Lurking in the supermarket is a group of plant-based foods that are classified as the "nightshade foods". The nightshade family contains commonly consumed items like: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, paprika, cayenne, and Tobasco. All of these items have a common plant lineage derived from Polemoniales Solanaceae. Only a plant biologist would understand that scientific lingo. What you need to know is that these plants produce toxins to defend themselves from being eaten. These toxins are called alkaloids. A common, well known alkaloid is nicotine. Although these drug-like chemicals are found in very low concentrations within the nightshade food supply, there are some people very, very sensitive to these chemicals. To these poor folks, the regular, unknowing consumption of nightshade foods can wreck havoc on many systems in the body.
The first system that gets a dose of toxins from the nightshade plants is the gastrointestinal system. A study looking at the effects of potato toxin (alkaloid) on the gut showed an increased amount of inflammation. The guts of most people can handle small amounts, but some people with "sensitive stomach" cannot handle even tiny amounts of potato alkaloid. Those with an inflammatory bowel condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may not even realize the harm being done by eating a seemingly innocent potato. As one learns more, the nightshade plants lose their innocence.
The next systems in the body that can be harmed by nightshade food are the nerves and joints. An example of alkaloid-associated destruction is seen in smokers who get a daily dose of nicotine and experience rapid joint degeneration. Some have theorized that nightshade alkaloids trigger the body's own immune system to attack the joints. These same people also point out that there is some scientific evidence that the nightshade plants can block proper nerve function, effectively disrupting the nerve-muscle connection. The science may not be very solid and convincing, but this advice is solid: those who have joint pain, muscle pain, muscle spasms, or arthritic conditions should avoid nightshade foods for at least 3 weeks. A trial of nightshade elimination may help to reduce pain.
In fact, nightshade elimination or reduction may help many common ailments in people who seem particularly sensitive to the effects of chemicals. The problem is that it is hard to say who is sensitive and who is not. Not everyone has to avoid nightshade food, but overall less is better. For some, none is best. Remember, as you are cruising around the grocery store, the potato, the tomato, the peppers, and the eggplant are not so innocent and might actually be toxic to you. And good health starts at the point of purchase.
Published On: July 15, 2010