Common nightshade vegetables that you may be familiar with are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, paprika and eggplants. Plenty of diets recommend these foods as healthy and beneficial inclusions. For a great many people, some or all of these foods are dietary staples and eaten in large amounts.
However, there are also others who claim these food types are not good for human health. Some health care professionals prohibit their patients from eating nightshades, especially those that are diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal re-flux disease), arthritis and gout.
Nightshades and Arthritis
The biggest claim against nightshade plants is that they cause inflammation which manifests usually as painful arthritis and joint pain. Nightshades are also claimed to contribute to the effects of muscle tremors and stomach discomfort.
There is even a foundation called the ‘Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation’ which has been around for a long time. This foundation claims to study the effects of nightshade consumption on humans and has many publications available detailing their research. The foundation came into being when the founder, who suffered badly from arthritis, achieved relief by removing nightshades from his diet.
Many others have had similar experiences and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support it. However, there are many, many more people who eat plenty of nightshade vegetable without any arthritic effects. There are also other Arthritis Societies who claim there is no scientific evidence that nightshades cause arthritis.
Reasons for Nightshade Reactions
Obviously, a percentage of the population appears to have an adverse reaction to these plants, or actually the compounds they contain. These plants do contain compounds called alkaloids in higher amounts than other plants and these are claimed to cause the attributed problems. One of these alkaloids is solanine (produced by the plant as a natural defense), which is particularly high in potatoes.
While there are extreme advocates and de criers, it seems that this is yet another area of diet that shows what works for one may not work for another. It is quite likely that in some people the effects of eating nightshade plants are either mitigated or compounded by the effects of other dietary components, which would help explain why only some people experience negative reactions after eating nightshade foods.
Nutritional deficiency may play a role. For instance, those who have low levels of magnesium were found to be more sensitive to the effects of nightshades. If they are also deficient in vitamin D their symptoms could be even worse. If these nutrients are not being supplied by other foods, the alkaloids that are present could have greater effect. This may also help explain why some have tried to link nightshade consumption to osteoarthritis (a type of disease that results in the breakdown of joint cartilage & underlying bone), as a lack of magnesium and vitamin D will certainly contribute to osteoarthritis effects and symptoms.
Our excretory organs – liver and kidneys – must work that much harder to detoxify the compounds found in nightshades. Those whose organ function is sluggish, for whatever reason, may also suffer more.
Although there may be no hard and fast rules about eliminating nightshades from the diet, it can’t be denied that many people have experienced a reduction in their pain or a complete recovery from chronic inflammation once they avoided nightshades. This is certainly a common claim among those who have been afflicted with arthritis.
Setting Your Own Control Scenario
If you would like to confirm if you are sensitive to these kinds of foods, a common-sense approach would be to avoid eating nightshades for fifteen days or if possible one month, and this is just to see if you can notice any relief from your symptoms.
You may not be aware that you have a sensitivity at all unless you set up your own control situation and therefore make before and after comparisons. Those who have reported relief by abstaining usually experienced relief within two weeks. They also reported that if eating nightshades is resumed, symptoms return quickly, within days. This means you should be able to test your own susceptibility quite easily.
If it seems you may be affected but don’t like the idea of totally removing potatoes and tomatoes from your diet, try reducing them, as the total amount eaten would certainly be a factor. It may help to know that baking, steaming, and boiling nightshade foods can help reduce their alkaloid levels up to as much as 50%.
To find out if there would be any benefit to you, just try this out and look at your results. If your unsure as to whether you should try this then, by all means just ask your family doctor for his advice.