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  • Writer's pictureLucy Maskell

Did you know that these innocent looking vegetables are related to the deadly nightshade plant?

Most people know that you can be are intolerant to some foods, such as gluten or dairy products. We have all been down the free from isles at the supermarket, or seen the gluten free options in restaurants. However, there is group of foods that can cause digestive symptoms in some people that most of us are unaware of.

There is a group of plants called nightshades or the ‘Solanacae’ family that is made up of over 2000 species and includes the famous deadly nightshade plant. We all know that this plant contains highly poisonous substances, however did you know that some of the foods we most commonly find on our dinner plates are part of the same family?

The foods we are most familiar with that are part of this family include:

  • Potatoes

  • Peppers

  • Tomatoes

  • Chilies

  • Aubergines

Plants in the nightshade family including the nightshade vegetables all contain substances called alkaloids which can be irritating to the digestive tract and some can even be stored in the body and released later, during times of stress adding to inflammation. I won’t go into detail about all the different alkaloids and their different effects, the main point we need to be aware of is that for some…and I do mean SOME of us they can be inflammatory or irritating for our digestive systems.

What I also find extremely interesting is that Nicotine is also an alkaloid found in the tobacco plant, which just happens to also be a nightshade plant. Nicotine is also found (in much, much smaller quantities) in nightshade vegetables (1)…. Interesting thought to ponder when considering the developed world’s addiction to chips and tomato ketchup!!

Before you all rush off and deem potatoes are the root of all evil, just be aware that not all people need to avoid these foods, and for many they can be a perfectly healthy part of the diet however if you have any of the following, if may be worth taking them into consideration;

  1. If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease. Studies have shown nightshade vegetables have been to aggravate these conditions (2).

  2. Acid reflux or heart burn. Some nightshade vegetables can irritate the lining of the oesophagus. Ever felt the burn after eating a hot curry? Guess what, chilli is a nightshade vegetable!

  3. Autoimmune conditions, it has been recorded that nightshade vegetables can cause a flare up in symptoms in these conditions.

  4. Digestive symptoms. It may be worth considering doing an elimination diet to see if these foods may be a factor.

So, the main takeaway from this is, that for many people there is no need to stop putting tomatoes in your salad and throw all your chilies in the bin, however if you have been struggling with digestive issues for some time and tried eliminating the more common triggers with no improvement, it may be worth looking into this further. Either through an elimination diet or food intolerance testing.

I can help you with this if you don’t want to go it alone, we also offer in house food intolerance testing.

Lucy x






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