The Dilemma of the Nightshade

Updated: Mar 3, 2019



For many people who experience unaccountable joint or back pain, their regular doctor offers very little help. Yet there are answers available if you are willing to do the work necessary to eliminate your pain. Obviously, the first step is to eliminate the known factors which cause pain and, without trauma or subluxation, the leaky gut is a primary culprit. We now understand that foods that contribute to leaky gut include peanut butter (mold), processed carbohydrates, fast food, white flour products, sugar, sweeteners of any kind (including organic) and nightshade foods.

Nightshades belong to a specific group of plants within the Solanaceae family (sole en ace e eye). This family includes over 2,000 species many of them highly toxic (such as deadly nighshade….but that’s another story of when I was very young). The edible kinds of nightshades include tomatoes, potatoes, all types of sweet and hot peppers (but not black peppers), and eggplant. They could also include blueberries, goji berries and ashwaganda (indian ginsing), but the lectins in blueberries aren’t the bad ones so they generally fair fine. Tobacco is also a nightshade, and is known to cause heart, lung, and circulatory problems as well as cancer and other health problems (clearly some of this has to do with the other toxins in tobacco products derived from the processing but the class stands alone). Of the edible species in the nightshade family, poisoning can actually occur with excessive consumption and it is possible that the low-level toxic properties of the nightshade vegetables contribute to a variety of health issues as they progress over time. I recall getting very sick while vacationing in Spain and living on tomato’s once, but again that’s yet another childhood story.

Nightshades induce inflammation through a specific chemical known as solanine, hence their nomenclature. Researchers believe this chemical may actually irritate the gastrointestinal tract when consumed by an individual with leaky gut syndrome, although for those without the syndrome they do not appear to cause such problems. When absorbed into the bloodstream, solanine can cause destruction of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Solanine is also known as an aceytlcholinesterase inhibitor – it acts to prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh), leading to excessive build-up of ACh in nerve receptor sites. This action allows for constant over-stimulation of Ach receptors, especially within the nervous system as it’s responsible for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. For this reason they can be responsible for unexplainable pain in many people.

Solanines are not water soluble, are not destroyed by cooking, and are not broken down inside the body but must be excreted as alpha-solanine. Alpha-solanine is classified as a neuro-toxin. Interestingly most “foods” that contain alpha-solanine also contain at least 5 other neurotoxins including atropine, tropane and nicotine.

One of the major problems often attributed to nightshades is arthritis. In fact, one in three arthritics will react badly to nightshades. Some researchers believe that arthritis is often misdiagnosed in people who may in fact only be experiencing the effects of nightshade consumption, although it’s more likely that these people had leaky gut first, which then led to the arthritis.

Nightshades are known to contribute to leaky gut all by themselves however; nonetheless, these alkaloids appear to affect the metabolism of calcium. It’s not yet fully understood how nightshade foods may cause the removal of calcium from bones and are then able to deposit that calcium in soft tissue, setting the stage for arthritis and joint pain.

For this reason, researchers have recommended that all individuals with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, leaky gut or other joint problems like gout eliminate nightshade foods from their diet. To be clear however, diet appears to be a factor in the etiology of arthritis based on available research and at the basis of that research the leaky gut appears most prominent as the root cause.

For those that suffer from arthritis or an arthritis related disease such as lupus, rheumatism, and other musculoskeletal pain disorders members of the Solanaceae family of flowering plants (nightshades) may be adversely affecting their health. The foods most likely to affect you negatively are:

  • Tomatoes (all varieties, including tomatillos)

  • Potatoes (all varieties, NOT sweet potatoes or yams)

  • Eggplant (aubergine)

  • Okra

  • Artichokes

  • Peppers (all varieties such as bell pepper, wax pepper, green & red peppers, chili peppers,

  • cayenne, paprika, etc.)

  • Goji berries

  • Tomarillos (a plum-like fruit from Peru)

  • Sorrel

  • Garden Huckleberry & Blueberries (contain the alkaloids that induce inflammation)

  • Gooseberries

  • Pepino Melon

  • The Homeopathic “Belladonna”

  • Tobacco

  • Paprika

  • Cayenne Pepper

Additionally, soy sauce made in the U.S. is generally made with genetically modified (GMO) soy beans, which are cut with the nightshade plant Petunia. A healthier option is to purchase Braggs Amino Acids at your health food store. It is a naturally-fermented soy sauce and the only other ingredient is spring water….it tastes exactly the same as other soy sauces only this one is pure.

Other Ingredients / Products to Avoid:

  • Homeopathic remedies containing Belladonna (known as deadly nightshade).

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications containing potato starch as a filler (especially prevalent in sleeping and muscle relaxing meds).

  • Edible flowers: petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil’s trumpets.

  • Atropine and Scopolamine, used in sleeping pills

  • Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum (in cayenne pepper).

  • Many baking powders contain potato starch

For those with serious issues try not to lick envelopes since many adhesives contain potato starch. Eliminate vodka from your alcohol list since potatoes are used in its production. Make sure you read labels carefully because you could be doing everything else right, and still be sabotaged by one small amount of an ingredient hidden in the food. For that reason never buy a food that uses the generic term of seasoning or spices, because you won’t know what is really in your food.

I know, sometimes a little knowledge can take all the fun out of eating. But if you do have pain that cannot be explained try eliminating first fructose and cutting down on sugar products (less than 50 grams a day). Then cut out processed carbs and finally nightshade foods. You can do it all at once, but then you may not be able to identify which food group is causing you the angst. However you choose to approach this, remember your gut will not heal overnight, it may take up to 6 months or longer to heal.

Also, there may be other steps you may need to take to repair any inflammatory damage done by the leaky gut. These steps, although somewhat individualized can be solved through a good health practitioner who works with the autoimmune system and LGS problems.

#inflammation #arthritis #leakygut

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