Through my own personal struggles with chronic pain and fibromyalgia, I began to discover foods, even healthy ones, could cause my pain to flare up. The hardest part about those of us that live with pain daily is that there is no one-size fits all plan. We are all unique and what works for one person does not work for another. Most of the foods and ingredients we should avoid are not truly surprising, but I have to admit I was surprised when I learned through my own research that I needed to be mindful of these vegetables. What are they?
You may be asking yourself what are nightshades exactly?
Nighshades are common fruits and vegetables that you may need to eliminate for your pain management. (Tweet This!)
Nightshades include fruits and vegetables that belong to the Solanaceae family, which includes over 2,000 species such as eggplant, all peppers, potatoes, tobacco and tomatoes. There are some fruits such as blueberries, huckleberries, goji berries and ashwaganda that are said to contain the alkaloids (fancy term that means naturally occurring compounds) that can induce inflammation. For a full list of nightshades, this is one of my favorite resources.
A study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery (1993) 12:227-231 by N.F. Childers, Ph.D. and M.S. Margoles, M.D. who are part of the Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation, found a link between nightshades and arthritis. They found that:
“Diet appears to be a factor in the etiology of arthritis based on surveys of over 1400 volunteers during a 20-year period. Plants in the drug family, Solanaceae (nightshades) are an important causative factor in arthritis in sensitive people.”
Although there is a lot of complexity involved, arthritis at its most basic level is inflammation in the joints. For those of us with health issues like chronic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and many others, inflammation is a huge problem. It’s even been said that inflammation is the root of most diseases, including heart disease and cancer. That’s why we need to implement strategies into our lives to help reduce inflammation as much as possible. One of those tools is through our daily consumption of beverages and food.
At the end of the day, nightshades have the ability to increase inflammation in our bodies. As I stated before we are all unique. For instance, I have found that tomatoes increase the frequency of my headaches and inflammation, which is devastating because I love tomatoes.
The best way to determine what works best for you is to test it out. Remove the nightshades from your daily food regimen for 30-60 days. Then slowly add one back in your diet for a couple of weeks making note of how eating that food makes you feel and if your pain increases. If you don’t think it impacts you negatively then continue to eat that food. Then add another one back into your diet for a couple of weeks and monitor how that makes you feel, so on and so on.
I know this sounds impossible, but it’s not. It’s worth it in the long run to determine what foods (yes even vegetables) that can possibly increase your pain. You might not be completely in control of your pain, but there are some things like diet and exercise that are in your control that can help you feel better. Test it out – what do you have to lose?