Digestive Issues? Joint or Muscle Pain? These Vegetables Might be Contributing!

July 25, 2018

By Anna Varriano

You’ve always been told to eat your veggies; however, for some folks, a family of vegetables called ‘the nightshade vegetables’ could cause inflammation that can lead to joint pain, digestive issues, and more.  Since it is the end of July, when many of these vegetables are local, in season, and plentiful, I thought it was good timing to tell you about them.

What are Nightshade Vegetables?

Nightshade vegetables are a group of vegetables that belong to the Solanacae plant family. The most common ones include:

  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • all peppers (e.g. chili peppers, habenero, cayenne pepper and paprika … but not peppercorns!).

These vegetables contain compounds called alkaloids, which are more concentrated in the green parts of these vegetables – think green spots on potatoes, green bell peppers, and green tomatoes. FYI, green peppers and my digestive system do not get along; however, I’m fine with red, orange, and yellow peppers.

Should You Avoid Them?

If you can relate to any of the following, you may want to consider avoiding nightshade vegetables:

  • heartburn/acid reflux
  • joint pain
  • digestive/bowel issues including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, excess gas/flatulence, diarrhea and/or constipation, mucus in the stool
  • sensitive to changes in the weather
  • chronic pain
  • if you have gone gluten-free but are still having symptoms (note: many gluten-free products use potato starch … and tomatoes contain lectin (gluten is also a lectin), in particular in their skin and seeds

A Superfood Nightshade

Have you heard of goji berries? They are often touted as a superfood due to their high antioxidant content. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you may benefit from avoiding goji berries too.

So What Do You Do?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you may want to eliminate nightshades from your diet. To do this properly, you have to completely eliminate them from everything you eat for at least six weeks. At the end of six weeks, you may notice that your symptoms are gone or at least less problematic.

When changes happen slowly over a number of weeks, sometimes it is hard for us to notice if we’ve actually had any improvement. I have had clients who have followed my recommendations for weeks come back to me and say “I’m not sure this has made much of a difference”. So then I ask them to test their uncertainty. The way I ask them to do this is to go back to their old ways and do it big time. In the case of someone who has avoided nightshades for six weeks and isn’t sure if their symptoms have decreased, I tell them to eat night shades at every meal for a day or two – as much as they want/can – and then see if they feel differently. Typically, they will notice that their symptoms are worse within a few days (note that sensitivities can take up to 72 hours/3 days to manifest).

Will You Ever Be Able to Eat Nightshades Again?

Almost any food can be problematic for certain individuals. Regardless, it is often not the food, but the state of our digestive and gut health that is the root of the problem. In any case, the best strategy is to completely avoid the problematic foods for awhile (in some cases, for at least 6 months), and in the meantime, work towards healing and sealing the gut under the guidance of an experienced practitioner … such as yours truly.





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