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nightshades: a commonly missed food sensitivity that can cause chronic pain and chronic inflammation


Nightshade Vegetables

That bastion of truth and knowledge, Wikipedia, says of NIGHTSHADES, “The Solanaceae, or nightshade family, are made up of over two thousand different species of flowering plants, herbs, vines, lianas, epiphytes, shrubs, and trees, and includes important agricultural crops, medicinal plants, spices, weeds, and ornamentals. Many members of the family contain potent alkaloids, and some are highly toxic, but many cultures eat nightshades, in some cases as staple foods.” 

The first thing I want to get across to my patients and readers is that the vast majority of you reading this have no problem whatsoever ingesting foods from the Nightshade family.  But…. For some of you, Nightshades can be a continual source of occult (hidden) inflammation.  Which begs the question, what edible plants are from the family of Nightshades?

  • Tomatoes (including Ashwagandha, Tomatillos, and Tamarillos)
  • Potatoes (but not Sweet Potatoes)
  • Peppers (both sweet and hot, as well as black pepper, whose active ingredient, Piperine, has actually been used as an insecticide)
  • Eggplant
  • Paprika
  • Okra
  • Certain Kinds of Berries (Goji, Garden Huckleberries, Cape Gooseberries, and to a small — small — extent, blueberries)
  • Poke (around here it grows everywhere and is considered a weed; people call it “ink berry plant,” and although the purple berries are toxic, the leaves are less so and can be eaten early in the Spring — as long as you boil them twice and pour off the water)
  • Tobacco
  • Others (although there are any number of others, most are relatively uncommon in the US)

The best way to determine whether or not you are sensitive to Nightshades?  An Elimination Diet of course.  When doing an ELIMINATION DIET, I not only urge you to cut out GLUTEN CROSS-REACTORS, but Nightshades as well.  The cross-reactors are self-explanatory if you look at the provided link, but why Nightshades?  Simply because some people are sensitive to them — especially people whose biggest problem happens to be JOINT PAIN & ARTHRITIS

They’ve also been shown to cause intestinal inflammation (HERE), which invariably leads to a “LEAKY GUT” and fouled up MICROBIOME (aka “DYSBIOSIS“) — two hallmarks of chronic illness,  This can be highly problematic considering that 80% of your body’s total immune system is found in the Gut (HERE).  From my experiences, I would say that the second most common symptom of Nightshade Sensitivity would be IBS.

But again, why are Nightshades so potentially toxic to certain people?  It has to do with the fact that they all contain chemical compounds known as alkaloids.  Wiki says of this class of compounds; “they are known to have an intense physiological action on animals even at low doses.  Solanaceae are known for having a diverse range of alkaloids. To humans, these alkaloids can be desirable, toxic, or both.” 

Some of the alkaloids you have quite possibly heard of include Nicotine (the active ingredient in Tobacco), Scopolamine (a plant-based motion sickness and anti-nausea compound), Atropine (highly toxic, but used in the medication “BELLADONNA” at extremely low doses), Solanine (found in both potatoes and tomatoes, especially when unripe or green — extremely toxic; actually deadly at as little as 2mg per kg of body weight), Capsaicin (not as toxic as the others; is what gives hot peppers their ‘heat’), Quinine (the most famous of the anti-malarial drugs, from the bark of the cinchona tree), Morphine (from opium poppies), Ephedrine (part of any number of medications as well as being used to manufacture METH; known as Ma Huang in Chinese Medicine), Cocaine (from the leaves of the coca bush), Caffeine (from coffee and tea) and any number of others.

Once more; the point is not to suggest that most people — or even a significant minority — are sensitive to Nightshade edibles.  Just be aware that there is a mountain of evidence, both anecdotal and empirical, showing that for some people — most of whom have no idea — this is a legitimate and potentially severe problem.  And for the rest of us……?  Nightshades can actually have some pretty good health benefits.  In fact, when I went to PubMed to research the topic, I found just as many or more studies touting the benefits of Nightshades as I found touting their inflammatory properties.  But…..

If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans struggling with CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DEGENERATIVE DISEASES, AUTOIMMUNITY, or CHRONIC PAIN, it would serve you well to read THIS POST, and strongly consider doing an Elimination Diet (ED).  A well-done ED allows you to pluck the low-hanging fruit as far as your health troubles are concerned.  In other words, there will be some of you reading this who end up needing some sort of Functional Testing to figure out what’s wrong with you.  But for the rest — the vast majority — you can actually solve many of your health-related problems on your own by following some of the simple steps outlined on this site (HERE).


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