Nightshade Veggies: Are Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers & Eggplant Safe For Gut Issues?
Can’t imagine a life without tomato sauce, mashed potatoes, eggplant parm or stuffed peppers? Many people have eliminated nightshade vegetables because they are thought to exacerbate digestive disorders. But is there a way to consume nightshades without triggering symptoms?
The famed cardiologist-turned nutrition expert, Steven Gundry, M.D., titled the first chapter of his book, The Plant Paradox, “The War Between Plants and Animals.” In this chapter, the good doctor claims that when thousands of his patients heeded his advice to eliminate all seed-containing vegetables including cucumbers, tomatoes (a nightshade) and squash from their diet, their health drastically improved.
And the reason why Gundry’s patients prospered when following this tip as well as equally counter-intuitive bits of health advice is because many vegetables that we regard as the healthiest, contain substances that harm us.
“We’ve been glossing over this paradox for literally ten thousand years,” Dr. Gundry writes in the first chapter of the Plant Paradox.
Everybody knows that gluten is the poster-child, er, poster-food of harmful plant substances.What fewer people realize is that the nightshade family of vegetables, so-called because they are shade-grown and flower at night, contain these harmful substances.
The broad category of chemicals that can cause bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, brain fog, stomach ulcers and other symptoms is called “lectins.”
And what these harmful substances include are chemicals that plants use to defend themselves from voracious insects, parasites, fungi and as it turns out, us.
The nightshade veggies represent what Dr. Gundy refers to as the plant paradox. On the one hand, nightshades are very nutrient-dense and rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. But they’re also high in lectins and other compounds that can break down the mucosal barrier of the intestine.The mucosal barrier is what prevents toxins and undigested food particles from leaching into the bloodstream. Autoimmune disease can develop when the tight junctions of the intestinal mucosal barrier break down.
What are nightshade vegetables?
The one nightshade veggie you probably don’t have to worry about because you’re already health-conscious is tobacco. But the most popular plants on the nightshade list are regarded by most people as healthy. The main nightshades are:
- Potatoes (White and red)
- Peppers (chili, bell, etc.)
Some people avoid nightshades even if they don’t have joint problems. For example, the ageless, greatest of all time (GOAT) quarterback, Tom Brady, eschews nightshades.
You may have heard that consuming nightshades can exacerbate joint problems, especially autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
But if Tom Brady doesn’t already have gut or joint issues, can he and others like him that don’t suffer from GI problems have nightshades, or are they smart to just say no? (In all fairness to us mere mortals, nobody else can be GOAT like TB.)
Are nightshade veggies bad?
If you are to believe the National Arthritis Foundation (obviously, arthritis is a disease manifested in the joints), nightshades are perfectly fine to eat. On the Foundation’s website is an article titled, “Arthritis Food Myths.”
But there’s actually at least one research study that contradicts the Foundation’s statement.
“Nightshade vegetables aggravate arthritis'' is one of the myths listed. The Foundation explains the myth, stating: “Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers contain the chemical solanine, which some blame for arthritis pain. No research backs this claim. Veggies are good for overall health.”
The researchers even stress that it’s been known for over two centuries that nightshades contain harmful compounds.
A 2014 study published in Phytochemistry says that the steroidal alkaloids in nightshade vegetables “are considered anti-nutritional factors because they affect the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food and might even cause poisoning.”
In his book, “Arthritis — Childer’s Diet Stops It!,” Dr. Childers makes the anecdotal claim that based on 50,000 case histories of people who swore off nightshades for an extended period of time, “Cooperators [of the nightshade-free diet] have recovered completely or shown marked improvement, some leaving canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.”
Another health expert who recommended avoiding or limiting nightshades was Dr. Norman Childers, who passed away at age 100 in 2011. Childrers, in 2008, was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Horticulture Science (ASHA) and founded the Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation.
Dr. Childrens continues the claim that, like he eventually did, “these people may live to 100 Years!”
The leaves of raw nightshade plants contain toxins. Hypothetically, if humans or pets consumed these leaves in large quantities, it could prove to be fatal.
Can nightshades be eaten safely?
In a video with grainy audio, Miracle Noodle founder, Jonathan Carp, MD, offers some good news to those who can’t imagine a life without tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers.
Dr. Carp suggests that there are ways to prepare nightshades that greatly eliminate lectin content.
For example, in Italy, the traditional way of making pasta sauce involves removing the skins and seeds from the tomatoes.
As an interesting sidenote, Dr. Carp suggests that contrary to public opinion, tomatoes haven’t been consumed for that long in Italy.
If you don’t feel like removing the skin or seeds of nightshades, no worries. Dr. Carp recommends using a pressure cooker to eliminate the harmful lectins.
Still, if you continue to experience any of the aforementioned symptoms of nightshade consumption, it’s best to avoid them. The same is true for autoimmune disorders that manifest in the skin such as psoriasis.
If you have chronic inflammation, try eliminating nightshades and all lectin-containing produce for a minimum of six weeks. Then, you can introduce them one at a time, being careful to soak or pressure cook them to reduce the amount of gut-damaging lectins.
Yes, there is a war going on between plants and animals. Removing the seeds and the skin of nightshades, as well as cooking them in a pressure cooker, serves as a truce between humans and nightshades.