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Nightshades, should you be avoiding them?

Let me first promise you that nightshade vegetables are not secretive plants that are out to get you. In fact, for the average person, nightshades are healthy, nutrient-filled foods; they aren’t inherently bad for someone who tolerates them. So why am I even talking about them? Because if you have inflammation, joint issues, impaired digestion or an autoimmune disease- specific to arthritis or an arthritis related disease like lupus, they could be affecting you.

When we hear the words “nightshade vegetables”, it's common to automatically think of tomatoes and potatoes, but that isn't the full list. Here is a quick run down of some other common nightshade vegetables:

  • 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)

  • Goji berries

  • Tomarillos

  • Sorrel

  • Garden Huckleberry & Blueberries

  • Gooseberries

  • Pepino Melon

  • The Homeopathic “Belladonna”

  • Tobacco

  • Paprika

  • Cayenne Pepper

  • Belladonna (a homeopathic remedy)

As someone who tries to avoid nightshades because of joint pain, trust me when I tell you, they're hiding everywhere! The two most common culprits of hidden, sneaky nightshades are “spices” and potato starch.

Spices is considered a trade secret, so a brand does not need to provide you as the consumer with detailed ingredients on what this includes. More often than not, a product that includes “spices” on the ingredient list will contain nightshades.

Potato starch is at least easier to identify, but I still consider it to be a sneaky nightshade vegetable. It's hiding in so many foods and some medications! Be sure to check your labels if you're avoiding nightshades.

I mentioned it before, but nightshade vegetables are not necessarily bad. However, if you have an autoimmune disease or chronic inflammation, you may have heard that you should avoid nightshades.

Research has shown that eliminating nightshade vegetables can help resolve inflammation, particularly in the joints. Because they can be triggers for some people with chronic illness.

While anyone can have an allergy or intolerance to nightshade fruits and vegetables, there is a certain subset of people, previously mentioned, that have a greater propensity to not tolerating nightshades well.

Just because you have joint pain does not mean it’s triggered by nightshades, and conversely, just because you don’t have joint pain doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.

Reactions to look for with a nightshade sensitivity could be:

  • headaches

  • inflammation (can manifest in stubborn weight gain, weight loss resistance, fluid retention)

  • brain fog

  • fatigue

  • joint pain

  • skin issues (rashes, acne, rosacea, eczema, etc.)

  • digestive troubles

  • autoimmune symptom flares

Without removing nightshade vegetables from your diet for a period of time to allow your body to heal and reduce inflammation, identifying reactions to those foods can be very difficult. If you suspect you may have a nightshade allergy or intolerance, or you have one of the conditions I mentioned above (rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmunity, IBS, impaired digestion, or joint pain), I’d strongly consider an elimination diet (like the AIP diet) to test your sensitivity.

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