all about nightshades

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

Years ago, if you told me that gluten would be the eas­i­est item to elim­i­nate from my diet, I would never have believed you. I also would never had believed that the plethora of symp­toms of gluten-intolerance would be FAR prefer­able to the side affects of eat­ing a white potato, pep­per, tomato or egg­plant. For me, it turns out that gluten is the irri­tat­ing baby sis­ter of the fam­ily of foods that affect my sys­tem. Night­shades are the wicked step-mother that ban­ishes its vic­tims to a life of servi­tude in the tower.

Many peo­ple who suf­fer with gluten-intolerance, par­tic­u­larly Celiac, the dis­ease of gluten intol­er­ance, also suf­fer from night­shade allergy. If you suf­fer from migraines, joint aches and pains, fatigue and bone spurs, please give this arti­cle from Great Life Global a read. Find­ing this allergy changed my life. I’m not happy about never hav­ing another salsa drenched taco again, but ulti­mately it’s a small price to pay to live with less pain.

All About Night­shades

Night­shades. The name is quite mys­te­ri­ous and even sounds a bit spooky and omi­nous. There are so many warn­ings about the foods called “Night­shades,” that I am tempted to com­i­cally enti­tle this: “The Attack of the Deadly Night­shades.” In order to solve the mys­tery of these pop­u­lar plants, I have gath­ered data from noted sci­en­tists, hor­ti­cul­tur­ists, med­ical researchers, and mac­ro­bi­otic sources to share with you. Let’s look at the facts and fables about Night­shade plants, their char­ac­ter­is­tics, his­tory, effects, and their endur­ing appeal to the world’s appetite.

“What are Night­shades ?”
Toma­toes, white pota­toes, red and green bell pep­pers, the “hot” pep­pers such as chili and paprika, as well as egg­plant belong to the Night­shade Fam­ily, a botan­i­cal genus called Solanaceae species.  This species also includes tobacco, poi­so­nous bel­ladonna, and the toxic plants herbane, man­drake, and jim­son weeds. Accord­ing to Nutri­tional Researcher, author, and Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity instruc­tor, Nor­man F. Childers, in his schol­arly and highly doc­u­mented, The Night­shades and Health, the ori­gin of the word “Night­shade” is not clear. He explains that old Eng­lish writ­ings described these plants as Night­shades because of their “evil and lov­ing” nature of the night. A trans­la­tion of this descrip­tion could mean that these plants are believed to be more active at night than in daylight.

Night­shades have a his­tory of both mys­ti­cal dan­ger and sci­en­tific cau­tion. They were used in shaman­ism, witch­craft, and even poi­so­nous mur­der. Some night­shade plants are ingre­di­ents in potent nar­cotic med­i­cine and sleep­ing pills. It is reported that night­shades con­tain high lev­els of alka­loids which cause the bones to excrete cal­cium, other min­er­als, and trace ele­ments from the body. Many enlight­ened doc­tors and nutri­tion­ists rec­om­mend that those suf­fer­ing from arthri­tis symp­toms elim­i­nate Night­shades from their diet. For this intro­duc­tory study, let us focus on the pop­u­lar tomato and potato that are, accord­ing to sur­veys, the two most favorite “veg­eta­bles” in America.

The His­tory of Toma­toes
Span­ish Con­quis­ta­dors, while invad­ing South Amer­ica, dis­cov­ered the fruit, toma­toes. When first intro­duced to Europe, toma­toes were thought to be deadly poi­son. Six­teenth Cen­tury herbal­ist, Ger­ard, wrote,” In Spain and hot regions, they used to eat the ‘Apples of Love’ pre­pared and boiled with pep­per, salt, and oil; but they yield very lit­tle nour­ish­ment to the body and the same naught and cor­rupt.” In past times toma­toes were referred to as “The Can­cer Apple” and were grown only as an orna­men­tal plant. Their vines and suck­ers are known to be poi­so­nous to live­stock. For those with weak kid­neys and food aller­gies, toma­toes con­tribute to  pain in the bones and joints, lack of energy, and rheuma­toid arthri­tis. Yet, toma­toes became vastly pop­u­lar through­out south­ern Europe, espe­cially in Spain, Italy and now Amer­ica. where they are among the most pop­u­lar veg­eta­bles. Today, tomato ketchup and salsa are com­monly used as well-loved condi­ments and are even con­sid­ered “a veg­etable serv­ing” by the U.S. Depart­ment of Agriculture.

