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Nightshades and Inflammation

nightshade vegetables and fruits

Nightshade fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of nutrition - packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and antioxidants. They include tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, okra, pepino melons, gooseberries and goji berries. Other nightshades include paprika, cayenne pepper, capsicum, and even tobacco. They are part of the same family because they all produce a glycoalkaloid known as solanine. Solanine is created to help keep these types of plants healthy by acting as a nerve poison to insects that try to eat them. This 'poison' is mostly found in the stems and leaves. Not only do humans tend to avoid consuming those parts of the plants, but it would take a ginormous amount of solanine to produce the same negative impact on a human as it does a bug.

All of that having been said, there ARE some people that have a sensitivity to nightshades. Instead of these vegetables providing their typical anti-inflammatory benefits, this sensitivity can actually invoke just the opposite, causing these people's inflammation. While there isn't any definitive scientific proof that supports this finding, those that suffer from their consequences report they suffer with pain and inflammation symptoms almost immediately following any consumption. The sensitivity could be solanine related, or simply sensitive to that plant family on its own.

Nightshade sensitivity only affects a small number of people, but seems to have led to an overkill of many suggesting to avoid them all together. It is very misleading to suggest that nightshade plants cause inflammation and should be avoided by everyone, when in fact they hold so many anti-inflammatory compounds for the majority of the population. To advise those suffering with Arthritis and Gout that they should avoid healthy foods that could help to ease their pain - on the off chance they are one of the few that reacts oppositely - would be rather reckless.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to dietary advice for those that suffer with inflammation. Logical sense would have you filling up on these kinds of food that pack in large amounts of inflammation fighting Vitamins A, C, E, and B's. Even if they do trigger inflammation, it might not be the nightshade's fault. Dr. Will Cole explains: "While nightshades contain alkaloids which can trigger inflammation in some people, it's not so much the foods fault as much as it is the person's gut and immune system that are compromised and imbalanced. For these people, I would recommend focusing on other healing foods and functional medicine protocols to heal the gut and balance the immune system so they can tolerate these nightshades, and benefit from their healthy properties."(1)

If you feel as though you may be one that falls into the small pool of sensitivity, but aren't positive quite yet, simply begin avoidance and start a food diary. Most suggest avoiding for two to three weeks and then reintroducing one nightshade at a time. Be sure to note any sudden aches, pains, stiffness, energy loss, headaches, or breathing problems. Make notes of any other potential factors that could give you a false positive and create similar symptoms. Overdoing physical activity, hormonal changes, changes in medication (starting/stopping), illness, infection, etc. could all cause you to have the same symptoms above and have nothing to do with nightshades.

If you feel better in general during the avoidance time period, the answer is pretty simple. If this is the case, be sure to seek advice on healthy replacements to support the nutrients lost to their removal from your diet. If you do not notice any difference at all, it is highly unlikely that you have any nightshade sensitivity and can continue to enjoy the great benefits of these foods.


(1) https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-29725/are-nightshades-actually-bad-for-you.html

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