Nightshades and Food Intolerance

Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.
Not just a random list of food, they are all part of the same group, the nightshades, along with the spices, cayenne and paprika.

First thoughts when it comes to nightshades may well be the age old poison, ‘deadly nightshade’ but whilst this food group is not deadly, it might surprise you to know that in some individuals it can cause problems.

Nightshade foods contain alkaloids, particularly steroid alkaloids. For individuals who are sensitive to these compounds, common symptoms can manifest themselves as joint or muscle pain/stiffness, skin rashes or digestive discomfort.

I have known for some time that I am intolerant to nightshades and should avoid eating these foods. But I have one major problem, I love food. I love all sorts of food, I’m not fussy and up until recently I was eating nightshade foods without even realising that they were making me ill.

My symptoms first manifested as an allergic reaction to tomatoes, when my lips swelled and I looked like I’d had a collagen injection. This was a one-off occurrence, though, so I didn’t think too much of it at the time.

Then came the IBS, which has crippled me for years, along with the urticaria rash that covered most of my torso at the end of every single day. It is surprising what you can live with, though and I learned to accept that something in my diet was causing me problems, but because it wasn’t life threatening and I couldn’t identify any one particular culprit, I didn’t pursue it.

But on learning about the possible affects of the nightshade group, I realised that it was time to cut them out of my diet and see what happened. And when I did, the difference that it made was staggering. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, but it was. After all, these are not the usual suspects associated with intolerance and they all seem harmless enough. But the effects were confirmed when I reintroduced them back in to my diet. In particular, the allergic skin reaction, which is similar to nettle rash.

A life without nightshades is a bit tricky. I mean, what’s a salad without the red bits? All that’s left is cucumber and lettuce, which isn’t so interesting or tasty. Thankfully I can live without potatoes, having swapped them for sweet potatoes, which are not directly related. But when it comes to feeding a family, the humble tin of tomatoes has always been my friend. Bolognese or pasta sauce, lasagne, even casseroles, it has always been there to add flavour and colour. This is where I struggle most and I find that I will still use tomatoes for a sauce despite knowing the consequences.

My aim, now, is to find suitable alternatives so that I can banish nightshades from our diet once and for all, without feeling as though I am settling for second best. The only set back I have is fitting it in to the wheat free and dairy free diet that I have to allow for my son, but that is another story altogether…

About Nicola Young

Freelance writer and copywriter

9 thoughts on “Nightshades and Food Intolerance

  1. I sympathise with the IBS that has crippled you for years, (sorry if TMI here) I am the same years and years of going to the toilet 4,5,6 times a day with little warning, one fart and it all runs out, no chance of constipation or anything with any shape appearing.
    Most people never think of food groups, and I am like you when you have it all day every day it is very very difficult to know what may be causing it. You cut out X and it is Y, you cut out Y and it could be Z, it is very difficult.
    I know the worse ones, they cause horrendous pain for 2-4 days with 20 runs to the toilet a day.
    I have changed DH to low carb high protein this last few weeks and therefore me with him and have to say I feel better than I have done in years.
    I sympatise, grandson is wheat/egg/dairy/gluten/peanut/treenut and banana free so its not easy.

  2. I never realised they are called deadly nightshades. I suffer a little from IBS and I’ve managed to ignore it pretty much so far but as I’ve got older, it’s getting worse. And I have a feeling that tomatoes have something to do with it… And the fact that i LOVE potatoes… Shame I don’t like sweet potatoes!

    1. Perhaps you could cut them all out for a month and see if it makes a difference. Then introduce one back at a time to check if they have an effect.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. My toddler sometimes has a reaction in the form of a rash around his mouth when he eats tomatoes and aubergine. I have never thought that there may be a link between the foods. I will have to look into this more.

    1. Yes, I cut out tomatoes but continued eating peppers and aubergines for sometime after. It’s a shame that such lovely food should cause so much problems, but unfortunately it does.

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