When to avoid Nightshade Vegetables

Most people like dipping French fries into a batch of ketchup and think nothing of it. It tastes good, and if made with healthy oils and organic ketchup not loaded with sugar, it’s not so bad for you on occasion. If, however, you are one of the few that have an unpleasant reaction when doing this, you may be feeling the double whammy of a nightshade sensitivity.

For those with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease or leaky gut syndrome, a class of vegetables called nightshades could be contributing to your condition. It’s very similar to wheat or dairy sensitive immune reactions. The symptoms of nightshades sensitivity are joint pain, digestive issues, skin rashes, wheezing or any type of inflammatory response.

Sensitivities to nightshade vegetables often have similar complaints as gluten sensitive reactions. Nightshade vegetable sensitivity reactions include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Heartburn
  • Irritable bowel disorder
  • Joint pain
  • Nerve sensitization

Nightshades are a family of plants called Solanaceae and contain two substances called calcitriol and alkaloids. The alkaloids in nightshades serve as a natural insect repellent to prevent the plant from being destroyed, and when they are eaten they can irritate the digestive system, leading to intestinal disorders.

Alkaloids in nightshades include solanine, a type of steroid alkaloid known as a glycoalkaloid,

primarily found in potatoes. In Tomatoes it’s called tomatine. These nightshade steroidal alkaloids can irritate the gastrointestinal system and act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that affect neurotransmitters. Capsaicin is also found in nightshades and is an active ingredient in hot peppers and plays a role in the communication of pain messages. Nicotine is also a nightshade.

Here are the main foods to avoid with nightshade sensitivities:

  • Capsicum (Bell Peppers)
  • Eggplant
  • Gooseberries
  • Goji berries
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Sorrel
  • Tobacco
  • Tomatoes
  • White potatoes

Several common herbs and spices, such as chili pepper, paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes, also fall into the nightshade family.

Acid reflux is one reaction for nightshade sensitivity as they Irritate the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Be aware of prepared foods that contain potato starch as a thickener or filler, including medications. The best way to diagnose a nightshade sensitivity is to remove the foods from your diet temporarily. Then re-introduce each food separately into your diet to determine sensitivity.

For those who find these sensitivities real, the AIP diet, short for autoimmune protocol and a variation of the Paleo diet, eliminates nightshades as well as other potential inflammatory triggers, like nuts, seeds, most sweeteners, and eggs and focuses on foods that reduce inflammation, like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, meats, fats, and fruits.

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