The Link Between Nightshades and Your Aches & Pains

| Jul 9, 2016

nightshades-inflammation

Eating an optimal diet is a complex and unique to each one of us.

While it’s certainly the case that some foods are almost universally unhealthy (like refined sugar) or universally healthy (like leafy greens), the only real way to build an optimal diet is to figure out exactly what works for you.

Some foods that are brilliantly healthful for certain people are likely to aggravate conditions in other people. And even objectively “healthy” foods always have their drawbacks.

For example, kale contains oxalates (which can bind to calcium in the body and create gout-like symptoms) and goitrogens (which can inhibit the absorption of iodine in the thyroid), and cashews contain l-arginine (which can accelerate the replication of viruses).

Does this mean that you should stop eating kale and cashews? Not necessarily—these compounds only become an issue for those suffering from their corresponding issues (and only from excessive consumption of these foods). That being said, if you are suffering from these symptoms, it’s essential to be aware of how the foods you eat may be effecting your condition (including the foods that are considered unconditionally “good” for you).

You must design your diet by determining (through experimentation) exactly which foods are right for you, not by simply following societally accepted guidelines or dietary trends.

Here’s the moral of the story: you must design your diet by determining (through experimentation) exactly which foods are right for you, not by simply following societally accepted guidelines or dietary trends.

Here’s one dietary experiment that everyone should conduct: determine whether you have a sensitivity to nightshades. If you do, this prevalent food family may causing you chronic (and highly preventable) pain and inflammation.

Nightshades and inflammation

The nightshade family provides a perfect example of otherwise healthful foods that pose huge issues for many individuals.

This group (also called the Solanaceae family) contains some plants with dangers that are widely known, such as tobacco and belladonna (a highly poisonous flower). However, it also contains many vegetables that you probably thought were perfectly healthy, such as tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and every type of pepper.

All of these plants contain glycoalkaloids and steroid alkaloids that can cause inflammation-linked conditions. Even some so-called superfoods and adaptogens like blueberries, goji berries, and ashwagandha contain some of these same problematic alkaloids.

Because the nightshade family is so commonly consumed, researchers have set out to demonstrate conclusive links between these plants and inflammatory conditions…and the results don’t look good

Because the nightshade family is so commonly consumed, researchers have set out to demonstrate conclusive links between these plants and inflammatory conditions…and the results don’t look good. Here’s some of the problems that nightshade consumption can cause.

Chronic inflammation. Research suggests that, in sensitive individuals, regular consumption of nightshades can lead to chronic inflammation, especially when the effects of their glycoalkaloids are amplified by caffeine, pesticides, or chemical contaminants in food.[1] And remember, inflammation is often called the “root of all disease,” and for good reason—while inflammation on its own is a helpful and necessary bodily defense mechanism, chronic inflammation undermines the body’s natural healing abilities and leaves you vulnerable to a staggering array of diseases and conditions.

Gastrointestinal issues. By contributing to chronic inflammation and adversely affecting intestinal permeability, nightshades can disrupt microbiome function, and can cause or exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and related stomach conditions.[2]

Arthritis. An estimated 116 million Americans live with daily chronic pain,[3] and an additional 50 million have been diagnosed with arthritis[4]—and many medical scientists believe that nightshades are partially to blame. The Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation even stated that “nightshades are an important causative factor in arthritis in sensitive people.”[5]   

It’s important to note that none of these claims negate the good and healthful aspects of plants in the nightshade family. Not everyone is sensitive to these negative effects, but if you are, these foods will probably do you more harm than good—it’s up to you to determine whether nightshades belong in your diet or not.

Conduct your own experiment

Unfortunately, there’s only one way to determine conclusively if nightshades are undermining your health: you must remove them from your diet completely, slowly reintroduce them, and observe closely how they make you feel.

Here’s the full list of nightshades (or products that may contain them) that you’ll want to watch out for…

  • All peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes (excluding yams and sweet potatoes)
  • Vodka (which is made from potatoes)
  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • Tabacco
  • Cayenne
  • Paprika
  • Tobacco
  • Goji berries, blueberries, huckleberries, and gooseberries
  • Belladonna and related plant species (which are sometimes used in homeopathic remedies)
  • Pepino melon
  • Sorrel
  • Tomarillos
  • Soy sauce made with GMO soybeans

If your inflammatory symptoms aren’t strongly present, or if you don’t frequently consume nightshades, you may experience relief in as little as a few weeks. But to gauge your sensitivity fully, you’ll need to remove all of these foods and substances from your life for three months.

Even if you’re not actively experiencing aches, pains, or stomach issues, it’s a good idea to conduct this experiment. Doing so will give you much greater insight into how specific foods affect your body, and will empower you to continue designing a diet that is custom-made to ensure your optimal health.

Besides, chronic inflammation (especially in its early stages) doesn’t always manifest as outright symptomology. By cutting out nightshades (or at least reducing your consumption of them), you may find that your energy levels increase, you get sick less often, you lose weight more easily, and your sleep is deeper and more restorative—fatigue, low immune function, weight gain, and difficulty sleeping are just a few of the negative effects of inflammation.

You truly are what you eat…so take the time to figure out exactly which foods best serve your body!

 


References

[1] http://www.noarthritis.com/research.htm

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20198430

[3] http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Relieving-Pain-in-America-A-Blueprint-for-Transforming-Prevention-Care-Education-Research.aspx

[4] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5939a1.htm?s_cid=mm5939a1_w

[5] http://noarthritis.com/

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