Nightshades, Yay or Nay?

shutterstock_111946400For many people with autoimmune disease or any other inflammatory disease, nightshade vegetables (full list below) can cause real problems. Nightshades contain a particular group of substances called alkaloids, which can impact nerve-muscle function, digestive function, and may also be able to compromise joint function. Some people are more sensitive to nightshades than others, and sensitivity often reflects the overall state of health. So as your health improves, it is likely, so will your tolerance to nightshade vegetables.

Potatoes seem to pose the biggest problem of all. Potatoes contain a specific alkaloid property that can actually lead to damage of the joints caused by inflammation and altered mineral status. Whether alkaloids can contribute to joint damage of this kind is not clear from current levels of research. Some researchers have speculated that nightshade alkaloids can contribute to excessive loss of calcium from bone and excessive depositing of calcium in soft tissue. Even without conclusive research, I find it best to eliminate potatoes from the diet and opt for a non-alkaloid sweet potato or yam instead.

If you haven’t noticed a particular sensitivity, simply use caution and cook all nightshades. Cooking them reduces the alkaloid by 40-50%, which can turn a potential trigger into a completely tolerable food source.

So, until you fully understand how these particular veggies might be affecting you, simply skip the potatoes and cook the rest. And as always, keep that open line of communication between you and your body. It will always tell you which foods work and which ones don’t.

Here is a list of the nightshade family of veggies:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet and Hot Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillos
  • Tamarios
  • Pepinos
  • Pimentos
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne Peppers