Beware of Nightshades

By Jane Barthelemy.
Do you suffer from gluten or dairy intolerance, mood swings, indigestion, arthritis, or an auto-immune disease? If so, the hidden culprit could be nightshades. Nightshades are a group of vegetables in the Solanaceae family including Tomatoes, White Potatoes, all Peppers, and Eggplant. Many people are intolerant to nightshades, especially Caucasians, but the results are often delayed weeks, months, or years, making them difficult connect to the true cause. Other symptoms of nightshade intolerance are depression, anxiety, constipation, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, joint pain, headaches, nausea, bloating, flatulence, IBS, anemia, and poor food absorption. Symptoms of nightshade intolerance often overlap with those of gluten or dairy intolerance.

How Can I Avoid Nightshade Foods?
This can be challenging, since they seem to be in everything. I suggest you don’t go crazy. Start simply by limiting your intake of nightshades rather than trying to go 100% nightshade-free. Know your recipes and read labels in prepared foods. Stop buying tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants. Focus on the foods you CAN eat rather than what you’re missing. You can eat every recipe on this website!  Make smart substitutions like mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. Avoid obvious nightshade foods like potato chips, pizza, pasta sauce, ratatouille, salsa, hot peppers, and cayenne. You may receive a double benefit: Not only will your intestines begin to heal, you’ll also enjoy better nutrition. That’s because home-cooking is way healthier than fast food and eating out in restaurants.

The more nightshades you consume, the greater the risk of leaky gut.
If you suspect this sensitivity may be your issue, consider removing nightshades from your diet for a period of time, and observe how you feel. Then try re-introducing them to your diet. If your condition gets worse, that’s a pretty good indication that nightshades may not be part of your healthiest lifelong diet. It may take several months for your intestinal wall to repair and for your body to fully respond. The best advice is to listen to your own body. Don’t forget to view all my Nightshade-free recipes. (Yep, they’re all nightshade-free!)

Who should avoid nightshades?
Anyone wishing to optimize digestive health, and people suffering from autoimmune diseases or allergies would be well advised to eliminate or drastically reduce consumption of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Your digestion is unique. Since digestion is a highly individual function, some people may be more affected by nightshades than others. Nightshades are toxic to dogs, cats and horses.

This is a summary of three articles by Dr. Loren Cordain, professor and author of “The Paleo Diet”.  Find Dr. Cordain’s complete articles here: #1 Potatoes, #2 Tomatoes, #3 Peppers.

What diseases have been linked to nightshades?
There is increasing evidence that gluten intolerance and many autoimmune diseases are linked to a leaky gut, which allows microbes and toxins to enter the blood stream to compromise the immune system. Specific auto-immune diseases that may be affected by nightshades include Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Grave’s disease, Celiac disease, Multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s disease, and Lupus.

Nightshade sensitivity appears to be genetic.
Nightshades came from the New World, and these foods were unknown in Europe and Asia until well after the “discovery” of America in 1492. They entered the mainstream North American diet around 1800. Three hundred years is a very short time span in human biological evolution. If you’re of white Anglo-Saxon heritage, nightshades are a very recent addition to your diet, and they’re more likely to cause problems. However if you’re an indigenous American, your ancestors may have been eating nightshades for centuries, so chances are slim you’ll be sensitive.

Nightshades and glutinous grains have a lot in common.
They all contain anti-nutrients, natural compounds which resist digestion and cause intestinal perforation. What are antinutrients? They are natural chemicals in seeds, such as lectins, saponins, enzyme blockers, trypsin, and phytic acid. They may taste slightly bitter and often cause intestinal permeability or poor nutrient absorption. Mother Nature has done her job well, ensuring that seeds pass straight though the body undigested, in order to be planted in the ground. Most grains, nuts, and seeds—including wheat, corn and rice—the world’s primary foods—contain natural antinutrients that impede digestion.

How do Nightshades cause problems?
Dr. Loren Cordain, professor and author of “The Paleo Diet”, says that the anti-nutrients in nightshades can interfere with human digestion causing intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”. This leaves unprotected holes in the intestinal lining, an open invitation to many of our modern auto-immune diseases.

Nightshades contain two primary toxins: Saponins and Lectins.
Both of these chemicals play a major role in increasing intestinal permeability, laying the groundwork for a variety of modern conditions.

Saponins are natural chemicals in some plants that can impair health by creating holes in the intestinal lining. A perforated intestine is vulnerable to any microbes and toxins that may enter the bloodstream. Foods high in saponins are potato skins and potato chips with the skins. Ripe tomatoes have low levels of toxic saponins. However green tomatoes and “hot house” tomatoes, or those that are harvested before they are ripe, are exceedingly high in these toxins. Peppers are high in saponins, such as Bell peppers, Cayenne pepper, Chipotle, Chili pepper, Paprika, Jalapeno pepper, Pimento, Serrano pepper, Ancho, Habanero, and Tabasco.

Lectins are natural proteins in plants that are cell code breakers. Our cell walls are covered with chemical receptors to protect and ensure entry of only the right compounds. Lectins can crack the codes and trick the cell into doing things it normally would not do. Lectins can bypass our defenses, “getting behind the lines” to travel all over the body. Lectins can penetrate the protective mucus of the small intestine, promoting cell division at the wrong time, and even causing cell death. Lectins can perforate the intestinal wall, or trick the immune system to thinking there’s an intruder, causing an allergic reaction.

Lectins and Saponins act like a Trojan Horse intruder into the intestines, exposing the body to microbes and toxins that would normally be immediately destroyed by a healthy immune system.

