Ruby-red tomatoes… crisp bell peppers… spicy-hot cayenne pepper…
For most people, these are garden-fresh ingredients for a healthy diet, rich in a variety of health-promoting nutrients like vitamin C and lycopene. But for others, these seemingly healthy foods can be the cause of pain, migraines, stiffness and systemic inflammation.
Arthritis & The Nightshade Family
As members of the nightshade (or Solanaceae) family of vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers and other common foods contain a number of potentially problematic compounds, including glycoalkaloids and steroid alkaloids.
These compounds can inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for flexibility of muscle movement. And for some people, consuming these foods can cause stiffness and joint pain related to arthritis.
Dr. Norman F. Childers, PhD, founder of the Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation states:
"Diet appears to be a factor in the etiology of arthritis based on surveys of over 1,400 volunteers during a 20-year period. Plants in the drug family, Solanaceae (nightshades) are an important causative factor in arthritis in sensitive people."
In fact, a growing number of doctors and health experts believe that the symptoms of arthritis are often a misdiagnosed reaction to consuming nightshades. What’s more, many people who suffer from other inflammation-related illnesses – such as lupus, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, and musculoskeletal pain disorders – often find relief with a nightshade-free diet.
Take the Nightshade-Free Challenge
It’s important to note that not all people are sensitive to nightshades to the same degree. However, when an inflammatory condition exists, eating nightshades can compound the problem.
If you want to determine if nightshades could be a cause of pain, stiffness or chronic inflammation, you should consider taking a nightshade-free challenge. For three weeks, avoid all nightshade family foods including:
• Potatoes, all varieties (NOTE: sweet potatoes and yams are not nightshades.)
• Peppers, all varieties (red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, cayenne, pimento.)
• Tomatoes, all varieties (including Tomatillos)
• Pepino melon
• Goji berries
• Cape gooseberries
• Ground cherries
• Garden huckleberries
It’s also important to avoid foods that contain solanine (one of the steroid alkaloids). These include:
Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, homeopathics and other consumables also contain nightshades or solanine. Be sure to read labels and watch for:
• Belladonna (the deadly nightshade often found in homeopathics)
• Potato starch in medications and many packaged products
• Edible flowers including petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil’s trumpets
• Atropine and Scopolamine (compounds used in sleep aids)
• Topical capsaicin creams (derived from cayenne)
• Potato-based vodka
After three weeks, begin to reintroduce nightshades to your diet, one at a time. As you reintroduce these foods, be sure to keep a journal with notes about your symptoms and their severity, including energy levels, pain and stiffness, headaches, etc. Obviously, if you notice an increase in symptoms or severity upon reintroduction of these foods, it is likely that you are sensitive to nightshades and these foods should be avoided.
As the adage goes: "One man's meat is another man's poison." If you are suffering from a pain-related illness, consider a nightshade-free challenge diet. Like many others, you may find a big improvement in your quality of life and a decrease in pain.
Do you have issues with nightshades? If so, what experiences have you had? What benefits have you noticed by eliminating / reducing these foods in your diet?
Kelley Herring is the author of the book Better Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Learn more about Better Breads…
1. Smith, Garrett, ND. Nightshades. Problems from these Popular Foods Exposed to the Light of Day. Weston A. Price Foundation. March 30, 2010
2. N.F. Childers, Ph.D., M.S. Margoles, M.D. An Apparent Relation of Nightshades (Solanaceae) to Arthritis. Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery (1993) 12:227-231
3. Childers NF. Arthritis-Childer’s Diet to Stop It. Nightshades, Aging, and Ill Health, 4th ed. Florida: Horticultural Publications, 1993; 19-21.
4. Patel B, et al. Potato glycoalkaloids adversely affect intestinal permeability and aggravate inflammatory bowel disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2002 Sep;8(5):340-6. PubMed ID: 124796498.
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6. D’Arcy WG. Solanaceae: biology and systemics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985
7. Heiser CB Jr. The fascinating world of the nightshades, 2nd ed. New York: Dover Publ, 1987