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Your diet could be causing you pain

Are nightshade vegetables the source of your inflammation

Nightshade vegetables could be the source of your inflammation

Nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant and peppers. All of these vegetables originated in the New World and were introduced to the Old World by the Spanish around the 15th and 16th centuries. Imagine there was once an Italy without the tomato, an Ireland without the potato, and an India without the hot pepper.  

Should you avoid nightshades?

The New England Patriots' quarterback, Tom Brady, received quite a bit of attention because of his unique diet. According to an article on Boston.com, Brady eats a plant-based diet. In addition, Brady avoids nightshade vegetables. Brady believes he will suffer from less joint pains, arthritis and inflammatory conditions by eliminating nightshade vegetables.

Nicole DeCaprio is a busy 37-year-old, mother of three from Dutchess County. DeCaprio says she began experiencing problems with gas, bloating, bouts of constipation and diarrhea and lethargy about five years ago. She saw various doctors and tried various treatments that did not really work. DeCaprio says she always had issues with peppers and eggplants but about a year ago began having issues with tomatoes as well. 

She thought she ate well, but when her doctor advised her to eliminate certain foods in her diet, DeCaprio realized just how much processed foods, meat, high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars she was consuming on a daily basis. DeCaprio discovered that she was lactose, sucrose, and fructose intolerant, and sensitive to nightshades.  

DeCaprio says that she eliminated all dairy, added natural sugars, certain fruits and meat. She began cooking more at home and experimented with new vegetables and cuisines. She feels much better today. She stays away from nightshades and instead eats the vegetables she can tolerate especially kale, Swiss chard, and collards.

READ MORE: Quick, healthy recipes

In a world filled with conflicting information about what to eat, this apparent issue with nightshade vegetables and inflammation has caused more confusion.

Change your diet, control your inflammation

Inflammation is a physiologic state that is one part of our immensely complex immune systems. Humans need both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory reactions to function appropriately. Inflammation, after all, is what fights invading pathogens and destroys early cancer cells. But inflammation also causes atherosclerosis and autoimmune problems.  

The typical Western diet, high in refined and processed foods, has too many inflammatory triggers and not enough inflammation suppressors. According to the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, a few studies have shown that people with autoimmune arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, have exacerbation of their symptoms when they consume nightshade vegetables.

The earliest mention of inflammation and nightshade vegetables may be found in Ayurvedic medicine which recommended limiting the intake of such vegetables in people suffering from excess heat, warmth, or inflammation. Ayurvedic medicine originated in India over 5000 years ago, before nightshades came to India. Therefore, it is no surprise that new plants like nightshades were viewed with some skepticism by Ayurvedic physicians.

Food intolerances and allergies could be to blame

Nightshade vegetables did not cause their rheumatoid arthritis. Rather, the true inflammatory agents in the typical Western diet are the added oils, sugar, refined grains, animal dairy, meat, and other chemicals. Traditional healthy diets of the past contained fresh ingredients, unprocessed grains and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  

READ MORE: Early signs of food allergies in children

Along with the rising rates of life-threatening food allergies to nuts, many people are suffering from food intolerances or sensitivities to foods like gluten, soy, corn, and nightshade vegetables. 

The scientific consensus is that the damage to our microbiome, the good bugs that cover our skin, line our air passages and reside in our intestines has severely altered many of our immune systems. Over sanitization, over use of antibiotics, increased cesarean sections, pesticides, and overly processed diets have dramatically altered our gut microbiome setting the stage for food allergies and sensitivities.    

The important concept to keep in mind is that our food needs to provide us with optimal health in the present day world. The world is a very different place nowadays from how it was 5000 years ago or 100 years ago. We all need to focus on making more of our own food from scratch, using a wide assortment of fresh greens, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, cutting out the added oils and sugar, and decreasing or even eliminating meat and animal dairy. For the vast majority of us, nightshade vegetables can and should be a part of a healthy, varied, plant-based diet. If you find yourself having sensitivities to foods, consider eliminating the real culprits in your diet, namely the processed foods, meat and animal dairy.  

For more information, read the book The Good Gut, by Justin Sonnenburg.  

Ditch the nightshades with this easy recipe!

Pasta with Beans And Greens
This recipe is so easy that it is my go to recipe even when we are on vacation.
  • One box of whole grain pasta
  • Five cloves crushed garlic
  • One box baby arugula,
  • spinach, or kale
  • One teaspoon olive oil
  • One can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red chili flakes (optional)
  • Nutritional yeast (optional)
Boil the box of whole grain pasta. In a separate skillet, add one teaspoon of olive oil and heat to high. Add garlic, greens, salt and pepper, beans, and two ladles of pasta water. Mix, cover and let cook until greens nicely wilted. Add chili flakes and nutritional yeast to taste, toss with pasta.

Padma Garvey is a local mom and doctor who follows a plant-based diet.