Gluten-free and Nightshade Free Diet

Should you follow a gluten-free and nightshade-free diet? Whether it’s for celiac or non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, many people feel better after going gluten-free. However, for some they don’t always feel better after going gluten-free and may need to look at other trigger foods. In this post we will talk about a gluten-free and nightshade-free diet and why you may want to follow it.

What are Nightshades?

You might know nightshades to be toxic plants that you shouldn’t eat; think plants like belladonna. However, many of the foods in our diet today are of the nightshade family as well.

As members of the Solanaceae family (commonly known as the nightshade family), a lot of foods in our diet feature chemical compounds that act as a naturally forming “bug killer”.

Essentially, these chemicals in the nightshade family foods act as a defense system for the plant. Killing any pests that might be trying to take a bite out of it.

However, edible nightshades, or nightshades found in our diet, have such low amounts of these toxic chemicals that they shouldn’t have any harmful impacts on humans. That being said, some do report not tolerating nightshades well.

Gluten-free and Nightshade Free Diet - What are Nightshades ​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

What is a Nightshade Free Diet?

A nightshade free diet is just that, a diet free of nightshades. That means a diet free from the following foods:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes (not sweet potatoes)
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers (bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos)
  • Gooseberries
  • Ashwagandha
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chili Pepper Flakes
  • Curry Powder
  • Paprika
  • Goji Berries

A following a gluten-free and nightshade free diet can be tricky as many common dishes feature nightshades. Dishes like hot sauce, ketchup, spice blends, soups, tomato or pepper based sauces, and other dishes.

Signs and Symptoms of a Nightshade Sensitivity

A nightshade sensitivity means that your body is unable to efficiently digest nightshades. This is not to be confused with a nightshade allergy, where your body launches an immediate allergic reaction to nightshade foods.

Likely, if you have a nightshade sensitivity, you lack the enzymes that allow you to digest these foods which in turn can lead to a variety of inflammatory symptoms. Some nightshade sensitivity symptoms include:

  • Joint pain / swelling / inflammation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Digestive upset
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

The only way to know if you have a nightshade-sensitivity is if you follow an elimination diet under the guidance of registered dietitian. It’s important you have the help of a dietitian to make sure you eliminate and reintroduce foods back in correctly so you can get to the root cause of your symptoms.

When Should you Follow a Nightshade-Free Diet

Following a gluten-free diet involves an incredibly restrictive lifestyle. Adding a nightshade-free diet to an already restrictive diet isn’t an easy decision to make.

Restrictive diets, in general, are stressful, exhausting, and often time-consuming. It involves reading food labels, relentlessly questioning restaurant staff, calling brands to ask about manufacturing processes, and so much more.

Needless to say, restrictive diets of any sort, aren’t easy. So should you follow a gluten-free and nightshade free diet too?

That depends. As always, this post is not to take the place of individualized nutrition and medical professional provided advice. Most definitely consult your gluten-free specialized dietitian to determine if you should also avoid nightshades. (Need a gluten-free specialized dietitian, Hi! Let’s chat!)

However, some things to consider when deciding if you should follow a gluten-free and nightshade free diet:

  • If you have celiac, have you had appropriate follow-up celiac disease testing?
  • Are you still experiencing GI symptoms months after going gluten-free?
  • Is your gut happy and healthy?
  • Does your current diet support a healthy lifestyle?
  • Can you manage an even more restricted diet?
  • Are you ready for another lifestyle change?
  • Do you have access to a health professional (like a dietitian) to help guide you through navigating other sensitivities?
  • Have you noticed feelings of discomfort that might indicate an intolerance after eating nightshades?

Something else to note is that if you have food sensitivities like a nightshade sensitivity, that they don’t always last forever.

Having a dietitian follow you on your healing journey can make sure that you’re assessing food tolerances as needs to make sure nothing can be added back in. And if foods can be trialed again, a dietitian can help you with that.

Should you be gluten-free AND nightshade free? Why avoid nightshades? Are nightshades really a problem? ​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

Tips on following a Gluten-Free and Nightshade Free diet:

First of all, know that you might not have to avoid all nightshades forever if you do go on a gluten-free and nightshade free diet. When following a nightshade free diet because of a sensitivity, there is a phase where people reintroduce nightshade family foods back into their diet to assess if they trigger a reaction. So not to fear, you might not have to be entirely nightshade free to reap the benefits of following a gluten-free and nightshade free diet.

Second, when following a nightshade-free diet and trying to find fun recipes you can try, it could be helpful to search AIP compliant recipes on top of nightshade free recipes. The AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet is both gluten-free and nightshade free so often these recipes will be compliant with your gluten-free and nightshade free needs.

Lastly, when following a nightshade free diet, find alternatives to nightshade foods that work for you. Missing white potatoes for instance? Try eating sweet potatoes or carrots instead!

And if you’re in an immediate need of nightshade and gluten-free recipes, below are a list of some of my favorites!

Need Help Identifying Food Intolerances?