Nightshades are a popular food group for meal preppers and are also packed with beneficial nutrients like vitamin A and C, minerals, fiber, and antioxidant properties. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are some of the more common nightshade vegetables, of which many are rich sources of nutrients and serve as staple foods for various cultures.
What are Nightshades?
Nightshades or Solanaceae refer to a botanical group of plants with similar characteristics such as flower shapes and seed arrangement within the fruit. This botanical family is made up of a large variety of plants. Amazing! From annual and perennial vines to shrubs and trees, these plants possess qualities which make them suited to be used as medicine, spices, weeds or ornaments. Imagine that!
There are some 2700 species of nightshades which have been said to have psychotropic (affecting mental function) effects, or for being poisonous. Extreme caution alert!
A few commonly known edible nightshades include:
- a variety of peppers
Although the vegetables mentioned are known for their nutritional value and overall health, they have been blamed for inflammation and other joint pains. Why is it always the good stuff?!
What are the symptoms of nightshade intolerance?
Nightshades produce chemical compounds called alkaloids. These alkaloids include solanine, nicotine, and capsaicin which are made to help defend the plant against their natural predators. When consumed by bugs, for example, these compounds act as bug spray to eliminate the pests. Wow, a plant with its own self-defense mechanism. Awesome! Although it’s extremely rare, there have been reported cases of human allergic reactions to these alkaloids.
The concentration of the alkaloids is generally in the roots, unripe fruit, stems or leaves of the plants which are usually not consumed by humans. However, in addition to food allergies, the digestive tract can also contribute to negative human bodily responses. In such a case, the body is not able to properly digest these foods due to a lack of enzymes to do so. Thus when these parts are consumed the following reactions may occur:
- Hives and skin rashes
- Bloating and Gas
- Excessive mucus production
- Achy muscles and joints
In more severe cases:
- Swelling of the face, mouth or throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Low pulse
List of Inflammatory Nightshade Vegetables & Fruits
Truth be told there is limited ‘controlled study’ research out there to give any conclusive negative effects on the human body. There have been many documented animal studies which did confirm that nightshade consumption leads to joint inflammation and painful arthritis. However, the effects noted was due to how their bodies use Vitamin D which is totally different from how the human body does. Interesting, right?
Here is a list of nightshade vegetable and fruits which have been said to contribute to inflammation in humans:
- Tomatoes: All varieties
- Potatoes: White and red potatoes, but not sweet potatoes
- Peppers: Bell peppers, chili peppers, and any red spices
- Goji berries
Are Nightshades Inflammatory for everyone?
For anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), or a sensitive digestive tract, nightshades should be avoided. These nightshades can have some serious health complications, especially if you’re already on a strict diet. Here are a few reasons why you may want to avoid nightshades:
Existing Digestive Disorders
Individuals who suffer disorders such as heartburn, bloating or IBS report that their symptoms worsen whenever they eat nightshades. Yet there is no clear cut evidence between nightshades and the worsening these conditions. Contrary to this would be studies which show the reverse with a small group suffering from IBS. They reported a reduction in IBS symptoms after taking capsules of red pepper powder for 6 weeks.
When someone has an autoimmune disease, their immune system attacks healthy cells resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. To name a few common autoimmune diseases, there are celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and rheumatoid arthritis. Nightshades worsen these conditions as they contain chemicals which may stimulate the immune response. However, the Arthritis Foundation advises that people with arthritis should consume nightshades as they are part of a healthy diet.
Lectins and leaky gut syndrome
Lectins, a type of protein which may damage the intestinal walls, are also contained in nightshades. This damage to the walls of the intestine results in ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This way proteins which would normally remain within the walls of the intestines can enter the bloodstream.
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Should You Avoid Nightshades?
Allergies to nightshades, though incredibly rare can pose serious problems to those affected. The research out there is unclear about the extent to which the natural chemical compounds in the nightshades affect pre-existing medical conditions. Yet it remains a possibility that symptoms may worsen. Better be safe than sorry. If you’re someone who suffers from any of the pre-existing medical conditions listed above, it would be best to avoid nightshades until more information is available on how you will be affected. Enjoy the comfort of a nightshade-free diet.
Tips / Rules for Avoiding Nightshades?
Who would have thought that nightshades were not another fancy word for lampshade? Wow! If you think you are intolerant to nightshades here are a few tips which could help you keep track of things:
- Avoid Eating Nightshades for Four Weeks. Once you’ve avoided them for the set period, reintroduce them into your diet for 1 to 2 days to see if you have any reactions.
- Keep A Journal. Record whatever reactions you observe when you consume them. If you observe any severe reactions, you should avoid reintroducing that particular nightshade into your diet.
- Take an Allergy Test. A skin prick test or a blood test can be performed to determine which nightshades you are allergic to.
- Substitute Nightshades from Diet.
Here is a short list of substitutions which can be used:
- White potatoes can be replaced by sweet potatoes
- Tomatoes by beets, carrots, and grapes
- Bell peppers by celery, radishes, and zucchini
Have you heard about nightshades? We would love to hear all about your encounters with nightshades. Comment below and share your stories with us.