Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Do nightshades make joint pain worse?
As a Naturopathic Doctor, the practice of medicine is a journey we take where each day brings new lessons. I recently had a patient who had been avoiding nightshades and seeing incredible improvement then, all of the sudden her joint pain increased. Upon a thorough review of her diet, she disclosed she had been adding goji berries to her smoothies at breakfast due to its high antioxidant and health benefits. Low and behold, Goji berries are part of the nightshade family.
Many people experience joint pain and inflammation also know as arthritis. We will typically disregard the pain with statements like my mother experienced this, or believe it is from over use or old age. It is not normal for our joints to ache and hurt on a regular basis and what you may not realize is that a family of food called nightshades can also be the culprit. Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family which includes over 2,000 accepted species that have health benefits however in some people they are toxic and may cause joint pain and inflammation. The most commonly eaten nightshades include some of the most popular foods consumed today, such as potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.), eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) and peppers (Capsicum sp.) of all kinds. Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) and Lycium AKA the Goji berry are less known nightshades. Some herbs and medicines are made from nightshades including Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) and some edible flowers like Petunias, however it is unlikely they are large part of your diet.
For a full list see www.theplantlist.org/browse/A/Solanaceae/.
If you are unclear on whether nightshades could be causing some of your joint pain, simply discontinue all nightshades for 3-6 months and see if your joint pain improves. If it improves considerably, which will happen in a high percentage of people, stop eating them. If you see no improvement, they may not have an effect on you and you should seek professional help to determine the cause.
New information has unlocked one of the possible culprits, glycoalkaloids found in many nightshades have been associated with irritating the intestinal lining and Irritable bowel syndrome. Naturoapthic Doctors have always known that anything affecting the gut can affect the rest of the body including skin and joints, now research is proving this theory.
List of Nightshade Vegetables (Solanaceae Family): Vegetables: Bell pepper (sweet pepper), Eggplant, Potato, Tomato, Tomatillo, Italian pepper. Chile pepper (Anaheim, Ancho, Cascabel, Chipotle, Fresno, Guajillo, Habañero, Jalapeño, Pasada, Pasilla, Pimiento / Pimento, Poblano, Serrano). Spices: Cayenne, Chili powder (some ingredients of), Curry (some ingredients of), Paprika Sauces: Ketchup, Tabasco Fruit: Goldenberry (Cape gooseberry), Goji berry, Pepino, Tamarillo. Other: Tobacco
Stephany Porter, ND, FABNO
The Bodhi Clinic