Nightshade Allergy Symptoms & Intolerance
Although nightshade plants are a common inclusion in our diets, some people are intolerant or allergic to one or more of the foods in the nightshade family.
Nightshade intolerance or nightshade sensitivity is associated with the improper digestion of nightshade foods. Persons with nightshade allergy can develop breathing issues, rashes, eczema, or digestive problems shortly after consuming certain nightshade veggies.
What are nightshades?
Nightshades are flowering plants known as Solanaceae (Solanum dulcamara), a plant family that’s comprised of about 98 genera and more than 2,500 different species; and nightshade vegetables are part of this plant family.
Although most nightshades are either poisonous or simply inedible, many are highly nutritious and have been part of humankind’s diet since time immemorial.
15 Most common nightshade fruits and vegetables
• Ground cherries
• White potatoes
• Pepino melons
• Bell peppers
• Cayenne pepper
Nightshades contain toxic chemicals known as alkaloids that protect the plants from molds and pests.The alkaloids commonly found in nightshade plants are solanine, capsaicin, and nicotine.
While capsicum allergy and other sensitivities to these alkaloids are uncommon, they can still occur. People often react adversely to these types of foods because they suffer from nightshade allergy or nightshade intolerance.
The unripe fruits or tubers, stems, and leaves of these plants have been found to contain the highest concentration of alkaloids and should not be consumed by persons with nightshade allergy or intolerance.
Although most people don’t suffer any ill effects from ingesting the alkaloids found in nightshades, green potatoes can be the cause of solanine toxicity in some people.
Nightshade Allergy Symptoms
Those allergic to the alkaloids contained in nightshades may develop any of the following symptoms if they ingest a vegetable from this plant family.
• Skin Rashes
• Muscle and joint aches
• Excessive mucus secretion
Nightshade Intolerance Symptoms
Compared to food allergies, food intolerances are usually less severe and tend to affect the digestive system only. People suffering from nightshade intolerance lack the enzymes required to digest these type of foods properly. Nightshade intolerance can lead to the following:
• Bloating and gas
The symptoms associated with a food allergy can be avoided by eliminating the food that’s causing the problem from your diet. Although blueberries, huckleberries, and goji berries are not nightshades, they include similar alkaloids and should be avoided along with the rest.
Those aiming to cut their intake of nightshades might find the following substitutions beneficial.
• Sweet potatoes or cauliflower in place of white potatoes
• Beets, carrots, and grapes instead of tomatoes
• Mushroom (shiitake or portobello) for eggplant
• Celery, zucchini, or radishes in place of bell peppers
• Ground black pepper or ground white pepper for cayenne pepper
• Cumin or turmeric instead of paprika
• Cranberries or raisins in place of goji berries
These substitutes are recommended because of their similarity in texture, taste, or versatility.
When to seek medical attention
• Consistent coughing
• Breathing difficulties
• Abdominal pain
• Low pulse
The doctor is able to diagnose nightshade allergy using either a skin prick test, or a blood test
The effects of nightshades on pre-existing conditions
Most people believe that nightshades can worsen the symptoms of people with pre-existing medical conditions such as:
- Functional digestive disorders: These include bloating, heartburn, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although nightshade veggies seem to aggravate digestive disorder symptoms in some individuals, there is not clear scientific evidence supporting the link between nightshades and the worsening of these medical conditions. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation encourages people with arthritis to include nightshade fruits and vegetables in their diets.
- Autoimmune diseases: These include celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system attacks healthy body cells mistakenly, causing inflammation and tissue damage. The natural chemicals contained within nightshades might stimulate this kind of immune response, worsening the condition.
- Leaky gut syndrome: Nightshades contain lectins, a type of protein that can damage the intestinal barrier and cause the leaky gut syndrome. In such a case, proteins that usually stay inside the small intestine can get into the bloodstream.
Those who suspect they have nightshade allergy or intolerance should maintain a consistent record of their symptoms and keep a food diary. Avoiding nightshade veggies for at least four weeks might also be helpful.
Individuals with severe allergic reactions should seek advice from a doctor before reintroducing nightshades into their diets.