Nightshades and Fibromyalgia: The Possible Link

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You may have read that certain foods can trigger or contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms and flares. I myself have certainly found this to be true with sugar, dairy and nightshades. This article will explain a little into why that might be, some research about nightshades and fibromyalgia and what to do if you think you might be nightshade sensitive.

What are Nightshade Vegetables?

Nightshade vegetables refer to a family of food from the ‘Solonaceae’ group. On of the main components of a nightshade vegetable is an alkaloid called solanine. Solanine is naturally produced by the vegetable as a defence mechanism to predators.

With over 2,000 species, not all edible, the most common edible nightshades are:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Paprika
  • Eggplant
  • Chillis
  • Tobacco (although not edible)

What makes Nightshades a Concern for People with Fibromyalgia?

Like any food sensitivities, one person, with fibromyalgia or not, eating a nightshade may be totally unaffected. Most people who do not suffer with an inflammatory or autoimmune condition can happily eat nightshades without any problems.

A study has suggested that when you eat a nightshade vegetable, the solanine is stored in the body and released during times of stress.

One study found that 50% of people with fibromyalgia demonstrated reactions to nightshades. It has also been suggested that solaine, the alkaloid found in nightshades, irritate the gastrointestinal tract and affect neurotransmitters, which may explain why pain levels are heightened after eating nightshades.

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What Does all this Mean?

Speaking from my own experience, if I eat something from the nightshade family, I have a negative reaction within a few hours, typically lasting a couple of days. Anecdotally, many other people with fibromyalgia report similar findings.

Although there are many commonalities from person to person with fibromyalgia, there doesn’t seem to be a ‘one size fits all’ so you will need to determine if you are sensitive to nightshades.

How Do I Find out If I’m Sensitive?

Consider a 30 day elimination diet to see for yourself if there is a link between nightshades and your condition exists.

Cut out nightshades from your diet for one month and slowly introduce them, one a time, three or four times over a two day period. Then allow yourself 72 hours to see if your symptoms return/worsen. A food diary during this time may be beneficial.

Be aware of bulking agents in processed food which often contain potato starch. If you are a smoker, nicotine is a nightshade so if you are really going to give a nightshade elimination diet a go, you will need to stop smoking.

If you’re thinking (quite justifiably) well, what CAN I eat? I have listed a few alternatives to common nightshades.

Nightshade Alternatives:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Pepper and ginger as an alternative to ground nightshades such as paprika
  • Zucchini/Courgette
  • Beetroot
  • Butternut Squash

Is it Worth It?

If you find that you are sensitive to nightshades, initially it will take some time to adjust to this change and can be difficult. However, if you find a relief from your symptoms/prevention of flares, it might just be worth it!

NOTE: If you are considering trying the elimination diet, it is advised that you consult a health practitioner first.

If you have tried eliminating nightshades from your diet, I would love to hear from you.

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