Many of my favorite veggies are in the nightshade group. I never met a home grown or farmed organic tomato that I didn’t love. In fact, I will pay considerably more for a farm grown organic tomato just because they are so delicious, and if they are conventionally grown, sometimes they are like tasteless hockey pucks.
And I am fortunate. Although I do have 18 sensitivities, nightshades are NOT amongst them. But if they are sensitivities for you, its important to avoid them as they are causing inflammation in YOUR body.
What Are Nightshades?
Nightshade is the term given to the Solanum genus, which has more than 2,000 species. The most commonly eaten varieties include:
Peppers (except peppercorn)
Potato (not yams or sweet potatoes)
I have included a visual below with the full list.
As Dr. Jonny Bowden says (he is one of the functional nutritionists that I follow):
“Like all nightshades, eggplant contains a substance called solanine. In theory, if solanine is not destroyed in the intestine, it could be toxic. This is generally not an issue, but studies at the University of Florida’s Arthritis Nightshades Research, hypothesized that some people with osteoarthritis may not be able to destroy solanine in the gut, leading to solanine absorption and aggravating osteoarthritis.
“Though this has never been put to a strict clinical test, (Jonny Bowden writes) that he believes that individual variations in metabolism and detoxification abilities account for many problems with foods and chemicals—some people can get rid of the problem compound just fine, others simply can’t. Proponents of the “solanine aggravates arthritis” theory claim you need to eliminate it for six months before potential benefit can be seen. I think this information is only applicable to a tiny number of people, but it’s worth knowing.”
Know your body. Talk to it. Listen to it. To make that happen, you must get quiet and go inward to “hear” what it is saying to you.
As Dr. Deanna Minich, an other functional nutritionist that I follow states in her article about nightshades:
“Why Remove Nightshades?
Those in the anti-nightshades camp generally argue that these plants can be harmful for the following reasons:
Alkaloids and glycoalkaloids
THese are chemicals that the plant has as natural pesticides, phytonutrients that are in the plant for them for their survival. If a bug attacks them, they can’t run or use bug spray, they have evolved to have these chemicals built right in to protect them.
Most phytonutrients are incredibly good for us. The chemicals above are problematic for some people.
Some people gain amazing benefits from these chemicals, so knowing your bodies reaction and testing for a sensitivity is important. The evidence is mixed.
Potatoes, for some, create digestive issues. For others are healing for colitis and IBS.
Dr. Minich continues:
“There is also evidence pointing to the idea that some of the glycoalkaloids may be beneficial. For example, capsaicin (in peppers) has been shown to be effective in controlling pain, as well as having benefits for various health concerns, including obesity, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It has been studied in animal models for its ability to positively modulate the gut microbiota by supporting the growth of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Akkermansia municiniphila, and Roseburia.
Some of the alkaloids and glycoalkaloids may also have potential anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. One study in mice found that tomatidine, a glycoalkaloid in tomatoes, could help to reduce atherogenesis.”
Many nighthades have lectins in them, which are sometimes called antinutrients. Dr. Minches conclusion on lectins is that how you eat them, cooked or raw, and how much diversity is in your diet determines whether your body can handle eating the lectins or not.
Having said that, some people DO have an adverse reaction to lectins. Know your body.
The high glutamate content in tomatoes can sometimes flare gout issues.
And some people are just allergic to the family or sensitive to all of them.
Eliminating nightshades is a part of the AIP protocol for autoimmune diseases. It can offer some great relief. It is however meant as a diet to help heal the gut and by doing so to lower inflammation. It is not necessarily a ‘forever’ food protocol.
Sensitivities in general can change. Allergies do not. A sensitivity starts a slow burn which becomes inflammation and leads to leaky gut and chronic illness. An allergy on the other hand, can kill a person and generally does not change. Know the difference. It you have an allergy, avoid that food or substance at all costs.
If nightshades are problematic, it might be that you need to eliminate them going forward, but you may also be able to add them slowly back into your eating routine after some time. I have lost some sensitivity to a few foods on my original list, but not all. Every once in a while I try a food that is on my list, and I let my body vote. It speaks loud and clear in symptoms, and now that I listen, I don’t miss it.
Our bodies come equipped with some pretty amazing mechanisms to heal and rebalance, but they need us to give them the right inputs to work optimally.
As I posted yesterday, the body is a self-repairing entity. The goal is to find the right balance in your body.
Symptoms are your bodies way of communicating to you. Listen up before they start to scream, and are causing real problems and inflammation.
Functional medicine believes that the entire body functions as one entity. Find the root cause of what is putting your body out of balance, and work to bring yourself back into balance. If one system is out of balance it IS impacting all your other body systems. Conventional medicine’s approach to identify one system out of whack, and prescribing a pill for it only mitigates the issue. Look for the root cause and then work to repair that to return back to balance. Your entire body needs to work in harmony for long term health.
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