Do you struggle with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease or leaky gut syndrome? There is a real possibility that certain vegetables may be exacerbating your symptoms.
So what are Nightshade Vegetables?
Nightshade vegetables are members of the Solanaceae family and are completely healthy for most people, but for some they may cause immune reactions similar to wheat or dairy. They include;
- Potatoes (NOT sweet potatoes)
- Capsicum (including peppers such as; chilli and cayenne)
- Goji berries
- Eggplant (aubergine)
- Pimentos (in olives)
- Nicotine in tobacco
- Withania aka Ashwaganda (herb)
Symptoms of Nightshade sensitivity;
Not everyone has a problem with nightshades, but for those with leaky gut, auto-immune conditions, IBS and other gut-related issues, there may be signs of intolerance such as;
- joint pain, particulalry bad for those with Osteo or Rheumatoid arthritis
- digestive issues; nausea, bloating, flatulence, constipation, anaemia and poor food absorption
- itching or reddening of the skin,
- emotional reactions; depression, anxiety
What to do if you suspect an issue?
If you suffer from an autoimmune disease (especially rheumatoid arthritis or anything else that causes joint pain and inflammation), totally eliminating nightshade vegetables for one month, would be a good idea.
If you only suspect a slight sensitivity, it might be enough just to reduce the nightshade content of their diet, or reducing the levels of the worst offending chemicals by;
- Peeling potatoes (as the alkaloids are mostly found in the skin)
- Avoiding green and raw tomatoes and green and/or sprouting potatoes (unripe and raw nightshades are higher in alkaloids)
Why do they cause problems in some people?
Most of the evidence is anecdotal and although there’s no accepted proof, there are a number of theories, including;
- Vitamin D form in Nightshades;
The very potent form of vitamin D3 found in nightshades may prevent proper calcium metabolism, causing calcium to be deposited in soft tissues and not in our bones. Excess calcium in soft tissues causes a stiffening and tightening of soft tissues and joints. It can also form bone spurs.
- Alkaloids and Lectins
Alkaloids include; solanine (found in potatoes, especially green ones), nicotine (in varying amounts depending on the vegetable) and capsaicin (the chemical that gives chilli’s their heat).
These alkaloids work in the plant as a natural pesticide against bugs and mould that would otherwise attack the plant.
Although these compounds are toxic to pests, they’re are mostly tolerated by humans, particularly those with a healthy gut. Compromised gut health, especially in those suffering from an auto-immune condition, may start to notice a problem with them. Some of those alkaloids will stimulate an over-reaction of the immune system, definitely something to be avoided in those suffering from auto-immunity!
Another risk of these alkaloids, is that they may be damaging and irritating the cells lining the intestinal tract. This may exacerbate leaky gut which again triggers an autoimmune reaction as unprocessed proteins and toxins are able to leak through the lining of the gut wall into our bloodstream and therefore causes our bodies to attack them.
Lectins may also be part of the problem. Although all foods contain lectins; a lot of lectins are completely harmless, but there are others that irritate the gut. The lectins in nightshades may also be gut irritants in those that are sensitive which may set off the same leaky gut reaction as alkaloids.
- Toxic or Beneficial?
Remeber, problems from these compounds will only arise in people who are sensitive to nightshades.
Those who have no issues with them, really shouldn’t stop eating them as there are considerable health benefits. For example, capsaicin in capsicums and chilli’s trigger a beneficial anti-inflammatory reaction in those that can tolerate it.
Like anything, what may be harmful in one person, may actually be beneficial in another!