In treating arthritis, there may be a connection between eating foods in the nightshade family and pain as well as inflammation. It is well-worth learning what these foods are and experimenting through an elimination or reduction diet for a month to see if the pain and inflammation subsides. Eliminating nightshades may not work for everyone suffering from arthritis, but can well worth a try in the healing journey.

White potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers other than black pepper used as spice are all nightshades. Some spices are made from peppers and therefore are considered nightshades – paprika, crushed red chili peppers often used to flavor pizza and pasta dishes, and cayenne pepper in processed hot sauces and used as a spice in cooking. Nicotine also is a nightshade so reducing or eliminating smoking is well worth a try for more reasons that one when considering the impact of nightshades on arthritis.

Nightshades are all alkaloids and contain solanine, which is believed to lead to symptoms in humans while serving as a natural pesticide for plants. It is thought that alkaloids leach calcium from the bones and gets deposited in our soft tissues, leading to pain and inflammation. Alkaloids can also irritate our gut, resulting in inflammation and possible leaks, where undigested food can enter our bloodstream and result in food allergies.

Alkaloid content can vary, and is higher in uncooked vegetables, unripened vegetables, and the green spots that show up over time on white potatoes. It also is higher in the skin of potatoes. A good reason to store white potatoes in a dark place is to keep alkaloid levels minimal since they increase with light exposure. No worries if you like sweet potatoes as they are not considered a nightshade and you may want to substitute them for white potatoes in cooking.

Anne Marie Colbin, Ph.D., in her book,The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones,offers an interesting hypothesis that people eat an excess of nightshades in their diet to counterbalance their consumption of milk products, which she believes has more calcium than humans need. The nightshades will work to pull put calcium from bones and in this way balance calcium levels.

There is not a definitive understanding of those people with arthritis who will be especially sensitive to nightshades. Some sufferers try by experimenting with an elimination diet and at a minimum, a reduction diet. In a very informative article on nightshades (, it was reported that they “usually only affect people with arthritis who already have gut problems from autoimmune diseases, leaky gut, and related issues – that the minor irritation of alkaloids from edible nightshades is too much to handle.” There is still a lot to learn about how nightshades might affect the body, but for anyone suffering from arthritis, there is nothing to lose and possibly much to be gained from experimenting with a nightshade reduction or elimination diet. But as Paleo states the reduction or elimination diet may be more successful in arthritis suffers with simultaneous gut problems.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Photo- June Rousso