Should I be Gluten-free and Nightshade Free?
People with Celiac Disease often don’t find relief after simply following a gluten-free diet. This can be for a variety of reasons. Often people with Celiac ask themselves if they should follow a nightshade-free diet too.
What are Nightshades?
You might know nightshades to be toxic plants that you shouldn’t eat; think 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.
What is a Nightshade Free Diet?
A nightshade free diet is just that, a diet free of nightshades.
Foods to Avoid on a Nightshade Free Diet
- Potatoes (not sweet potatoes)
- Eggplant (aubergines)
- Peppers (bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos)
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chili Pepper Flakes
- Curry Powder
- Goji Berries
Dishes that Often Feature Nightshades
- Hot Sauce
- Spice Blends (curry, garam masala, Chinese five spice, steak seasoning)
- Tomato based soups (chilli)
- Tomato based sauces ( pasta Sauce, pizza Sauce)
- Anything with “spices” as an ingredient
- Hummus (often has paprika and possibly other offending spices)
- And more….
Signs and Symptoms of a Nightshade Sensitivity
A nightshade sensitivity means that your body is unable to efficiently process 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
- Digestive upset
When Should you Follow a Nightshade Free Diet
Following a gluten-free diet involves an incredibly restrictive lifestyle. Adding 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 first and foremost this post is not to take the place of individualized nutrition and medical professional provided advice. Most definitely consult your doctor and dietitian on whether or not a nightshade free diet is for you.
However, some things to consider when deciding if you should follow a gluten-free and nightshade free diet:
- 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?
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!
Are you choosing to follow a gluten-free and nightshade free diet? Here are some nightshade free recipes I have developed that you might enjoy!