Nightshade foods and intolerance

by | Mar 24, 2014


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…


  1. Maria@Savory Nature

    I understand what you’re going through. My daughter was recently diagnosed with tomato allergy and I think she may be nightshade sensitive, although she really doesn’t want to consider that possibility – she’s also gluten-intolerant, and allergic to dairy, soy and peanuts. Her attitude about nightshade is she’s already got enough restrictions and doesn’t want to deal with that one, but she did see a reduction in joint pain when we tried a nightshade-free diet. Anyway, I have found a very good tomato substitute that is made from beets, carrots, onion and garlic – tastes amazingly like the real thing. I’ve used it to make marinara sauce and barbecue sauce. If you search nightshade at my blog, Savory Nature, you’ll find the recipes. Also lots of wheat and dairy free recipes there.

    • Nicola Young

      I will definitely do that. Thanks for getting in touch.

  2. Bethany Hatheway

    I never knew potatoes could be so evil. I guess I learned something today :p

    • Nicola Young

      Ha, yes evil, especially when they are made in to big fat chunky chips and placed in front of me. It’s a case of to hell with the intolerance then!

  3. Jenny

    Glad you figured it out. Allergies are so hard to work around. My son has severe deadly allergies to things and it’s a nightmare reading packages and trying to find alternatives while his sister can eat anything and everything. I wish I knew more about these to lend advice or help. Sorry. But so glad you are feeling better and it’s getting a handle on it now. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me linky and introducing me to you and your lovely blog. Always great to meet other bloggers and get to read a variety of things. Another round of Share With Me starts tomorrow. Hope to see you again soon. #sharewithme

    • Nicola Young

      Thanks and I would love to share more posts. Equally, if you enjoy writing fiction and would like to share some short stories with me, I do a link up every Friday, called Friday Fiction.

      • Jenny

        Thank you I will keep that in mind! 🙂


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