I can definitely tell you that I never heard the word nightshade and had no idea what they were until I was 31(that was only last year lol)! If you have no idea and the word nightshade has never been refereed as food, it's okay! By the time you have finished reading this, I promise you will be an expert at nightshades. Plus if you are someone or know someone who is suffering from any autoimmune disease, cystic acne, skin problems, hormonal imbalance or arthritis removing these foods may help you feel a little better! Also keep in mind to look at removing inflammatory foods, stay tuned next week for more about that.
What are Nightshades?
Nightshades are a botanical family of foods and spices that contain several chemical compounds that can cause harm on the human body. The five worst chemicals that are found in this family are glycoalkaloids, saponins, calcitriol, nicotine, and capsaicin. These are the plants defense mechanism, causing their cell membrane to be disrupted. Unfortunately these same disruptions can effect the human body after consuming.
Glycoalkaloids - I'm sure you have seen green potatoes or sprouted eyes, this is the chemical to blame for that. In high amounts it can be toxic to the body. According to a 2005 study it took the body 24 full hours to get ride of this chemical, therefor consuming nightshades daily can cause a buildup resulting in negative effects on the body. These negative effects have been linked to leaky gut syndrome and overstimulated nervous system resulting in anxiety.
Saponins - Inside the plant, saponins act as a natural antibiotic. This chemical is also know in the beauty industry for its ability to create foam when mixed with water (soap) as well as used in fire extinguishers to create the foam. Inside the body the chemical can interact with cholesterol molecules in the cell membranes creating holes disrupting the cells function. The same 2005 study showed increase in leaky gut syndrome, allowing chemicals into the bloodstream that shouldn't be there.
Calcitriol - (1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D), the most active form of vitamin D. This calcitriol is not vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), this is an extremely important distinction. You might be asking yourself, Don't we need vitamin D? Yes, but our bodies need to consume vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) so that it can be left with vitamin D properly. Let's break it down, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is produced in the skin by sunlight, foods or supplements. As our bodies process, the liver transforms vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) into calcidiol(the compound tested in your blood for vitamin D levels). Now the calcidiol moves to the kidneys where our bodies transform calcidiol into calcitriol(1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D). Calcitriol is a extremely potent hormone, thousand times more potent than vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Inside the body it signals the brain to produce calcium, but too much can cause calcium in the blood steam. When consumed in food and spices often can cause your body signals to stop and in turn your body will stop producing calcium. Leading to damage to the cardiovascular tissue, kidney, arteries, skin and joints.
Capsaicin - An alkaloid found in hot peppers. Causing irritation to animals and humans as it is the plants defense. Spicy peppers are the only that contain capsaicin and is the main ingredient in pepper spray causing the lungs to shut down. That is how people have died from pepper spray.
Nicotine - A stimulant and potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid that is naturally produced in all nightshades. That's why these foods are so addictive, I mean who doesn't love french fires? Guilty, definitely one of my guilty pleasures! Just like everything else, if too much is consumed it cause the bodies healing process to be slower than when consuming no nicotine.
Let me say that I am not a health care professional and my results and suggestions are mine and mine alone. Before changing up you diet, be sure to talk to your doctor or nutritionist.
List of Foods and Spices
Here is the full list and note that most of these are not options in the US
- Bush Tomatoes (native to Australia)
- Cape Gooseberries (or ground cherries, different from regular cherries)
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili Pepper Flakes
- Chili powder
- Chinese Five-Spice Powder
- Curry Powder
- Curry spice powder
- Garam Masala spice – because it contains peppers
- Garden Huckleberries (different from regular huckleberries)
- Goji berries
- Hot Sauce
- Ketchup (and BBQ Sauce) – because they contain tomatoes
- Most spice blends – because they contain peppers
- Paprika spice
- Peppers (including bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapeños)
- Potatoes (does not include sweet potatoes or yams)
- Red Pepper
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Steak Seasoning
For me it meant eliminating chili powder, cayenne powder, ketchup, bbq sauce, paprika, bell peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. I had already stopped using spice blends and didn't eat anything else on the list. The following reason are why I was removing nightshades:
- Graves Disease Autoimmune
- Extreme joint and muscles pain
- Thyroid dysfunction
- High testosterone
- Cystic acne
Everything was pretty easy for me to stop eating except for potatoes, these were my enemy lol. For most of my life potatoes were a way of life so to speak, added to the dinner plate several times a week and available in many ways. All which are my favorite! Getting over it, I was able to have them all eliminated from my diet for a month. After going over my results, I started to feel a difference with my joint and muscle pain as well as my cystic acne. Continuing with the elimination for one more month allow my body to have a reset. Now I live by the 80/20 rule because life happens and I began to reintroduce one food at a time, writing down how I felt after each one. Here is how each food did for me:
- Bell Peppers caused stomach upset
- Ketchup, BBQ Sauce and Tomatoes caused heartburn and cystic acne
- Potatoes caused stomach bloat, joint pain and cystic acne
- The spices are used in small amounts in my monthly diet so saw no irritation.
My conclusion, I did see a difference in how I felt with my gut, skin and joints after taking the two months off. If eating in small amounts and very spread out I seem to do fine with a potato or tomato. I can link my cystic acne to my hormonal imbalance but can see a spike in breakouts after consuming these foods.
Before eliminating any foods be sure to talk with a health provider. When it comes to food the best advice is everyone is different on what can cause irritation in the body. The best way to get accurate results that are designed for your body and health is to keep a journal and not compare to others. Begin by writing down problems that you are having inside or outside your body. Start by eliminating all nightshades for minimum two week, this allows the body to hit reset. If you start to feel and see results later in the two weeks add a few more weeks to be sure your body is free from any of the nightshade chemicals that could have been built up. After the time is up, go back through you results and compare them to when you started. If you have seen change that is awesome! When you are ready to find out what nightshades effect you vs what don't introduce each one at time and record how you feel. Try to introduce one item per week.