Nightshade Food Sensitivity

Written by Brenton Wight, Health Researcher
Copyright © 1999-2021 Brenton Wight. All Rights Reserved.
This site is non-profit, existing only to help people improve health
Updated 2nd April 2021

Nightshade foods group are found in many diets, and include many healthy and nutritious foods.
For those with nightshade sensitivity, the side effects such as digestive and inflammatory problems can make life unpleasant.

What Are Nightshade Vegetables?

Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family of vegetables.
The most common:

  • Peppers, including chili pepper, paprika, cayenne,  red pepper flakes
  • White potatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Goji berries
  • Okra
  • Ashwagandha

Note that ordinary Black and White pepper (peppercorns) are a fruit, and NOT nightshades.

Nightshades contain good nutrients such as Vitamin C, antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals.

Why do Nightshades case problems?

Nightshades can cause inflammation, arthritis, or diabetes, due to the alkaloids contained.
Alkaloids contain nitrogen, and act as a natural insect insect repellent to prevent the plant.
In humans, these alkaloids interfere with the digestive system, leading to inflammation, intestinal disorders, and digestive upset, however some people can tolerate these foods with no problem, while others are sensitive and develop severe side-effects.
Leaky gut, where the small intestine barrier function does not operate effectively, may be caused or made worse by  nightshades, then made chronic conditions even worse.
Nightshade foods may also aggravate arthritis due to changes in gut bacteria, and may also aggravate those with celiac disease.
Allergies to some nightshades such as itching, swelling, hives, breathing etc are yet another problem for some.

Symptoms of Nightshade Sensitivity

Some nightshade symptoms will be mild, some will be difficult to manage.
These are some common symptoms:

  • Irritable bowels
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Nerve problems
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Joint swelling
  • Acid reflux
  • Itching
  • Leaky gut
  • Autoimmunity or chronic conditions
  • Trouble breathing (rare, but serious)
  • Mouth swelling (rare, but serious)

It is often difficult to diagnose sensitivity to Nightshades.
Eliminating all nightshades from the diet for 30 days may help determine sensitivity if the symptoms improve.
It is then best to add one food back at a time, allowing a week or so for each.
Some react to one food, others react to all nightshades.
Adding them back in, one at a time, can help to identify if one nightshade is a problem, or if the whole category causes symptoms to return.

Must I Avoid Nightshades Forever?

Symptom severity may determine the likelihood of recovering from sensitivity.
Conditions such as chronic arthritis will take a long time to improve, even if Nightshades are eliminated for years.
Some people only react to a few such as tomatoes and/or potatoes.
Others find raw nightshades alright, but not cooked, or prepared in a different way.

Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Aim to eat more foods that reduce inflammation:

  • Leafy greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Meats
  • Fats
  • Fruits

Substitutions for Nightshade Vegetables

Eliminating nightshades can be difficult because long-time favorites may be on the”NO” list.
However, there are food swaps that become the norm and even preferred after health improves from the change.

White potatoes
I was brought up on white potatoes, but sweet potatoes are not only much healthier, it is an easy swap.
We can also swap for cauliflower, turnips or parsnips, even if  mashed. I hated these as a child, but these days I can eat almost anything as long as I know it is good for me.
Strawberries can replace tomatoes.
Pumpkin sauce and squash sauce can swap for tomato sauce.
A sauce made from beetroot (Beets in the USA) with radishes and watermelon can replace a tomato sauce.
Fish sauce, coconut aminos, oyster sauce, or Worcestershire sauce can also replace tomato sauce.
Capsicum (Bell peppers)
Celery and cucumbers can swap for capsicum (bell peppers in the USA).
When cooking, radishes, zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots can swap for capsicum.
Chili and Cayenne Pepper 
Black pepper and white pepper are NOT nightshades, andto flavour meals, can be used along with turmeric, cumin, cloves, and ginger, to improve taste of nightshade-free foods.
Onion and garlic powder are beneficialas well as salt.
Portobello mushroom caps can swap for eggplant.



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