The His­tory of White Pota­toes
When white pota­toes, named, “Earth’s Apples” made their jour­ney from Peru to Europe, these night­shades were also thought to be poi­so­nous. Yet, this pop­u­lar tuber has become a sta­ple through­out Europe and the United States. It is dif­fi­cult to think of a stan­dard Amer­i­can meal with­out list­ing pota­toes; baked, fried, chipped, whipped, or as a thick­ener. White pota­toes con­tain sola­nine, which has been shown to cause a very toxic effect in sus­cep­ti­ble peo­ple, con­tribut­ing to arthri­tis, cal­cium deple­tion, and stiff joints, as well as painful wrists, ankles, and knees.

In his book, Poi­so­nous Plants of the United States and Canada, John Kings­bury doc­u­mented that when sola­nine was eaten in large amounts by either humans and live­stock, death was the out­come. When cal­cium is depleted from the body by pota­toes, ner­vous­ness and sleep­less­ness may result because cal­cium is our nat­ural tran­quil­izer. Sola­nine from pota­toes accu­mu­lates in the body and the harm­ful effects may take years to appear in those who have sensitivity.

“Why Elim­i­nate Toma­toes and Pota­toes?” 
This is one of the most fre­quently asked ques­tions I hear from my stu­dents. This query cer­tainly doesn’t sur­prise me. Accord­ing to mac­ro­bi­otic the­ory, toma­toes and pota­toes cre­ate a nat­ural bal­ance to meat, dairy, fats, and the excess salt found in the Stan­dard Amer­i­can Diet, (SAD). The chem­i­cal and ener­getic qual­i­ties of pota­toes and toma­toes pro­duce extreme, expan­sive effects and expand and can weaken the bones, joints, teeth, gums, and all body organs, espe­cially for those who are sen­si­tive and aller­gic to them. In a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Inter­na­tional Acad­emy of Pre­ven­tive Med­i­cine, 5000 arthri­tis suf­fer­ers elim­i­nated Night­shades. Sev­enty per­cent of par­tic­i­pants reported relief from aches, pains, and disfigurement.

“Why Do We Crave Night­shades So Much?”
Amer­i­cans of all ages love and eat these foods. French Fries with ketchup is one of our country’s favorite foods. There is a rea­son why peo­ple crave them. Pota­toes and toma­toes are very high in potas­sium and help counter the high sodium of ani­mal foods. Night­shades may aid in the diges­tion of fatty, dense pro­teins. Con­sider America’s favorite meals: Meat and pota­toes, and pizza with cheese and toma­toes. These foods seem to go together nat­u­rally. We crave these com­bi­na­tions of foods because our bod­ies uncon­sciously strive to achieve bal­ance. Extreme foods have extreme effects. In mac­ro­bi­otic ter­mi­nol­ogy, pota­toes and toma­toes are extremely yin and expan­sive. Ani­mal pro­tein is heavy, salty, and yang there­fore pota­toes help bal­ance the salt and pro­tein of meat. Toma­toes, which are astrin­gent and acidic, assist in the diges­tion and dis­charge of dairy prod­ucts and help coun­ter­bal­ance the greasy qual­ity of the fatty over salted cheese.  Please remem­ber, those who eat in this man­ner on the extreme ends of the food spec­trum must real­ize that  the results can be seri­ous and dam­ag­ing in the long run.

“Burger, Fries and a Coke, Please”
Think of America’s favorite meals:

  • Cheese­burger, French fried pota­toes, soda, and ice cream.
  • Steak, baked potato, cof­fee, and cheesecake.
  • Pizza with cheese, toma­toes, soda, and choco­late candy.
  • Chicken, mac­a­roni and cheese, tomato salad, and sug­ared gelatin.

