Are Arthritis Sufferers More Sensitive to Nightshades?

If you have arthritis, chances are you’ve heard about nightshade foods. Some people believe that nightshade fruits and vegetables can worsen arthritis symptoms. But is it really true?

Here’s what you need to know.

Are Arthritis Sufferers More Sensitive to Nightshades?

Nightshades are a group of vegetables and plants that contain solanine. Solanine is a natural pesticide found in potatoes, tomatoes, cherries, eggplants, apples and other foods. It’s thought that solanine causes inflammation, damages the joints and triggers arthritis symptoms.

List of Nightshades

  • Potatoes (all colors)
  • Eggplants
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Tamarillos
  • Cherries
  • Huckleberries
  • Pimentos
  • Peppers (sweet and hot)
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Paprika (spice from pepper)

Nightshade Foods and Arthritis Flare-Ups

According to Kim Arrey, dietitian and author of The Complete Arthritis Health, Diet Guide & Cookbook, “There is absolutely no evidence that nightshades play any role in causing or treating arthritis.” In fact, some research even suggests that potatoes and tomatoes may actually reduce inflammation. What’s more, nightshade foods are packed with nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, fiber and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) like lycopene which can help fight heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Nightshade Allergy Symptoms in Adults

Although nightshade fruits and vegetables are not high on the list of allergenic foods, it’s possible that a small percentage of arthritis sufferers are more sensitive to nightshades. If you want to see whether nightshade foods are affecting your arthritis, try an elimination diet.

Start by removing all nightshade foods from your diet for at least two weeks and a maximum of one month. During this time, keep a food diary and monitor any changes in your arthritis pain. Do you feel better, worse or about the same? Slowly re-introduce one nightshade food at a time. Again, record any changes in your symptoms and pain. Wait at least four days before adding back another nightshade food.

Eating Guidelines for Arthritis

Eating a well-balanced diet can ease arthritis symptoms and pain. Arrey’s advice is to “focus on what to eat rather than what to avoid.” Her top three foods for managing arthritis are:

1. Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fats are healthy fats found in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, arctic char, mackerel and sardines. By helping to reduce inflammation, omega-3 fats can help ease arthritis pain.

The two most well studied omega-3 fats are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which have anti-inflammatory properties and contribute to healthy aging and disease prevention. Those who consume cold water fish (i.e. salmon, tuna, sardines) 2-3 times per week are likely meeting their omega-3 quota. For healthy adults who don’t consume cold-water fish at least twice a week, a high-quality supplement containing at least 500mg of EPA and DHA appears to be beneficial.

2. Fiber

Legumes and whole grains are fiber superstars which help to reduce markers of inflammation that are found in the blood. Instead of a steak supper, Arrey suggests having a bowl of fiber-filled vegetarian chili. And for breakfast, swap out puffed rice cereal for a bowl of whole grain oatmeal.

3. Fermented Foods

In the old days, fermentation was used primarily as a way to preserve food. Today our motivation has shifted to the pickling process as a gateway to better health. People with arthritis often have an imbalance in their gut bacteria. To keep your gut biome healthy feed it with fermented foods including yogurt, kefir, miso and sauerkraut.

Editor’s note: Consult with a Registered Dietitian to figure out which foods may be problematic for you and also to ensure that you’re not lacking any nutrients during an elimination diet.

About the Writer

Sue Mah

As a dietitian and chef’s daughter, Sue loves good food. She is President of Nutrition Solutions, focusing on nutrition for health/wellness. With generations of grandparents playing mahjong in their 90s, Sue is a cheerleader for healthy active aging.

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