Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.
Not just a random list of food, they are all part of the same group, the nightshades, along with the spices, cayenne and paprika.
First thoughts when it comes to nightshades may well be the age old poison, ‘deadly nightshade’ but whilst this food group is not deadly, it might surprise you to know that in some individuals it can cause problems.
Nightshade foods contain alkaloids, particularly steroid alkaloids. For individuals who are sensitive to these compounds, common symptoms can manifest themselves as joint or muscle pain/stiffness, skin rashes or digestive discomfort.
I have known for some time that I am intolerant to nightshades and should avoid eating these foods. But I have one major problem, I love food. I love all sorts of food, I’m not fussy and up until recently I was eating nightshade foods without even realising that they were making me ill.
My symptoms first manifested as an allergic reaction to tomatoes, when my lips swelled and I looked like I’d had a collagen injection. This was a one-off occurrence, though, so I didn’t think too much of it at the time.
Then came the IBS, which has crippled me for years, along with the urticaria rash that covered most of my torso at the end of every single day. It is surprising what you can live with, though and I learned to accept that something in my diet was causing me problems, but because it wasn’t life threatening and I couldn’t identify any one particular culprit, I didn’t pursue it.
But on learning about the possible affects of the nightshade group, I realised that it was time to cut them out of my diet and see what happened. And when I did, the difference that it made was staggering. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, but it was. After all, these are not the usual suspects associated with intolerance and they all seem harmless enough. But the effects were confirmed when I reintroduced them back in to my diet. In particular, the allergic skin reaction, which is similar to nettle rash.
A life without nightshades is a bit tricky. I mean, what’s a salad without the red bits? All that’s left is cucumber and lettuce, which isn’t so interesting or tasty. Thankfully I can live without potatoes, having swapped them for sweet potatoes, which are not directly related. But when it comes to feeding a family, the humble tin of tomatoes has always been my friend. Bolognese or pasta sauce, lasagne, even casseroles, it has always been there to add flavour and colour. This is where I struggle most and I find that I will still use tomatoes for a sauce despite knowing the consequences.
My aim, now, is to find suitable alternatives so that I can banish nightshades from our diet once and for all, without feeling as though I am settling for second best. The only set back I have is fitting it in to the wheat free and dairy free diet that I have to allow for my son, but that is another story altogether…