Nightshades have been getting a lot of attention lately, but there has been a lot of confusion around what exactly they are, and what the deal is with some of these extremely common foods we all eat--- are they good, or bad for us?
Simply put, nightshades are a group of plants that have a naturally occurring defense mechanism, or "bug repellent" built in them. This is a chemical compound called alkaloids which are extremely toxic to anything that tries to eat it, namely bugs. Nightshades are broken into two categories, edible and non edible--- some of these plants are so toxic they can kill humans even in small doses, the most toxic being Belladonna, which throughout history has been used as a poison for rats and humans---yet some of the edible nightshades are the common foods we eat every day.
So what are these foods, and why have nightshades been getting so much attention in the health industry lately?
Recent research has suggested that consuming edible nightshades can significantly increase the inflammatory response; specifically in those with overactive immune systems, like auto immune disease. This suggests that the inflammatory response caused by edible nightshades could be aggravating, or in some cases even causing auto immune disorders like fibromyalgia, arthritis, Celiac's disease, Crohn's disease, and more.
The most common edible nightshades we eat, sometimes daily are white potatoes, (but not sweet potatoes), eggplants, all bell peppers, all hot peppers, and tomatoes---which I barely ever go a day without eating.
The biggest thing to look for when dealing with these foods is how you feel after eating them and knowing the symptoms---if you notice an increase in inflammation, bloating, tender and sore joints, or fluid retention after having these foods, I would suggest taking a break from edible nightshades, or drastically reducing them for 30 days. If you have an auto immune disorder, and eat these foods often, (3 times a week or more), cut them out for 30 days and see how you feel. If you notice a difference cutting them out, you may have an alkaloid sensitivity. Sweet potato, mushrooms, cauliflower, butternut squash, and beans and lentils are all very similar foods that can easily be substituted for any of these alkaloid foods. Cooking these foods can reduce the potency of the alkaloids, but doesn't remove them.
If you love these foods, eat them often, raw, or cooked, and don't feel you have an immune response to these foods, don't cut them out, they are still full of vitamins and nutrients. Just like any diet, it requires the process of elimination, and trial and error; what works for some, might not work for others.
If you have questions on auto immune disorders, inflammation, or diet, contact me to set up a free consultation!