Do You Know Nutrition: Eliminate nightshades from diet to test for sensitivity

June 17, 2014 at 1:17 a.m.

By Phylis Canion

I have a friend who has arthritis. He told me he eats very few nightshades and how much better his arthritis is. Can you please explain what nightshades are, and should I limit my intake?

Potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pimentos, paprika and cayenne peppers are classified as nightshade foods, and they are the most common out of about 2,000 nightshade plants. The Latin name for this family of plants is Solanaceae because all of them produce an alkaloid compound called solanine. Solanine is part of these plants' natural defense system, acting as a nerve poison on insects that try to eat the plants. This particular group of alkaloids can impact nerve-muscle function and digestion function in humans and may be able to compromise joint function. Because of the amount of alkaloid in nightshade foods when compared to other plants, health problems from nightshade foods may occur in people who are especially sensitive to these alkaloid substances known as solanine. Since cooking nightshade foods only lowers the alkaloid content by 40 to 50 percent, sensitive people may want to avoid these foods altogether if they suffer from arthritis. If you were ever told not to eat potatoes with sprouts growing on them because they were poisonous, that was correct information. The reason? Because potatoes that have started to sprout or have developed a greenish tint to their skins are usually higher in solanine. To determine if you have a sensitivity to solanine, eliminate nightshades from your diet. If you notice an improved difference in your pain level, nightshades may be best eliminated from the diet. Another problem with nightshades is calcitriol, a hormone that signals the body to update calcium from the diet. Excess calcitriol causes too much calcium in the blood, resulting in calcium deposits in soft tissue such as tendons and ligaments. My recommendation is if you suffer from an autoimmune disease such as lupus, arthritis, gout, osteoporosis or chronic inflammation, you should eliminate nightshades. If you suffer from the above mentioned, it is important to evaluate your diet and consider eliminating caffeine, gluten, dairy, moldy foods such as aged cheese and increase water intake.

Thought for the week: Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant; email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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