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Nutrition

Are Nightshades Actually Bad For You?

Every day we hear of foods, toxic ingredients, and products that we should avoid. We strive to eat smart and do what’s best for our health as we age. You may have heard about nightshades and the possibility of them being bad for your health. If nightshades have such a bad reputation, should you avoid them too?

What Are Nightshades?

Solanaceae is a family of flowering plants most commonly known as nightshades. There are over two thousand different varieties in the nightshade family and many are not only inedible but poisonous. However, there are many edible varieties including:

  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Paprika
  • Potatoes
  • Pimentos
  • Hot peppers (jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne, etc.)

Are Nightshades Bad for You?

Nightshades aren’t necessarily bad for you, but unfortunately, many people are completely unaware that they are allergic to them. If you suffer from food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, or leaky gut, there is a chance that you are allergic as well. 

Most people can eat nightshades without issue, however, if you have one or more of the conditions above it may be time for you to start looking at some of the most common symptoms associated with a nightshade allergy.

Symptoms of Nightshade Sensitivity

Some of the symptoms of nightshade sensitivity include:

  • Joint pain
  • Nerve sensitivity
  • Heartburn
  • Arthritis
  • Itching
  • Acid Reflux
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

eggplant

What Should I Do If I Think I Have a Sensitivity to Nightshades?

If you have any of the symptoms listed, and especially if you note an increase in symptoms directly after eating nightshades, then an elimination diet is a great approach. 

Keep a food journal for at least three months and record everything that you eat during this time. Be sure to avoid all forms of nightshades and see if you notice an improvement in symptoms after this time. If there are any days that you still suffer symptoms, make sure to record that information as well, so that you can look over what you ate that day. 

You will have to be very mindful of using spices and condiments during the elimination diet as well. Everyday cooking spices such as chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, taco seasoning, etc. will all contain nightshades. 

So, What Can I Eat?

Some substitutions to make this process a little bit easier include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Purple potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Radishes
  • Mushrooms
  • Black pepper in place of chili and cayenne pepper

If after the elimination diet you feel like you do have a sensitivity to nightshades, it is best to visit with a practitioner that is knowledgeable on food allergies and to rule out autoimmune disease. If you are diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, or you want to be proactive in finding relief from chronic symptoms, you may find it beneficial to follow the AIP diet. Short for the autoimmune protocol, the AIP diet was created for those with autoimmune diseases. It is similar to the Paleo diet, however, it also eliminates nightshades, some sweeteners, eggs, and nuts which may also be problematic.

The AIP diet may help you heal from autoimmune disease if you commit to following it long term. There is no quick fix for food sensitivities due to autoimmune disease. Your diet will consist of healthy meats, lots of green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, and fruit. 

Do I Have to Avoid Nightshades Forever?

No, not necessarily. However, for most the healing process will take dedication and a considerable amount of time. Some people will never go back to eating nightshades and find that they are completely satisfied following the AIP diet permanently. It is possible that you may be able to add nightshades back to your diet after you have healed. They should never be added back to your diet all at once though. Reintroducing nightshades should be done very slowly and while also journaling symptoms and keeping a food log. 

Now, let’s look at herbs and which ones should and shouldn’t be avoided if you have an autoimmune disorder.

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