I have been a personal trainer for about 12 years now and recently decided to go back to school to become a Holistic Nutritionist. As a trainer I have specialized primarily in Pain Management and Injury Prevention. Utilizing some of the best movement screens out there, including Functional Movement Systems by Gray Cook, have allowed me to design great programs for clients. With the utilization of these screens I have been able to help a lot of people feel better and move better and not always be in pain. Unfortunately there were always a couple of clients that no matter how good our program and their progress was, there was still some lingering pain. These same clients had spent time with doctors and in MRI machines. Nothing was alleviating that pain and no one had a good answer for them, including myself. During my first class in this Holistic Nutrition program I was introduced to a new topic (at least it was new to me), and that was Nightshades.
Most people do not know what Nightshades are nor do some realize that they should do everything they can to avoid them. Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family of plants, which includes over 2,000 species and includes many highly consumed foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and all types of peppers. The Solanaceae family contains compounds that inhibit cholinesterase, which is necessary for a neuron to return to its resting state after being activated. Because of cholinesterase’s essential function, any chemicals that interfere with it’s action are potent neurotoxins. (1) According to Dr. Marvin Childers, "When these inhibitors accumulate in the body, alone or with other cholinesterase inhibitors such as caffeine or food impurities containing systemic cholinesterase inhibiting pesticides, the result may be a paralytic-like muscle spasm, aches, pains, tenderness, inflammation, and stiff body movements."
This article is not designed to be a research article on the effects of nightshades. It is more of an article based on anecdotal evidence on what I have experienced with clients since learning this information and then gaining a better understanding of the issue.
Here is a story about a client of mine, we will call her Susan. Susan has been affected by Fibromyalgia for some time now and is always in a constant state of pain. Sometimes that pain is debilitating, other times it is just a constant reminder that she has this condition. During a session with Susan I asked her if she knew anything about Nightshades and she quickly responded, “I have read a couple articles on them.” So I knew that somewhere on her path she has been introduced to Nightshades. I followed up by asking if she had done anything after reading those articles. Like many clients to a similar question, she responded, “Not really, because I didn’t know if it would really make a difference.”
“Not really, because I didn’t know if it would really make a difference.” My answer to this is always the same, “You’ll never know unless you give it a try.” When it comes to making a dietary change and the removal of potential hazardous foods, the best way to determine if you are intolerant to something or to see if something causes you any problems, is to eliminate it from the diet and then introduce it back in. Depending on the damage done, or the amount consumed, you could see a difference in as little at 2 weeks to a month. But please remember, you must give your body time to heal. It will most likely NOT happen over night.
Okay, back to Susan. After discussing the affects of Nightshades and giving her a couple articles on Nightshades, she decided to remove them completely from her diet. Like with the rest of my clients, I do the educating and let them decide if they want to give it a shot. It was pretty hard for her because on a daily basis she was consuming about 3 servings of Nightshades, so she had to really focus on replacing the main culprits; tomatoes, all peppers and potatoes. She managed to do a great job of eliminating them from her diet completely. After about 3 weeks of total elimination, I asked her how her pain was doing and the response she gave did not surprise me at all. It was “I haven’t really noticed anything, or at least I don’t think I have.” Most clients that are in chronic pain learn to “live” with the pain, therefore changes in the pain level may go unnoticed by the client because on a daily basis they do everything they can not to notice it. So I told her to have a meal that consisted of mostly Nightshades, yes you read that right, a Nightshade extravaganza.
After Susan partook in her Nightshade extravaganza the response to my pain question changed a little. This time the answer to, “how is your pain doing?” was, “It must have really been helping because after eating a meal that contained a ton of peppers and tomatoes I felt terrible. I was just really achy all over.” I have seen this multiple times now with other clients.
If you or someone you know suffers from arthritis or any other condition that presents as chronic pain talk to them about Nightshades. Tell them to remove all of the main suspects for at least 2 weeks (even better to go a whole month) and then to add them back in and see what the impact is. Again, my position as a Nutritionist is to educate, you decide what you want to do with the information.
The nightshade list
1- tomatoes (all varieties, including tomatillos)
2- potatoes (all varieties, NOT sweet potatoes or yams)
3- eggplant (aubergine)
5- peppers (all varieties such as bell pepper, wax pepper, green & red peppers, chili peppers, cayenne, paprika, etc.)
6- goji berries
7- tomarillos (a plum-like fruit from Peru)
9- garden huckleberry & blueberries (contain the alkaloids that induce inflammation)
11- ground cherries
12- pepino Melon
13- the homeopathic "Belladonna" [note: this is highly precautionary as homeopathics contain virtually no measurable "active" chemical]
16- cayenne pepper
• Soy sauce made in the U.S. is generally made with genetically modified (GMO) soy beans, which are cut with the nightshade plant Petunia.
• The condiments black/white pepper and pepper corns are not nightshades
Other ingredients and products to avoid
1- Homeopathic remedies containing Belladonna [note: this is highly precautionary as homeopathics contain virtually no measurable "active" chemical]
2- Prescription and over-the-counter medications containing potato starch as a filler (especially prevalent in sleeping and muscle relaxing medications)
3- Edible flowers: petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil's trumpets
4- Atropine and Scopolamine, used in sleeping pills
5- Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum (in cayenne pepper).
6- Many baking powders contain potato starch
7- Don't lick envelopes, many adhesives contain potato starch
8- Vodka (potatoes used in production)