Posted on Feb 24, 2021, 8 a.m.
Nightshades are a common food group that can carry numerous health benefits, but for those with sensitivities, they can also carry an unpleasant set of side effects ranging from digestive problems to inflammatory issues.
Nightshades include common veggies like peppers, white potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, goji berries, okra, chili pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and the ashwagandha herb that is popular for stress-relieving properties. Nightshades carry numerous beneficial nutrients including vitamin C, B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
Unfortunately, these foods can be problematic for certain health tendencies like diabetes, arthritis, and inflammation which may be due to the presence of alkaloid solanine in the nightshades that contain nitrogen which acts as a natural insect repellent to protect the plant. The problem happens when those with a nightshade sensitivity consume these foods which can cause problems with the digestive system leading to inflammatory problems, intestinal disorders, and digestive upset.
This type of food, for some, may worsen chronic conditions such as leaky gut, this is a problem in which the barrier function of the small intestine stops working effectively and the presence of nightshade can cause or worsen the condition; these foods may even worsen existing symptoms of conditions like arthritis due to alterations in the body’s gut bacteria, and these foods can also play roles in the intestinal problems associated with celiac disease. Additionally, beyond digestive and inflammatory issues some people can develop allergies to specific nightshades that may involve itching, hives, swelling and although rare difficulty breathing.
Some symptoms of having sensitivities to eating nightshades are more obvious and common than others such as irritable bowels, diarrhea, heartburn, nerve problems, joint pain, arthritis, swelling in the joints, acid reflux, heartburn, itching, leaky gut, autoimmunity, chronic conditions, trouble breathing, and mouth swelling. But, it can be difficult to diagnose some aspects of the sensitivity as they can include some overlapping symptoms, any sensitivities are best found by eliminating all of these veggies from the diet for at least 30 days to observe if the symptoms improve. Then you can add them back one at a time should you choose to in order to determine which nightshade is the issue or if the entire category causes symptoms to return.
Some people can’t eat nightshades at all, some can only eat certain ones, some can only eat them raw, some can only eat them cooked, and the level of symptoms and severity can vary. As with anything in your diet, it is best to determine what works best for you and what doesn’t work at all, diet is not a one size fits all plan.
If you are looking at eliminating nightshades from your diet due to sensitivities there are some alternatives that may help you out. For example, you could switch out white potatoes with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, turnips, or parsnips. You could try trading in tomatoes for strawberries, pumpkin, and squash-based sources, or beets combined with radishes and watermelon to make a sauce. Black and white pepper, turmeric, cumin, garlic, cloves, and ginger can replace chili and cayenne pepper. Portobello mushroom caps, okra, and zucchini can replace eggplants. Celery and cucumbers can replace the crispness of bell peppers, and radishes when cooked can add that peppery flare, while zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots can also be used as bell pepper substitutes. There is a variety of vegetables and herbs/spices that are outside of the nightshade family that also carry numerous health benefits to experiment with.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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