How Nightshade vegetables can adversely impact your health
Nightshades are a common food group found in many diets, including the Paleo diet. They can have health benefits, but for people with nightshade sensitivity, they come with an unpleasant set of side effects that can range from digestive problems to inflammatory issues.
What Are Nightshade Vegetables?
Nightshades are a family of vegetables referred to as Solanaceae. They include common vegetables like peppers, white potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, goji berries, okra, and even ashwagandha, the herb that is so popular for its stress-relieving properties.
Several common herbs and spices, such as chilli pepper, paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes, also fall into the nightshade family. Black and white pepper are from peppercorns (a fruit), which are not nightshades.
Nightshades are gaining a reputation of adversely affecting in certain health conditions , such as chronic inflammation, arthritis, or diabetes. This comes down to the presence of another nutrients found in nightshades, known as alkaloids, which contain nitrogen. In nature, the presence of alkaloids in nightshades serves as a natural insect repellent to prevent the plant from being destroyed. When these anti-nutrients are consumed, they are assumed to also cause problems with a person’s digestive system, leading to inflammatory problems, intestinal disorders, and digestive upset.
Leaky gut, a problem in which the barrier function of the small intestine stops working effectively, can also be caused or worsened by the presence of nightshades, thus worsening chronic conditions. In some cases, eating these foods can also worsen existing symptoms of conditions like arthritis, thanks to alterations in the body’s gut bacteria. They can also play a role in the intestinal problems that are associated with celiac disease.
Beyond digestive and inflammatory problems, people can develop allergies to certain nightshades that can involve itching, swelling, hives, and even difficulty breathing.
some common symptoms of nightshade sensitivity are:
- Irritable bowels
- Nerve problems
- Joint pain
- Swelling in the joints
- Acid reflux
- Leaky gut
- Autoimmunity or other chronic conditions
- Trouble breathing
- Mouth swelling
It can be hard to specifically diagnose some aspects of nightshade problems, they are best found when eliminating all nightshades from the diet for at least 30 days to determine if symptoms improve. Adding them back in, one at a time, can help to identify if one nightshade is a problem, or if the whole category causes symptoms to return.
Do you have to avoid them forever:
This depends on the level of symptom severity you experienced while eating them, as well as current health conditions. If you have chronic arthritis or other autoimmune disorders, chances are you’ll feel best by avoiding them long-term or at least strictly limiting them in your diet.
Some find that only certain nightshades are troublesome, like tomatoes or potatoes, while others find they can eat some nightshades raw but not cooked, and vice versa. As with any other diet, it is best to determine what works for you and follow a customized approach instead of a one-size-fits-all plan that may either be too strict or not strict enough for your health and dietary needs.
To conclude :The answer to how long you need to avoid nightshades will be different for everyone, but most do best by eliminating them for a long time and then slowly re-introducing them to determine if it’s the whole category or just specific foods or preparations that are the problem.
Dr Kalpana Shekhawat M.D.
Functional Medicine Specialist