I just read an article outlining all the ways nightshades could secretly be driving you crazy. I tend to click on articles about nightshades since my husband and I just finished a month of eating without nightshades. For the most part I’d say the results were somewhat inconclusive, meaning we didn’t really notice any changes during the month. However, a few days ago my husband ate some West African Chicken Stew that I had made. It does have nightshades, tomatoes and some spices. He didn’t feel well immediately after eating it. So sad because it’s SO GOOD. His reaction has kept me interested in nightshade toxicity and encouraged us to continue avoiding them for the foreseeable  future.

Our commitment to carry on has been validated. The article I mentioned said it could take months to fully detox nightshades from the body. Turns out the half-life of nightshades is very slow. Looks like staying the course is the right thing.

So, how could nightshades be driving you crazy?

First, let’s review what nightshades are:

Nightshades are a family of plants. There are, in fact, over 2000 plants in this family. The most common nightshades are tomatoes, potatoes (with the exception of sweet potatoes), eggplant, goji berries, bell peppers, hot peppers, pimentos, tomatillos,  and spices like paprika and cayenne pepper.

To some that list may not look too bad but, and I do hate to be the bearer of bad news, if you are avoiding nightshades you can’t eat anything with any of those ingredients – think spices. It get’s tricky.

Why are nightshades potentially problematic?

Nightshades contain alpha-solanine, a toxic alkaloid, classified as a neuro-toxin. You know how you were always told not to eat green potatoes, well that’s because the level of solanine is higher in the unripe green potatoes. The solanine found in nightshades is a natural pesticide made by the plant. We only get small amounts in the nightshades that are commonly eaten but some people are more sensitive than others.

The amount of solanine found in our favorite edible nightshades varies a lot depending on growing conditions, harvest time, and the way they are stored. Even so, what ever enters the body does not get broken down and must be excreted and as I mentioned above, for some that can take a really long time.

Solanine is strike one. Nightshades also contain lectins, strike two. You may have heard lectins referred to as “anti-nutrients”. Lectins are programmed to bind to sugars. When we eat them, they bind to our intestinal lining and cause leaky gut. 

I know what you’re thinking, nightshades sound horrible but I LOVE tomatoes and potatoes and spicy food. Salsa, anyone? Next thought, I’m fine. I eat all that stuff and have no problems. I hope you’re right but if there is some little thing driving you crazy maybe it’s from all the tomatoes and potatoes you eat. I’m just sayin’.

Common Issues That Could Be Caused by Nightshades:

  • Autoimmune Disorders: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Lupus just to name a few
    • The article I read referenced two studies that show improvement from years of arthritis by following a nightshade free diet. One study had a 70% improvement, the other 94%.
  • Osteoporosis
    • Over eating nightshades pulls calcium from bones. That’s bad but the other side of that coin is potentially that calcium depositing itself in soft tissue like arteries. Not good. (This is where I would tell you to read up about vitamin K2 and it’s roll in ushering calcium to bones and teeth and out of soft tissue).
  • Atherosclerosis
    • See above
  • Arthritis
    • More trouble with calcium landing in the wrong place, like joints. This can cause irritation and inflammation, which then leads to wear and tear and then ta-da, arthritis.
  • Digestive Issues: Leaky Gut & IBS
    • Back to the lectins and leaky gut. By the way, you do know that on going leaky gut is a precursor to autoimmune disorders
  • Hypothyroid Issues
    • Back to the nasty solanine. Turns out they can be stored in organs, especially the thyroid gland. This could potential cause hypothyroid symptoms is some.
  • Headaches
  • Skin Rashes
    • If you’ve eliminated dairy and you still have some weird skin issues, maybe it’s nightshades.

Solanine poisoning can happen two ways, acute  poisoning or chronic poisoning. Acute solanine poisoning results in cramps, diarrhea, dizziness and sleepiness. Eating green or sprouted potatoes can cause acute poisoning. Chronic poisoning is the sneaky one, the one potentially causing  the above “common issues”.

From what I’ve read, there is a way to test to see if you are sensitive to nightshades. You can read more about that here. The easiest thing to do, especially if you are suffering from any of the above conditions might be to eliminate nightshades from your diet for a month. I’m going to guess that the more severe your condition the longer you’ll need to eliminate nightshades in the hopes of seeing positive results.

While Jeff and I didn’t notice much change during the month without nightshades, it was telling that his first attempt back into eating nightshades didn’t go well. That does point to some sensitivity. I’ll also note that Jeff has never liked eggplant or been a huge fan of tomatoes. I always wonder if people subconsciously stay away from things that don’t work for them.

Eat Well, Feel Good, Have Fun!!

Here are a couple of articles that I used as reference:

Solanine Toxicity Syndrome

Nightshades & Toxicity: Are “Healthy” Vegetables Poisoning you?

Secret Food Toxins in Our Diets. A Must Read.

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