While the vast majority of people have no problems with nightshades, they can cause problems for some people struggling with an autoimmune disease like arthritis or IBD, Crohn's as well as some people who simply have a digestive sensitivity to them or are dealing with gut permeability issues.
Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant and a few more I'll list below, all belong to the same botanical family, commonly known as the nightshades. The Latin name for this family of plants is Solanaceae, because all of them produce an alkaloid compound called solanine. Solanine is part of these plants natural defense system, acting as a nerve poison on insects that try to eat the plants.
Healthy guts can deal with these plant protective chemicals just fine, but people whose digestive system that are already compromised by an autoimmune disease or excess inflammation may have trouble with them.
Does this mean you should ditch them forever?? Most definitely not!! Once you start to discover what foods might be problematic to you, eliminating them for a time, while you are working on lowering inflammation, healing the gut, and then re-introducing foods one at a time to test for reactions is what I recommend.
Who would ever what to cut out a complete group of nutritious foods unless they where doing some damage or making you feel miserable.
Full List of Nightshades
- White potatoes (White flesh potatoes) not orange or purple flesh
- Goji berries
- Ground cherries
- Pepino melons
- Cayenne pepper
Many who suffer with arthritis or an arthritis related disease such as lupus, rheumatism, and other musculoskeletal pain disorders, have found that consuming foods from the nightshade family is in fact adversely affecting their health. This may be due to increased inflammation linked to gut permeability allowing these phytochemicals through the tight junctions of the intestinal lining or vise versa these foods in sensitive peoples creating inflammation in the intestinal wall as we know much stronger synthetic chemical insecticides that are commonly used on crops do. (1)
It also has to deal with the frequency of which we are consuming these foods. I used to eat potatoes and or Tomatoes every week, in different ways and combinations, that was just too much for my body, I also eat a lot of whole wheat, albeit organic, I was eating a lot of it. Once I started keeping a food journal, went through a month long elimination diet, re introduces all "suspected foods", that I was never clinically allergic to, I started understanding my threshold without causing undue pain in my joints.
I eat tomatoes, I grow them, save them, preserve them, but don't often eat 2 meals in a row with them as a main ingredient. The beloved tomato full of Lycopene! Preliminary research shows lycopene may help to prevent heart disease, atherosclerosis, and even breast and prostate cancers. It may also be the most powerful carotenoid against singlet oxygen, a highly reactive oxygen molecule and a primary cause of premature skin aging. Think powerful free radical scavenger! Lycopene is also found in cell membranes and plays an important role in maintaining the cell’s integrity when it is under assault by toxins. Why would we ever want to give that up unless it is truly an issue for you!
Potatoes where another often eaten nightshade that I had to adapt my eating habits around. Although a great whole food prepared with the skin, I eat them organic, and in rotation, leaving them off the menu a lot of the time. I've also worked on my gut health, knowing that I am not allergic to wheat, but knowing for the years of food journaling and getting to know myself and my digestion better that wheat everyday, or even at certain points in the year, once a week doesn't work for me.
No one nutrition path will be right for everyone, we must take the time and effort to self study and self reflect. I can not recommend anything higher than to start a journal. The longer you record, the more accurate you can be with food navigation of what will truly make you thrive.
Because really, who wants to live in a world without goji berries or cayenne! This discussion isn't directly targeting nightshades as an evil in our nutritional landscapes, most of these foods have amazing phytochemicals that we benefit so much from. I bring the discussion up as a point of interest for those on their own path of healing inflammation and finding their optimal wellness.
The Take Away;
1) Keep a food journal, some reactions may not occur until days after a certain food is eaten. You may not realize you are reactive to something without this invaluable tool!
2) Eliminate suspected foods for 1 month, slowly reintroducing them back days apart noting any reactions. Some of the most common sensitivity foods are wheat, dairy, soya, nightshades, and legumes.
3) Rotational Nutrition to be kind to the guts. Except for foods you find to be highly reactive to, work on gut health, and rotate all other foods stuffs not exposing yourself to lower reactory foods having it accumulate. Do you know that foods you often eat most might be the ones you are most reactive to.
4) Invest the time in your health, learn what foods help the gut to heal, what foods you personal react to it can be a valuable step to healing the gut, and turning down inflammation.
Here is a free print out of Wild Seed's Food & Mood Tracker for an easy way to start your journey of discovery!
For those wanting to try the recipe Nightshade free, add more chickpeas and nix the potato, as well as eliminating the chilis and cayenne, don't worry, it's still just as yummy! This recipe is full of anti inflammatory ingredients with just the right mix of turmeric, ginger, coconut milk and black pepper, that with these modifications, I would post it as an anti inflammatory recipe.