. To get one baby’s aspirin worth of Salicylic acid, you’d have to chomp your way through 6 pounds of almonds at one sitting! That’s just not going to happen!
Thus, even though you eat foods high in Salicylates, unless you are particularly sensitive to Salicylates, typically you would not ingest enough Salicylates each day to either cause tinnitus or affect your existing tinnitus.
However, if you are sensitive to Salicylates, you need to watch your intake. For example, one lady took an anti-inflammatory supplement that was very high in tumeric (the main ingredient in curry powder mentioned above) and found her tinnitus got temporarily louder for about a day each time she took it.
You would do well to read the article “Salicylates”. There are also a number of other websites that talk about foods high in salicylates.