In each of the above, there is a dish con­tain­ing a high pro­tein ani­mal food, served with night­shades and sugar. This is a lethal com­bi­na­tion which depletes cal­cium and other min­er­als from the bones and body. The chem­i­cal and ener­getic qual­i­ties of pota­toes and toma­toes pro­duce extreme, expan­sive effects. For those who are sen­si­tive and aller­gic to night­shades, they can weaken the bones, joints, teeth, and all body organs. Let us con­sider that over 50 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have arthri­tis and over 60% of women over age 65 have osteo­poro­sis. Add to this sta­tis­tic the epi­demic quan­tity of Amer­i­cans with back pain, knee and foot dis­or­ders, and tooth decay, which are all due, in large part, to min­eral depletion.

How Do Mac­ro­bi­otic Foods Help Pre­vent Bone Dis­ease?
Foods which deplete min­er­als are elim­i­nated in the mac­ro­bi­otic diet, allow­ing the body to stay stronger and health­ier and helps pre­vent bone weak­ness. The mac­ro­bi­otic diet con­tains whole foods which are extremely high in nat­ural min­er­als. These include such as grains, beans, veg­eta­bles and sea veg­eta­bles, sea salt, and miso; foods which strengthen, main­tain, and even rebuild bones. Recent the­o­ries now have begun to view arthri­tis as a defi­ciency and/or deple­tion of cal­cium in the body; a the­ory more in line with the mac­ro­bi­otic perspective.

How Do I Know If I Am Aller­gic to Night­shades?
Easy. If you have pain, elim­i­nate Night­shades. Read all labels care­fully. Keep a daily jour­nal and record of your bone and joint pain. Learn to pre­pare and eat a bal­anced, high min­eral mac­ro­bi­otic diet. In the pop­u­lar book Eat Right, Live Longer, Neal Barnard, M.D., founder of The Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Respon­si­ble Med­i­cine, out­lines an elim­i­na­tion diet in which Night­shades are avoided for four weeks. Dr. Sherry Rogers, M.D., tells us that the results take time. In her book, Well­ness Against All Odds, she states, “For many, no relief comes until the diet has been totally free of all of these (night­shades), for at least 6–12 weeks. So you can appre­ci­ate why, if some­one gives them up for a cou­ple of weeks and sees no improve­ment, that he could eas­ily be con­vinced to aban­don the diet and indulge in his favorites again, never to dis­cover the culprit.”

Fur­ther Sci­en­tific Research to “Bone Up On”
Night­shades play a major part in bone and joint strength. Dr. Wal­ter Wil­let of Harvard’s School of Pub­lic Health pub­lished a study link­ing dia­betes and diet. He found a that con­sump­tion of pota­toes caused a large increase in blood sugar or glu­cose, lead­ing to a secre­tion of high lev­els of insulin and an increased risk of dia­betes. Fur­ther, researcher Winifred Con­kling states in Nat­ural Med­i­cine for Arthri­tis,  “Elim­i­nat­ing veg­eta­bles from the night­shade fam­ily can pro­mote car­ti­lage repair.” Dr. Collin H. Dong devel­oped arthri­tis after mov­ing to Amer­ica from China and adopt­ing a typ­i­cal west­ern diet. The research in his book, New Hope for the Arthritic, con­cludes, “My dra­matic recov­ery con­vinced me that rheumatic dis­eases are caused by chem­i­cal poi­son­ing put into our food…and by allergy to cer­tain foods.”

If you are heal­ing from ANY dis­ease or are in pain, espe­cially in the bones and joints, such as wrists, hips, and knees, or back, teeth, or gums avoid Night­shades. If you wish to have the strongest body pos­si­ble, then reduce, avoid, or elim­i­nate Night­shades. It is my expe­ri­ence that most clients who totally avoid Night­shades for at least four months notice dra­matic improvements.

