The Solanaceae, or nightshades, represent more than two thousand species of widely consumed plants. The plants in this group may not seem related, but after taking a second glance at the leaves you begin to see the family resemblance.
- Cape Gooseberries
- Garden Huckleberries
- Goji Berries (Wolfberries)
- Ground Cherries
- Peppers (Including Paprika, Chili Powder, Cayenne, and Tabasco)
- Potatoes (Excluding Sweet Potato)
Nightshades and Food Allergies
While there are numerous health benefits of nightshades, continuous consumption may weaken the bones, teeth, gums, joints and even organs in people with allergies to these foods. Experts strongly caution against consumption of foods in this family by people with allergies primarily because of glycoalkaloids. These plants naturally produce a pesticide that guards against certain insects, fungi and bacteria. The compound binds to predators’ cell membrane, disrupting their normal alignment which causes them to leak or burst. These compounds also have neurotoxic functions that block signals between muscles and nerves. This results in an accumulation of acetylcholine, a compound that could cause overstimulation of muscle cells causing paralysis, respiratory arrest, convulsions and death. In most cases, the compounds only become more potent after exposure to heat.
Avoiding these vegetables and fruits is said to be instrumental in treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, as it encourages cartilage repair. These foods also contain nicotine, which may be a contributing factor for one’s strong cravings for them.
Are You Allergic to Nightshades?
Those with allergies to this family of plants might only experience slight gastrointestinal discomfort after consumption, but consistent or heavy consumption can lead to serious symptoms such as low blood pressure, neurological disorders and fever. To learn whether you are sensitive to nightshades, remove them from your diet for 2 – 6 weeks to mark any changes in your digestion, skin and overall health. Slowly reintroducing yourself to these foods one by one will allow you to pay special attention to the foods giving you the most trouble. Different nightshades have varying chemical levels and therefore affect people differently.
It is always wise to discuss intentions to make major dietary changes with your nutritionist or doctor to prevent further complicating any health or medical conditions.