Nightshade vegetables come from the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, chili peppers, banana peppers, cayenne, Habanero and Jalapeno peppers. They are called Solanaceae because they produce an alkaloid compound called Solanine.
Solanine is produced by the individual plants. It acts as a natural defense system against insects that try and eat the plants. The Solanine compound is concentrated in the leaves of the plant. Therefore, it is not recommended to eat a salad of tomato or potato leaves. In a potato, there is a more concentrated amount of Solanine in the “eyes,” therefore in the preparation of the potato, this area should be removed and thrown away.
Vegetables are a great source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and lycopene, which can help with muscle soreness, morning stiffness, poor healing, reflux, gall bladder issues, and disease. Even though nightshade vegetables have vitamin C and antioxidants, some people cannot tolerate these vegetables and when ingested, these symptoms mentioned can become accentuated. Hence, the confusion….
Nightshade vegetables contain alkaloids which are healthy and safe to eat. Yet, some people cannot tolerate the alkaloids and they can have a negative effect on the body. The same principle applies to those who are gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant. Some people are alkaloid intolerant and when they do not ingest the nightshade vegetables all those symptoms mentioned (muscle soreness, etc.) subside, much like lactose intolerant individuals do not drink milk and gluten free individuals stay away from food items that contain gluten.
If you think you are sensitive to nightshade vegetables, take them completely out of your diet for two weeks. Keep a dairy of how you feel; is there a difference in muscle soreness, stiffness, bloating, cramping, etc.? If you notice a difference, you should cut them out of your diet and call your doctor to get tested. If you do not notice a difference, then incorporate them back into your diet and enjoy the benefits you are getting from this tasty group of vegetables.
Dr. Jim Bell