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The Nightshade Nightmare

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Person peeking out from covers with vegetables floating above
Nightmare about Nightshades

What's a Nightshade?

It's Summertime. The garden is bountiful with those tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants. But did you know they could be the reason for your migraine or that your joints are stiff, your achy, bloaty or even nervous?

Nightshades are part of the biological family of plants known as the Solanaceae that encompass various species, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants and Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a popular herbal used to reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy and improve concentration. It can also be found in many of the alternative coffee blends that are out there these days. While nightshades are fine for most people, some individuals experience not so nice physical distress after consuming them. The culprit behind these adverse reactions is a group of compounds called alkaloids, particularly solanine and capsaicin. Solanine is found in higher concentrations in unripe or green nightshade fruits and can cause digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort. Capsaicin, predominantly present in peppers, is responsible for their spicy heat and can irritate the digestive tract, leading to heartburn or indigestion in sensitive individuals.

What Problems Can Nightshades Cause?

If you are sensitive to the nightshade family, these compounds can affect each person differently:

  1. Digestive issues: heartburn, bloating, gas, stomach pain, or diarrhea

  2. Joint pain and inflammation: Nightshades contain alkaloids, including solanine. While blueberries are not nightshades they do contain solanine which is interesting to note

  3. Skin reactions: rashes, itching, or hives in sensitive individuals.

  4. Migraines or headaches: particularly tomatoes, may trigger migraines or headaches

  5. Nervous system : anxiety, irritability, or nervousness

  6. Lung Symptoms: Wheezing or breathing issues

  7. Whole body issues: Fatigue, brain fog, dizziness

How Can Nightshade Sensitivity Happen?

I first began to notice I didn't feel so great after consuming potatoes. How could this be? Having grown up in a meat and potato household I had eaten them all of my life. Even in my vegetarian phase potatoes and tomatoes were a staple. Now it seems all I have to do is look at a potato and my joints ache. Without getting super sciency, there is a gene, BCHE, which has the instructions for making an enzyme called BChE. This enzyme plays a vital role in defending the body against toxins and poisons. The body views solanine and capsium as a toxin. The BCHE gene can become mutated when we are hit with illness. It makes sense to me now as after getting lyme disease and COVID was when I began to notice my intolerance for the nightshade family.

There's Nothing Left to Eat!

It can be daunting taking nightshades out of one's diet if these foods affect your health negatively. There is potato starch in everything from pie filling to crackers and just try to find a marinade, salad dressing or soup without tomatoes.

Potato starch is an essential part of gluten free baking and gluten free products which can pose additional dietary difficulties. It can be hard to source gluten free/ potato free products. On the flip side, alternative breads and baking products that are made from coconut, flax and other grains can actually be tastier and more nutritious. It becomes imperative to read labels carefully if you think you have a sensitivity to nightshades.

Relief from Pain

Nothing is more debilitating than chronic pain or physical discomfort. It keeps us from moving and engaging in an active, fulfilling lifestyle. Taking the nightshades out of my diet provided instant relief from painful joint inflammation and allowed me continue enjoying picking up my new granddaughter without feeling like my body was 120 years old.

Mindful presence practice can help us get in touch with our bodies, so we can learn to become aware and sensitive to how different foods are affecting us. For more information on learning mindfulness and embodied presence practices contact me at the link below.

Eileen is an alternative healer who has completed 15 vision quests enabling her to be a clear an effective conduit for your personal growth and healing. She teaches mindfulness and is also a certified Unified Mindfulness Coach. Contact and start your healing journey today.


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