Bib­li­og­ra­phy and Fur­ther Reading

  • Neal Barnard, M.D., Eat Right, Live Longer, Ran­dom House, New York, New York.
  • Dr. Nor­man Childers, The Night­shades and Health, Hor­ti­cul­tural Pub­li­ca­tion, New Jersey.
  • Dr. Nor­man Childers, “A Rela­tion­ship of Arthri­tis to the Solanaceae (Night­shades)”, Jour­nal of the Inter­na­tional Acad­emy of Pre­ven­tive Med­i­cine, Novem­ber, 1982, pp. 31–37.
  • Winifred Con­kling, Nat­ural Med­i­cine for Arthri­tis, Dell Pub­lish­ing, New York, NY.
  • Dr. Collin H. Dong, New Hope for the Arthritic, Crow­ell Co., New York, NY
  • Alex Jack, Let Food Be Thy Med­i­cine, One Peace­ful World Press, Becket, MA
  • John M. Kings­bury, Poi­so­nous Plants of the United States and Canada, Prentice-Hall, Inc. New Jersey.
  • Sherry Rogers, M.D., Well­ness Against All Odds, Pres­tige Pub­lish­ing, Syra­cuse, NY.
  • J. Salmeron et al, “Glycemic Load and Risk on Non-Insulin Depen­dent Dia­betes Mel­li­tus in Women”, Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, 277 (6): 472–477, 1997.


Posted in lifestyle, news + events | 6 Comments

6 Responses to all about nightshades

  1. Oh night­shades… how I miss them. And boy do they make me feel bad. even in small amounts. I am intol­er­ant to dairy and gluten too. Not a huge deal. I can still find plenty to eat. But night­shades are hard to avoid and I miss them des­per­ately. Going to restau­rants feels impos­si­ble. First I tell them a tiny bit of gluten will make me sick. Then I ask if there is dairy in any­thing. Deep breath… can you leave off the toma­toes and roasted red pep­pers? I don’t even bother with ask­ing about paprika. I just know I might get a tiny bit achy the next day… but how much can you spe­cial order? I am also so reluc­tant to accept din­ner invi­ta­tions. I is awk­ward to decline food and awk­ward to dic­tate what peo­ple should cook (and hard for them to get it right with all the “rules”). Bring­ing a dish is good for a party…
    Good to know I am not alone. Some­times I won­der if I am “imag­in­ing” the intol­er­ance– or think maybe I am “over-it”. Then I eat some salsa, feel bad, wait six months and repeat.
    To those try­ing night­shade free I will tell you even a tiny bit– like using store bought chicken broth will give a reac­tion. You need to be strict to test this.

    • Amy says:

      For a long time, I felt like the kid who goes away to col­lege, drinks too much, wakes up with a hang­over and promises I’ll never do it again. Then six months later, I see some­thing I can’t resist. Giv­ing up the foods is so dif­fi­cult, like you said, far harder than dairy and gluten. Los­ing the con­ve­nience is also really, really hard. When cal­cium deposits started show­ing up in the body — on my rota­tor cuff ten­don, my big toe joint and my neck, I am now totally com­pelled to stop eat­ing any and all night­shades. I only found this allergy a year ago, so I have a life time of cal­cium deple­tion to deal with and the pain of that will prob­a­bly never abate. I gotta think that the sil­ver lin­ing is that I eat almost no processed foods, cook from scratch (a pain at times, but again, far health­ier) and eat closer to the earth. My goal for 2013 is to develop really tasty pestos and pulses, sauces and condi­ments uti­liz­ing fla­vors like wasabi, tumeric, cumin, gar­lic and lemon to name a few, because I find what I really miss is the amaz­ing fla­vor of pep­pers and toma­toes. I’ll keep you posted and if you come up with any­thing — please share. In the mean­time, hang in there.
      P.S. And be wary of some organic cof­fees — I found tobacco leaves present in the last cof­fee I drank…slowly poi­soned myself over the course of sev­eral months. Really…coffee????

      • Wow, good thing I don’t like cof­fee! But speak­ing of tobacco, sec­ond hand smoke has always made me sicker than most peo­ple. Yes­ter­day a mechanic smoked in my car– can you believe that? (Not legal in this state.)
        Know­ing other peo­ple are also so sen­si­tive to night­shades helps me feel like I am not just a hypochon­driac and gives me the strength to stop “test­ing” every 6 months.

