What are Nightshades and Do They Cause Inflammation?
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
In 2018 I went on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). AIP is a strategy that uses lifestyle and diet to reduce pain, inflammation and relieve other symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
It’s a temporary elimination diet removing all foods that could cause inflammation. One food group that’s eliminated on AIP are nightshades.
Often when I tell people I don't eat nightshades they are unfamiliar with what they are.
The most common nightshades include:
Tomatoes (all varieties)
Hot peppers (habañero, jalapeño, chili, etc.)
Spices made from peppers like paprika and cayenne
Nightshades are a botanical family of plants called Solanaceae. There are more than 2,000 species in the nightshade family. While some nightshades are considered highly nutritious food staples in many cultures, as those listed above (besides tobacco!), the vast majority are inedible and many are highly poisonous.
Nightshades produce solanine, which is an alkaloid chemical compound that is a part of the food’s natural defenses. Solanine poisons the nerves of any insect that tries to feast on the plant and that very well may be why nightshades have alleged or potential links to inflammatory issues.
While there have yet to be any large-scale medical studies demonstrating this connection to inflammation, some believe that nightshades may worsen inflammatory or autoimmune conditions by enhancing symptoms, and resulting in inflammatory responses such as joint pain, swelling, skin irritations like eczema, rosacea or redness on skin, and digestive issues.
Diet strategies such as the Autoimmune Protocol eliminate nightshades with the claim that many people report feeling better and experience reduced inflammation when they don’t eat them.
While the alkaloids in nightshades may trigger inflammation in some people, it's not so much the food's fault – but rather the person's gut health and immune system that are compromised and imbalanced.
What’s the takeaway about nightshades?
For most people, there’s no need to avoid them because they have a lot of health benefits.
But like with any food, if a nightshade triggers skin irritations, swelling, joint pain or any inflammatory response, you might choose to experiment with temporary elimination.
For more about nightshades and my experience with eliminating them, tune in podcast episode 61, “What are Nightshades and Do They Cause Inflammation?”
Love, Your Wellness Coach,
February 23, 2022