This is a summary of three articles by Dr. Loren Cordain, professor and author of “The Paleo Diet”.  Find Dr. Cordain’s complete articles here: #1 Potatoes#2 Tomatoes#3 Peppers.

Read my article: Are Nightshades Paleo?

Read the Weston Price Article that offers details on health risks of nightshade in joints and arthritis.

Arthritis and Nightshade Vegetables

10 Replies to "Beware of Nightshades"

  • comment-avatar
    Rita November 5, 2023 (3:37 pm)

    I tolerate and digest nightshades when I cook in pure clay, I’m not really sure why that’s the case- this article explains it better than I can. But before cooking in clay, I couldnt tolerate nightshades. I would bloat, and I’ll spare you the other details lol. But when I cook nightshades in pure clay pots, I tolerate them just fine! It’s actually a miracle I can eat nightshades again

    • comment-avatar
      Jane Barthelemy November 5, 2023 (4:58 pm)

      Rita, Thank you for your comment. AMAZING! You made a very important discovery. Wonder where I can find a clay pot to try this out? Thank you! Best wishes to you for your delicious health! Jane

  • comment-avatar
    Cynthia February 5, 2023 (1:37 pm)

    I arrived at your recipe by searching online for a tomato free ketchup recipe. I discovered 15 years ago that I was very sensitive to nightshades. I reached a point that I couldn’t even hold a coffee cup in my hand due to the joint pain. Through abstinence I returned to normal but it is difficult since so many foods have tomatoes in one form or another in them. I suspect I am also sensitive to many other vegetables but I won’t go into that for lack of space. I found Moringa Powder through a YouTube channel and started taking it. I could not believe the difference in improvement in my health. I highly recommend it to everyone. I use the one recommended found at or on Amazon. And, Thank you so much for your recipe.

    • comment-avatar
      Jane Barthelemy February 5, 2023 (4:18 pm)

      Hello Cynthia! So happy you found this website. Most of the recipes are nightshade-free. Check out the Nightshade-free section on the too navigation! I love moringa too! Best wishes for your delicious health! Jane

  • comment-avatar
    Martin January 14, 2022 (6:11 am)

    Thank you Jane. Very informative.

    Am gluten/wheat, dairy intolerant. Last few months noticed potatoes and peppers were causing me to rush to the bathroom and have brain fog/irritability.

    Have cut them out and I now feel far better. Going to continue on a nightshade free diet for a few months and see if that improves my overall health.

    • comment-avatar
      Jane Barthelemy January 26, 2022 (12:19 am)

      Hi Martin, thanks for your comment. That’s a very good idea to test yourself by removing the possible culprits. We humans are quite complicated. It seems unsoaked seeds cause irritation in the gut. I never eat nightshades, flour, or GMO’s. Dairy is fine for me if the cows are grass-fed, which is their natural diet, not GMO grains! This has eliminated most of my allergies. Carry on with your research. Best wishes for your delicious health! Jane

  • comment-avatar
    Jo December 28, 2021 (6:19 am)

    Hello Jane, I suffer from digestive issues that are hard to pin down, even the low fodmap diet is not working, I’ve eaten a lot of nightshades mainly potato tomato and peppers this week and symptoms got much worse, even if the’yre all low fodmap. Im White-European descendant. My question is, how long do you think it would take to see improvements if I quit all nightshades?

    • comment-avatar
      Jane Barthelemy December 28, 2021 (5:43 pm)

      Hello Jo, Every person’s digestion is unique. Your body holds a history of everything you ever ate, every thought you ever had, and it remembers every illness and every microbiome you’ve ever been in contact with. So these diet rules we use are general approximations and may not be right for you all the time. I find the only way to maintain my health and physical equilibrium is to listen and be aware, and then to make my own personal adjustments. It’s not a simple matter of following a formal diet. I am usually sensitive to nightshades, especially if I eat a lot of them. I am mostly of white European descent too, and we tend to sometimes have reactions to nightshades. However if I am emotionally balanced, they don’t bother me very much. IF I’m upset about anything or there’s stress in my life, my reactions will be more pronounced. So, to answer your question – if you remove nightshades from your diet, the improvement may be immediate, or it may take some time for your gut to heal gradually. Remember there are many factors that come together in your symptoms. You may have to slowly correct all the offending factors in your health before you’ll feel really good. That is what we want, to heal completely. For me it is a lifetime process to learn my personal digestive-metabolic-emotional patterns and ride the waves as I progress toward better and better inner balance. My situation took about 10 years to heal. The ONLY way to heal, in my view, to love yourself, respect yourself enough to learn to know your body mind and spirit. And such a fun way to live with awareness! Yes! Really fun! Best wishes for your delicious health! Jane

  • comment-avatar
    Rita August 30, 2021 (8:36 am)

    Appreciate info. Do u have info on elderberry. Heard good things about benefits. After purchasing CBD elderberry gummies to help with arthritis pain knee issues and lupus, read that elderberry may intensify auto-immune symptoms. I only took one gummy and stopped immediately a week ago. I can’t take them back since I opened the jar and will toss. After being so careful not to consume nightshade and going vegan, I wish labeling will step up in the industry. I realize we have to be proactive as much as possible but elderberry industry should be as vocal with warnings. Your info on nightshade helpful.

    • comment-avatar
      Jane Barthelemy September 12, 2021 (7:55 am)

      Hi Rita, thanks for your comment. I know of no contra-indications for elderberry. If you’re doing elderberry for health reasons, I’d go for the 100% pure berry. Take care, as Gummies might be very high in sugar. That could certainly exacerbate any negative reactions you might have. Be well and best wishes for your delicious health! Jane

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