  2. PS, my diag­no­sis with joint pain was Lyme dis­ease. Other treat­ments helped the recov­ery but giv­ing up night­shades was the key.

  3. Sharon Tucker says:

    I dis­cov­ered two years ago that I was intol­er­ant to night­shades and have been play­ing the same game of … maybe, just maybe I can eat some pota­toes or toma­toes or pep­pers… and then pay for it… some­times within min­utes, other times it is the next day… my reac­tions range from or include… usu­ally a migraine .… pain in the base of my thumb .… pain just below my knees … and pain mostly on the right side of my lower back and some­time on both sides of my lower back. Also the skin on my wrists and just inside my knees become extremely sen­si­tive to the touch, along with a few other things.… This being said… I was tested for a food allergy to toma­toes, pep­pers and pota­toes this past fall… and it came back I am not aller­gic… Need­less to say I was quite sur­prised and frus­trated with the results… I hap­pened to be at work and they were serv­ing chili for lunch…So I decided.… I am not aller­gic… so here goes nothing…Well that was a huge mis­take… I was down and out before the work day was over and con­tin­ued to be sick the next day…
    Just won­der­ing if you or any the the peo­ple you are in con­tact with have tested pos­i­tive to being aller­gic to the nightshades?

    • Amy says:

      I’ve done this lit­tle dance for the major­ity of my adult life. My body screams at me that I’m gluten and night­shade intol­er­ant while test­ing indi­cates the oppo­site. Because we are so iden­ti­fied with the foods we love, every time we get a lit­tle green light to eat some­thing, we trick our­selves into think­ing we really don’t have a prob­lem. It’s human nature and noth­ing to beat your­self up about. Here’s what I did to move beyond the uncer­tainty and frus­tra­tion. First of all, I searched high and low for a really broad minded doc­tor. When I was in the throes of recipe test­ing when putting this web­site together, I tested mari­nara sauce and Hun­gar­ian goulash the same week. My face, hands and joints swelled and I had a headache that would have put down a horse. My doc­tor took one look at me and asked me about my known food intol­er­ances and what I’d eaten that week. He diag­nosed me in sec­onds with a con­di­tion that had plagued me for the whole of my life. My deep love of pep­pers and toma­toes forced me to ask him if we could test this night­shade the­ory. How he responded changed my think­ing for­ever. He told me we could run tests that would prob­a­bly show neg­a­tive results, but why would I want to? My body was clearly telling me a dif­fer­ent story. He said the gold stan­dard is a food elim­i­na­tion diet. Stop eat­ing the offend­ing ingre­di­ents and then add them back. Your body will tell you whether or not you can tol­er­ate them. From then on, I stopped giv­ing my author­ity away to allergy tests and doc­tors who treat only symp­toms. After years in denial, and as much as I hated to admit it, I grew to accept that I sim­ply can’t have these ingre­di­ents. I’ve given myself a posi­tion of greater author­ity in my own life. Sharon, I sus­pect you know the truth about your body, but it’s a loss to think of your life with­out chili, mari­nara sauce and salsa. I know it might sound trite, but it’s not. It’s a loss. For me, I devel­oped this weird Pavlov­ian response to the things that made me sore, swollen, shorten my breath and give me unre­lent­ing headaches. My response to these foods started to limit my life and that’s no longer an option. Mourn the loss and then find food that works for you. Hav­ing this con­di­tion is an incred­i­ble incon­ve­nience, but it will force you to eat more health­fully in that you’ll prob­a­bly have to pre­pare your own food and rely less and less on processed, man­u­fac­tured foods. So my advise? Reclaim your author­ity and accept what you already know. When I get weak and resent­ful (as I watch my hus­band go to town on a Carne Asada bur­rito drenched in salsa), I remem­ber there are so many peo­ple deal­ing with con­di­tions for which there is no dietary solu­tion and then I get the proper per­spec­tive, take a deep breath and work with what I’ve been given. I hope this helps. Stay in touch and let me know how you’re doing!

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