Skip to content

Do “Not So Deadly” Nightshades Cause Inflammation and Pain?

Nightshades Cause Inflammation - Deadly Nightshade
Deadly Nightshade – Belladonna

The headline question here, is do nightshades cause inflammation and chronic pain?  As with many topics in the health arena, there are many differing views. Today I’m going to share some of those along with a personal story of my experience with the nightshade family. But first…

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word nightshade?

For many, the immediate association is entirely negative. Deadly nightshade (belladonna) springs swiftly to mind. This lethal poison has been well-documented since the time of Shakespeare.

What are nightshades, exactly?

All members of the botanical family Solanacae are commonly known as nightshades. They share collective characteristics – the shape of the flower and the way in which the seed is arranged, for example.

There are over 2000 species in the nightshade family. Most of these are inedible and often actually toxic.

Here are some rather more pedestrian and non-poisonous examples:

Nightshades Cause Inflammation - Goji Berries
Goji Berries

[mk_custom_list style=”f06c” margin_bottom=”30″]

  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Spices made from peppers
  • Goji berries


As you can see, nightshades are actually not as exotic as the name might suggest. They also happen to form a core part of many diets.

Nightshades produce solanine. This is an alkaloid compound which is part of their natural defenses. Solanine poisons the nerves of any insect that tries to feast on the plant. It’s concentrated in the stems and leaves which is why we tend to avoid these parts of the above foods. We’ll look in more detail now at what danger these alkaloids can pose…

Who should be nightshade free and why?

If you have any kind of autoimmune disease then you should definitely give nightshades a swerve Click To Tweet

As the withered old chestnut goes, we are what we eat. This is particularly true when it comes to anyone with serious health issues.

nightshades cause inflammation - joint pain
Joint Inflammation

Equally as important as what we put into our bodies is what we choose not to put in.

There are over eighty different types of these diseases. The main and most typical typical sign presented is inflammation; the one constant of treatment is reducing this swelling, heat and pain.

Opinion varies with regard to the reason behind autoimmune complications and how nightshades cause inflammation. Some state that alkaloids are the sticking point while others point the finger in the direction of vitamin D.


Alkaloids found in these vegetables include solanine, traces of nicotine and capsaicin (a chemical responsible for the feistiness of peppers). These compounds work together while the plant is alive to stave off any pests or mold. They are poisonous by design.

For some people with healthy guts, eating negligible amounts of alkaloids is no big deal. For anyone who has a digestive system battered by an autoimmune disease, though, alkaloids can be highly troublesome. Many actually boost immune response which is the very last thing you need.

Nightshades cause inflammation - leaky gut
Digestive Tract

As a damaging side issue, alkaloids can also irritate the gut. Since their raison d’être is to kill, this murderous streak extends to your intestine. Alkaloids attack cells which line the intestinal
tract; this acts as the trigger for a nasty domino effect. Irritation can promote leaky gut and subsequently initiate an autoimmune reaction. Proteins escape into the bloodstream and are there attacked by the body.

Lectins can also be singled out as a possible culprit. Few foods are void of lectins but some act as irritants to the gut. Less is known for sure about these than alkaloids but it pays to err on the side of caution.

Vitamin D

Another theory to explain the blame laid at the door of why nightshades cause inflammation, exacerbate pain, and contribute to autoimmune problems, centers on vitamin D.

This particular vitamin is crucial for the development and formation of bones. The nightshade vegetables contain the extremely powerful vitamin D3. This is linked to the prevention of calcium being properly metabolized. Rather than calcium being deposited in the bones, it ends up in the soft tissue instead.

In animals, this has been proven to lead to extremely painful arthritis and inflammation of joints. There is less hard evidence with regard to humans but there’s certainly food for thought here.

The order of things:

Are some nightshades worse than others?

In a nutshell, yes!

Going from the most volatile downwards, the list runs like this…

[mk_custom_list style=”f06c” margin_bottom=”30″]

  • Chilies
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes


If you think about the heat produced by chilies, it’s not remotely surprising that this can provoke inflammation. Chilies top the table of the most harmful edible nightshades with just cause.

When thinking of ditching nightshades, use this list as a guide.

If there are some foods here that you feel you simply cannot do without and they are towards the lower end, consider keeping them as a very occasional treat if you do not notice any ill effects.

Think about which ones can be eliminated without causing you to feel deprived then exercise extreme caution with the remainder.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Margie or me if you want some clear advice on how best to initiate these dietary changes.

Common misunderstandings about nightshades: the pros and cons

 It would be fair to say that nightshades are somewhat misunderstood.

The principal misconception is that all of this family are toxic allergens which are highly inflammatory. As with many extreme views, this needs a little moderation…

Nightshades Cause Inflammation - Jimson Weed
Jimson Weed

It’s true that jimsonweed and belladonna are poisonous as are many of the other non-edible nightshades. Clearly, though, it’s wrong to tar all nightshades with the same brush. Sadly, they suffer from guilt by association.

Opinion is divided over whether nightshades should be completely shunned. A growing number of people are sidestepping them totally. Others point towards the beneficial antioxidants they contain and suggest temperance.

Bottom line: make an informed choice. With so many fruits and vegetables at your disposal, do you want to take a risk or play it safe? Weigh up the potential pros & cons.

A personal anecdote

[mk_blockquote align=”left”]When I lived in the UK, I experienced no joint pains whatsoever. Fit and healthy, I practiced martial arts four times a week.

Nightshades cause inflammation - Mark Burton
Mark Burton

Moving to Florida, with its warm and moist climate, there should have been no reason at all to suddenly start experiencing aches. But that was just what happened. And continued to happen for six months, on a daily basis.

With fitness levels and climate clearly not to blame, it was time to isolate certain foods. My wife Margie adores jalapeño peppers and they reared their heads in almost every meal from breakfast omelettes onwards. In England, by contrast, I had only been eating them irregularly, perhaps once a week or so.

After only three pepper-less days the aches had gone and have not returned since!

If you take the time to study this issue, you’ll see that my own experience is shared by many.[/mk_blockquote]


If you are experiencing any kind of autoimmune problems – specifically rheumatoid arthritis – then opting for a standard 30-day elimination process will be absolutely worthwhile. No damage will be done and you’ll potentially reap a shower of benefits.

For anyone not ultra-sensitive and not prepared to cast these vegetables completely aside, lowering the nightshade content of the diet might be sufficient. Proper preparation also helps. Make sure to peel all potatoes properly, completely avoid green tomatoes and cook all nightshade vegetables to bring down the alkaloid content.

You know your own body best so make the smartest choice for you. Click To Tweet

And the good news? Our site is packed with nightshade-free recipes just like our upcoming recipe book.  Choosing to eschew certain foods is no excuse at all for a lack of variety!

If you want personal 1:1 weight loss coaching along with our proven program and you think you have what it takes to really change for life… then book a FREE consultancy session with  Margie today click this link to contact us==>


Post Categories

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Subscribe to my mailing list

%d bloggers like this: