Nightshades and Pain – What’s the Connection?

Some people have heard about and avoid these common food items known as nightshades while others have never heard a single warning about their potential for delivering pain.  When we review a person’s case for treatment of pain with Primal Reflex Release Technique, we do take a close look at the individual’s diet and would like now to use this platform to better inform people about these foods and why when you are dealing with pain, adjusting your diet is definitely something you will want to try.

What are Nightshades exactly?

There are over 2800 species of nightshade plants (more accurately plants, herbs, shrubs, trees and foods) and each has its own unique properties and constituents.  What is common to this impressive list of plants is that each belongs to the scientific family Solanaceae, commonly refered to as solanine, and to the scientific order Polemoniales.  The nightshades that most people have heard of are part of the pharmaceutical family and include mandrake, tobacco and belladonna, but the truth is that may common and popular food items are also part of the nightshade family and in a person sensitive to solanine, these foods could be the answer for unexplained chronic pain.

So what’s the Story with Nightshades and Pain?

As we said in the previous section, foods, herbs and drugs in the nightshade family are really only an issue for individuals with sensitivity to solanine.  More specifically, it is the alkaloids in these items that can impact the nerve-muscle function of the body, compromise joint function as well as digestive function in humans.  Chronic joint pain unassociated with injury or illness may be the result of alkaloid sensitivity.  People with chronic joint pain and arthritis may want to remove alkaloid foods from their diet to determine if these foods are playing a role in their chronic pain.  The level of alkaloids in nightshade foods is much lower than what can be found in nightshade herbs and plants used for pharmaceuticals.  The cooking of nightshade foods actually lowers the level of alkaloids even more.  This is why most people aren’t affected by the ingestion of nightshades in prepared foods, but there still remains a portion of the population who remain sensitive to even the lowest levels of alkaloids found in the cooked and raw versions of some foods.

Which Foods are Nightshades?

The first group of nightshades can be found as fruits and vegetables.  These include:  Potatoes, tomatoes, certain species of hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, ground cherries, tomatillos, garden huckleberry, pepinos, naranjillas, pimentos.  To expand on this list though, you must consider all potato based items such as chips, knishes, some potato breads, soups and vodka.  The same is also true of tomato where it is used in ketchup, seasonings, baked beans and about a million other foods.  Peppers as well are hidden in the broad spices category on many package labels.  There is a new concern about soy products that are being genetically modified with the petunia gene which is a nightshade; purchase organic if you plan to eat soy products. 

Also under the nightshade category you will find many common spices including paprika, red pepper, cayenne and tabasco sauces.  These spices may also be hidden in that broad “spices” category on some ingredient lists. 

Getting More Specific About Alkaloids, Nightshades and Pain

While the effects of alkaloids and nightshades on joint pain isn’t as concrete as the evidence of their effect on the nervous system, it is still believed to be a valid recommendation to test the removal of alkaloids from one’s diet and prescriptions to help eliminate or relieve chronic pain especially in people with joint pain and arthritis.  Still in the research stages, there is evidence to indicate a connection between potato alkaloids and damage caused to joints by inflammation and an altered mineral state.  Some research has also shown that there is a connection between alkaloids and an excessive loss of calcium from bone and of disproportionate deposits of calcium in soft tissue. 

If you are visiting our Primal Reflex Release Technique page because of chronic pain we strongly advise you to take a look at your diet as well as contacting us for a consultation.  The answer to your pain may be in what you eat.  Anyone suffering from joint pain should try to eliminate nightshades from their diet for one month and see if there is any change in the level of pain.