Summer is the season of abundant nightshade vegetables – eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and lots and lots of tomatoes. While many people wait patiently all year for these delicious veggies to be in season, other people have a bad reaction to them. Do you need to avoid them? Read on to find out…
Which foods are nightshades?
It turns out that there are lots (thousands) of nightshades, but many are inedible and poisonous. The most common ones that you will find in the farmer’s market and grocery store are tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants, sweet and hot peppers (but not black pepper) and the spices made from peppers (like paprika), and a few others.
What’s the problem with nightshades?
Nightshades contain compounds called lectins and saponins. In very simple terms, they are a self-defense compound that the plant grows to ward off their predators. Some of these compounds aren’t really a problem, but others are toxic, hard to digest, and contribute to leaky gut – you find these problematic lectins and saponins in nightshade vegetables (among other plant foods like grains and beans).
What are the symptoms of a nightshade sensitivity?
- Bloating, gas, and other digestive upset
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
- Rashes or hives
Who should avoid nightshades?
If you feel good and your gut is healthy, most likely you can handle some nightshade vegetables! But if your gut is compromised (bloating, gas, heartburn, leaky gut) or if you have an autoimmune disease (especially rheumatoid arthritis), nightshades might be contributing to your issues. If you have tried removing gluten (a type of lectin) and you got some good results, but feel like there is still room for improvement, you might want to experiment with removing nightshades. Also, if you have tried other remedies for the symptoms listed above and you aren’t seeing improvement, it would be worth trying a nightshade elimination diet to see if they are contributing to your problem.
How can you find out if you have a nightshade sensitivity?
The best test is a complete nightshade elimination diet and slow reintroduction. Remove nightshades from your diet for 4 weeks and see how you feel. If your symptoms are better, you might have a nightshade sensitivity. After 4 weeks, slowly reintroduce one nightshade at a time to see how your body reacts… you might find that you can tolerate one nightshade, but not another!