Do Nightshade Plants Contribute To Inflammation In Susceptible Individuals?

(Last Updated On: June 9, 2015)

Vegetables are a well-known source of nutrients containing vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants which are essential for optimal human health and vitality. But did you know that some of your favorite vegetables could be making you sick? Nightshade plants and vegetables have long been researched for a possible link to chronic inflammation in the body leading to a variety of symptoms and illnesses.

Research suggests that up to 90 percent of individuals who suffer from any form of pain or discomfort in the body are sensitive to nightshades. Dr. Norman Childers at Rutgers University established the Arthritis Nightshade Research Foundation and is most known for his success in identifying health risk associated with the vegetables. Dr. Childers was able to completely reverse his symptoms of rheumatism, an arthritic condition, by following a strict nightshade avoidance diet.

What Are Nightshades?

Nightshades belong to a family of plants known as Solanaceae, most of which we would consider weeds. Solanaceae contains a variety of naturally occurring drugs known as alkaloids which protect the plant from insects, predators and disease.

Popular nightshades that may be on your dinner table tonight include tomato, potato and all pepper varieties except peppercorns. Other nightshades include ashwagandha and eggplant. Although not considered nightshade vegetables, kiwifruit, goji berries, blueberries, artichokes and okra may also illicit the same inflammatory response when consumed.

Nightshades Increase Inflammation

Human health concerns stem from a variety of sources linked to nightshades. As with many other food allergies, such as gluten sensitivity, individuals may be more or less allergic to different types of nightshades.

Such factors that determine sensitivity include the concentration and type of alkaloid present as well as the activity of a naturally occurring form of vitamin D. Although no scientific study has shown that the available compounds in nightshades create inflammation in the body, research shows that nightshades will increase the severity of symptoms.

Alkaloids Cause Nervous System Imbalances

Alkaloids are referred to as pro-inflammatory markers. Below are examples of these naturally occurring drugs:

Common Alkaloids And Their Sources

Solanine – Potato and eggplant
Tomatine – Tomato
Nicotine – Tobacco
Capsaicin – Peppers

Just like tobacco, these alkaloids might be partially to blame for your addictive behaviors to some foods. Solanine has been shown to inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, and acts like the less favored identical twin.

Acetycholine serves as the body’s messenger and is responsible for stimulating nerves, muscles and glands. Excessive acetylcholine results in overstimulation. Toxic levels of acetylcholine lead to nervous system problems including anxiety, depression, behavioral disturbances, lethargy, cognitive issues, muscle stiffness and insomnia.

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