The Nightshades Dilemma
Diet and nutrition are an ongoing, unresolved issue for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Research has not yet determined one answer and I wonder if it is because there is no one answer. I wonder if individual genetic and other differences between people and the variation of the RA experience mean that there is no single answer that would help everybody.
Can nightshades worsen RA symptoms?
What are nightshades?
With this in mind, I often wonder about nightshades. This is a class of plants that includes not only plants poisonous to people (such as belladonna), but other delicious vegetables like potatoes (except sweet potato), tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. In fact, I also learned that tobacco is a nightshade and negative health consequences from tobacco use have been well-researched.
How can consuming these foods aggravate RA symptoms?
Over the years, different people have suggested that I avoid nightshades due to my rheumatoid arthritis. Some believe that the alkaloids (a type of chemical compound) may aggravate the gut and the stimulate the immune system, causing more pain and inflammation for people living with rheumatoid arthritis. However, the research is not conclusive.
To make things more complicated, nightshades can also be nutritious and provide good health support because of the vitamins and nutrients they contain. In my case, I absolutely love some nightshades.
Switching up my diet
Previously, I have tried eliminating nightshades from my diet and I did not notice a difference in my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Guidance suggests that it may be worth a try for RA patients to eliminate nightshades for at least 2-3 weeks and track your symptoms to see if any changes occur. I have to believe that every individual is unique and so it may be useful for people with rheumatoid arthritis to try different diets under the supervision of their doctor and a nutritionist.
I have found that while I like potatoes (white or red), I do not like eggplant. In fact, eggplant makes me feel a little ill. And while I do like peppers, they do not always like me. I have to eat small amounts of peppers when I do eat them—and be very careful about hot peppers as I find the heat to increase my sensitivity.
While I don’t think I have a wholesale problem with nightshades, I do have some sensitivities. I cannot say that they aggravate my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, but I do try to be thoughtful about how much I eat and make sure that I have a variety of other vegetables to round out my diet.
How to eliminate nightshades
Talk to a doctor first
If you do try to eliminate nightshades, it is important to do it under the guidance of a medical expert.
Track changes over enough time
Giving sufficient time is also important because nightshades need to clear from your system before you can genuinely assess any changes in your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. It can help to keep a daily journal when you start to keep track of how you feel and any changes you may notice.
Slowly reintroduce nightshades after
When you decide to reintroduce nightshades, it may be a good idea to do it slowly and one at a time to track any changes. For example, try potatoes for a few weeks, see how you feel, then move on to adding the next vegetable. If you take the time of testing the effect of nightshades on your rheumatoid arthritis, be sure to do it right so that you don’t regret any hasty decisions or second-guess the test.
While the role of nightshades and their interaction with rheumatoid arthritis is unclear now, hopefully, future research will help to clarify. In the meantime, we need to follow the clues our bodies provide because everyone is different and may be affected differently by various foods or environmental factors.
After the past 2+ years, how do you feel about telehealth appointments to manage your RA?