The Paleo diet restricts the consumption of a variety of foods. One specific type of food that is regularly restricted among Paleo enthusiasts are nightshades, which include both tomatoes and peppers. In this article, we will discuss what nightshade vegetables are, why they might be bad for you, and why it would be best to avoid consuming them on the diet.
What Are Nightshades?
Nightshades are a variety of species of flowering plants. There are over 2,300 unique species within the nightshade family1. A majority of the species found in the nightshade family are completely inedible and are in fact poisonous. The biggest reason why nightshades are a big problem when consumed is due to their high glycoalkaloid content. Unfortunately, glycoalkaloid can be very destructive to the digestive system when consumed, especially in large quantities. In fact, it has been shown to have low-level toxicity patterns and properties that can cause significant health problems when consumed over a long period of time. In fact, even at low doses, it has been shown to promote gastrointestinal disturbances including vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain2.
What Are Alkaloids and Why Are They Bad?
Alkaloids are chemical substances that act as natural protection for plants. They work much like a natural pesticide to protect the plant from potential intruders3. After all, plants had to evolve just as we did. There are different kinds of distinct alkaloids in the Solanaceae family which include steroid alkaloids which is the alkaloid that is regularly found in foods classified as nightshades. These specific alkaloids have been shown to be detrimental to health for a variety of reasons. Not only have they shown to cause inflammation throughout the body, but they have also been shown to lead to numerous other health ailments, including respiratory problems4.
Why Should You Avoid Tomatoes and Peppers?
Tomatoes and peppers are both classified within the nightshade family. It is recommended to avoid consuming tomatoes on the Paleo diet because they have been proven to cause and/or lead to a syndrome known as the ‘leaky gut syndrome.’ The reason it causes this is due to tomatoes featuring a glycoalkaloid known as ‘a-tomatine.’ The consumption and digestion of A-tomatine are one of the biggest causes of increased intestinal permeability, which is a major precursor to a variety of different digestive disorders5. In fact, studies have shown that potato consumption can aggravate intestinal inflammation in those that suffer from inflammatory bowel disease6.
Some Are Extremely Sensitive To Nightshade Foods
While some people might be able to get away with consuming nightshade vegetables high in these harmful alkaloids without suffering from short-term symptoms, they are still recommended to avoid them. This is especially true if you are someone that suffers from a specific sensitivity to them. A lot of people suffer from stomach discomfort and other digestive problems after consuming nightshade plants. Along with this, some suffer from joint pain after eating them in large quantities. This is why those that suffer from various inflammatory diseases are told to specifically stay away from consuming them at all.
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While some Paleo supporters have a much more favorable outlook of including nightshades in your diet, many people currently dealing with any sort of digestion disorders or diseases are specifically advised to avoid them at all costs. This includes those that either suffer from various digestion issues, specific nightshade food sensitivities, and those that might suffer from one of the many autoimmune diseases or conditions that could be negatively triggered by the consumption of nightshade foods. There is still a lot more research to be done on nightshades and their potential impact on the digestive system and the body as a whole. However, there is enough information showing the potential negative health impact of consuming nightshade foods high in alkaloids.
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