Phenols (salicylates are a type of phenol) are a chemical compound naturally found in foods. Typically the brighter/more colorful the food, the higher in phenols.

Some Foods/Herbs Highest in Phenols & Salicylate

  • Food coloring/dyes
  • Apricots
  • Dates
  • Cherries
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Soy
  • Buckwheat

Symptoms Associated with Phenols & Salicylate

  • overly giggly
  • red ears or flushed cheeks
  • aggression
  • defiance
  • irritability
  • night waking
  • tics
  • emotional
  • dark circles under eyes
  • hyperactivity


Phenol Sulfotransferase Deficiency (PST) which should be indicated on a 23 & me SNP’s test

What Would Cause You To Be Sensitive To Phenols & Salicylate?

  • Clostrida
  • A diet too high in animal protein/protein fermentation in the gut
  • SIBO

Phenols, Salicylate & Glutamate

One becomes more sensitive to these if their bucket is already full from phenols produced by various metabolites or if they have trouble with phenol sulfotransferase deficiency (PST) which should be indicated on a 23 & me SNP’s test. I think of the phenol issue like a bucket. Small amounts of phenols can start to fill the bucket with no reaction, but once the phenol level gets so high, that the bucket tips/overflows, you’ll see a reaction.  A typical reactions to phenols and/or salicylate may be
We did briefly struggle with a phenol/salicylate intolerance when his diet was low in fiber and high in meat. Aromatic amino acids concentrated in meat protein are the biggest culprit of phenol metabolites that interfere with dopamine metabolism. Clostrida (which can also be a result of a high protein diet) and SIBO (often associated with carbohydrate fermentation) will also create phenols as a byproduct. As these proteins ferment in the gut, phenols will be produced. The proteins are broken down into amino acids and metabolites/bacteria that metabolize these amino acids create phenols/inflammation as a byproduct.
These high levels of phenols will easily fill the “bucket”, resulting in a reaction to additional phenols from diet. In my opinion, this is why many cannot tolerate any additional phenols in diet. Glutamate signaling is also created in this process due to the inflammatory response and fermentation of the protein in the gut. I would try balancing the diet further (increasing high fiber leafy greens and reducing meat) to eliminate the possibility of excess phenols from this process. Dr. Reid recommends roughly 75% of diet to come from high fiber green veggies. We try to make that’s goal, although it doesn’t always happen. We also limit meat to once a day. We still eat phenols/salicylates but do not go overboard so that our “bucket” doesn’t tip resulting in a reaction.
Dr. Reid also recommends using herbs to combat some of the underlying inflammation (clostridium, SIBO, etc.)
“Protein fermentation mainly occurs in the distal colon, when carbohydrates get depleted and results in the production of potentially toxic metabolites such as ammonia, amines, phenols and sulfides.”
“One mechanism that could explain the association with meat is increased colonic protein metabolism due to increased protein intake from high meat diets. Products of colonic protein degradation and metabolism include ammonia, phenols, indoles and amines which have been shown to exert toxic effects in vitro and in animal models. These compounds are present in faecal samples suggesting that they may exert gut mucosal effects. Human studies have shown that colonic protein metabolism via the gut microflora is responsive to dietary protein as fecal ammonia and urinary phenolic compound concentrations increase in response to increased intake of protein rich foods.”

Looking for more information on Phenols & Salicylate?

TACA Resource on Phenols & Salicylates