Should I Eat Nightshades?
If you suffer from autoimmune disease, IBS, leaky gut, or food sensitivities or allergies, nightshades in your diet may be to blame. While nightshade vegetables are tolerated well and are beneficial to most people, they contain alkaloids that can trigger immune reactions in some people that are similar to wheat and dairy sensitivities. Joint pain, digestive issues, heartburn, nerve pain, and reddening of the skin are all indications that nightshades may be contributing to your health issues. There is also anecdotal evidence that arthritis sufferers notice a decrease in symptoms after eliminating nightshades from their diet.
If you suffer from any of these conditions or symptoms, taking the time to eliminate and reintroduce nightshades from your diet could prevent future pain. If you suspect you may have a nightshade sensitivity, the first step is to identify and eliminate them from your diet. Plan to eliminate them for at least three months, which will allow your body ample time to purge any lingering alkaloids.
White potatoes and potato starch (used as a thickener or filler, potato starch can be found in baking powder, medications, and even envelope glue)
Black and white pepper
Dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale
Sweet potatoes and yams
* These berries are NOT nightshades, but they do contain similar alkaloids which can cause the same negative reactions.
What Are Alkaloids, and How Might They Affect Me?
Though there are well over 2,000 species of nightshades, ranging from edible vegetables to poisonous plants, they all share similarities in their chemical composition, including the presence of alkaloids. The most common alkaloids found in nightshade vegetables are capsaicin, nicotine, and solanine and tomatine. While these alkaloids are not without their benefits (capsaicin is a powerful analgesic and even nicotine has been studied for its neurological benefits), they are the prime culprit for the negative reactions those with nightshade sensitivity experience.
Solanine and tomatine, both steroid alkaloids known as glycoalkaloids, can irritate the gut and affect neurotransmitters. Solanine is most commonly found in potatoes and its counterpart tomatine in tomatoes. When the body breaks down solanine, it separates it from its sugar component and leaves behind the toxin solanidine which can be stored in the body and released when you are stressed. Both solanine and tomatine are more concentrated in the green parts of a plant, so potatoes with sprouts or green spots, as well as green tomatoes, can cause a greater reaction in nightshade sensitive people. According to a study with mice, potatoes aggravated existing irritable bowel disease (IBD) and triggered it in those who were already predisposed to the condition.
Capsaicin is the alkaloid that makes hot peppers spicy. Though it is recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties, it can trigger adverse reactions in people who are nightshade-sensitive, commonly manifesting in heartburn and acid reflux, as capsaicin can irritate the lining of the esophagus and stomach.
Tobacco is a nightshade and a common source of the addictive alkaloid nicotine. While tobacco use is bad for your health and should be avoided by anyone regardless of nightshade sensitivity, it’s not the only source. In fact, nicotine is present in all parts of nightshade vegetables, which may explain why we find fries and chips so addictive.
Nightshade vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals for most, but if you suspect that they you may be sensitive, or that they are exacerbating an existing autoimmune condition, contact me for help in navigating your nightshade detox.