Nightshade Vegetables: Should You Eat Them?

Nightshade vegetables

Nightshade vegetables are wonderful, versatile, and delicious if you are not sensitive to them. Unfortunately, many times people don’t realize a sensitivity to them until they are investigating unpleasant inflammatory or gastrointestinal symptoms.

What are Nightshade Vegetables?

Tomatoes (and tomatillos), okra, eggplant, peppers, goji berries, and white potatoes are all members of the nightshade family. Also included in the group are spices such as red pepper flakes, chili pepper, cayenne, and paprika.  Too bad, as all of these contain antioxidants, vitamins (C and B), and minerals. Not to mention they are tasty.

nightshade vegetables

Why are Nightshade Vegetables Getting a Bad Name?

Unfortunately, even though these vegetables are normally considered very healthy, they can cause more trouble than they are worth for many people. That’s because they also contain nutrients called alkaloids. The alkaloids in turn contain a nitrogen called solanine. While nitrogen is great for fertilizing plants, it is not so easily processed or agreeable in our digestive systems.

Research is now showing that nitrogen consumption can aggravate chronic digestive issues such as leaky gut, irritable bowel, and Celiac disease as well as arthritis and joint pain. Nightshade vegetables create an inflammatory response in many people, especially those afflicted with autoimmune disorders.

Allergies in any form can range from mild to deadly. All reactions, even mild ones, should be acknowledged, investigated, and prevented. Recognized currently are serious allergic reactions to nightshades ranging from hives and itchiness to swelling and difficulty breathing.

Confirm a Sensitivity to Nightshades with an Elimination Diet

Unfortunately, an elimination diet does not provide a quick diagnosis. When you complain of inflammatory or digestive episodes your physician may suggest you avoid nightshade vegetables. Or, you can make the decision yourself as you know your body better than anyone else. Either way, an elimination diet may provide some clarity.

Start by eliminating all of the vegetables and spices listed above for a minimum of one month. Then re-introduce them, one at a time, into your diet. Monitor your symptoms as you re-introduce things. You may react to one and not another from the group. Raw versus cooked versions may create different reactions too. It may be beneficial to keep a journal to record day to day changes and reactions.

Living with the Results

How severely you have to restrict nightshade vegetables from your diet will depend on your findings in your elimination diet as well as the severity of your symptoms when reintroducing them.

You make the call!

Missing my Mom on her Birthday

Today, June 9th,  would have been my mom’s 85th birthday.  Although she died twenty years ago, it seems like just yesterday to me.  I’d like to share a funny story she told me once about her birthday being on June 9…

I don’t remember how old she was when she pulled this stunt, but I still chuckle when I think about it.  My mom grew up on a farm in Osnabruck Center, Ontario.  June 9 on a busy farm meant potato planting time, so every birthday although she dreamt of birthday celebrations, she planted potatoes instead.  One June 9th, she thought she would take the bull by the horns and plan her own birthday celebration, so invited some friends to her home after school.

Her mother apparently did not miss a beat, came in from the garden where she was planting potatoes, and started making sandwiches and a cake.

I admired and miss both of these great women terribly; my mom was stubborn yet determined and her mom the greatest multitasker I’ve ever met. I am proud to be descendants of these wonderful women; hopefully the apple did not fall far from the tree. ( I would have said potato instead of apple, but even I know potatoes do not grow on trees!)