The Nightshades Dilemma

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.

I often wonder about 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.

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.

Potatoes are one of my favorite foods!

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.

I do have some sensitivities.

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.

If you do try to eliminate nightshades, it is important to do it under the guidance of a medical expert. 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. 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 examples, 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.

We need to follow the clues our bodies provider.

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (19)
  • jane
    2 years ago

    We try and follow a Mediterranean diet,which has lots of tomatoes, capsicums etc, mainly for reasons of cholesterol plus it suits us as we both like the foods. I try and avoid potatoes, prefer sweet anyway. I am not sure if it changes my RA symptoms but having good heart readings must help my autoimmune system and general well being. I try not to over obsess, although plenty of advice from friends etc that i nod and say mm, okay.
    I think anything in moderation and not too much processed food and enjoy.

  • KarenG.
    2 years ago

    My entire diet is based on nightshade veggies and meat…. That is how my husband’s cultural diet is…. Is there truly a diet for RA?

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi KarenG., unfortunately diet and nutrition for RA doesn’t have one simple answer. It’s about experimenting, working with your doctors, and finding what works best for you. Here’s some information that may be helpful: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/diet-and-nutrition/. Best, Kelly

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Karen, good question! There is not a lot of scientific agreement on the impact of diet and no feeling that one single diet option is best for RA. Here’s some information on nutrition and diet that may be helpful: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/diet-and-nutrition/. In my personal experience, I have found it helpful to experiment with diet under the guidance of my doctors and a nutritionist. While it hasn’t been a cure, it has been helpful for health management. Best, Kelly

  • GingerS
    2 years ago

    I have found eliminating carbohydrates and white sugar. Or really any kind of sugar does help with my pain level. I just visited my Dr the other day. She recommended less sugar and carbohydrates. As I have been having a difficult time with planter facsitis in my right heel. Two days later my pain has been reduced signifiantly. Still have some pain. But at least I can walk better now.
    Everyone is different. But so far this has helped me.
    P.S I do miss my carbs!! Potatoes, bread, breading ect.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi GingerS, thanks for sharing! I have heard other stories similar to yours so totally agree that is can help to experiment and find out if dietary changes are useful for improving symptoms. Of course, it’s also a good idea to do it in consultation with a doctor or nutritionist, like you did. Glad you are feeling better! Best, Kelly

  • RA Cellist
    2 years ago

    I did notice a lot of improvement with my RA symptoms when I went Gluten Free a few years ago. A couple months ago I took this a step further and went Grain Free … no rice, oats, no more gluten free pasta/cereal/crackers/bread. Since I took this additional step I feel so much improved and I am taking less medicine. I do spend more time with food preparation but it’s been worth the effort (see the “Grain Brain” books for info). I will try to be more aware of the nightshade family, and track any noticeable effects. I used to be highly longer skeptical of the food trends, but no longer!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Congrats RA Cellist! Glad dietary changes have helped to reduce your symptoms. Just goes to show that trying diet changes can be useful for RA management. Best, Kelly

  • Patricia
    2 years ago

    I eat tomatoes most every day of my life; they don’t seem to bother me and my RA at all. However, I don’t overeat anything, really. Small amounts may be the way to go. I eat potatoes now and then, not every day or even every week. Peppers are big thing for me; I love them (hot ones, mostly) and eat them often. Maybe the answer is that it depends on your body’s natural way of dealing with these veggies. In fact, I eat what I want, just in moderation. My diet is mostly veggies, fruits, cheeses, some fish; never red meat (I just plain do not like that item at all!). Good luck.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, Patricia. Sounds like you have a good balance for your body. Totally agree that moderation and all-round balanced diet helps with health management. Regarding peppers, I have found it interesting that some research suggests certain spicy foods are good for RA in moderation. Cheers, Kelly

  • Kat
    2 years ago

    One thing worth trying is the Autoimmune Protocol (or Autoimmune Paleo) elimination diet. It’s pretty strict, and nightshades are one of the things it eliminates for a period (at least 30 days) before being reintroduced one at a time to track your symptoms.

    I have just started and will let you know how it goes.

    More info: http://www.phoenixhelix.com

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Kat! Please do keep us posted! Best, Kelly

  • Lauren Tucker moderator
    2 years ago

    Kat,
    Thanks for sharing this with our community. While we like to keep in mind that different treatments and lifestyle changes work for different people we appreciate you sharing the link with our community.

    Please come back and let us know how you are doing.
    Best, Lauren (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • suann
    2 years ago

    Doctors say smoking is bad for us, with ra or not…I quit almost 11 years ago. I had less inflamation then I do now.. My ra is untreatable now, has been for a long time. I did find if I slow the sugar intake and stay have way gluten free it is better, I am in pain 24/7, I am crippling, I will eat what I want WHEN I want it, I cut the sugar intake and seen results, can’t give up my fruits and veggies…

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Sorry to hear about your RA struggles. Hope that a healthy balanced diet supports you through these troubles. Take care. Best, Kelly

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    2 years ago

    One of the difficulties with nightshade vegetables is that many have larger amounts of carbohydrates. Yes, I know that is why I love them so much. Unfortunate my Blood sugar does not.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks thegallopinggrandma! Glad you found the article helpful. Keep on pushing and hoping you feel better! 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Good points Rick! Yes, they can be yummy but make our bodies unhappy. Be well. Best, Kelly

  • thegallopinggrandma
    2 years ago

    Hi Kelly, I found your article really interesting and shall give your suggestions a go. I did find, however, that after I was put on Humira ten years ago that I went off red meat and alcohol ! It just doesn’t take right is the best way I can explain it ! The thing I find most difficult is to loose weight when I cannot walk very far due to pain in my back/knee/feet/hip or a combination of all four !! But I am pushing on regardless and hope the change of season will put a new ‘spring’ in my step !!

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