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Nightshades: The Hidden Trigger

One of the more fun things for me to do in my practice, as a clinician, is help clients understand their #sensitivities to various foods, dyes, and chemicals. Not only do we identify sensitivities to avoid, but we can also identify foods that are not causing inflammation. This allows us to create a diet plan that initially includes only these non-sensitive foods and because this testing quantifies the inflammatory response, after we have healed the #gut to some degree, we can start to reintroduce the least inflammatory foods, one at a time, and noting what response the create in our bodies.

Four or five years ago now, I did this test on myself and was truly amazed at the outcomes. Apples were identified as my greatest sensitivity which I never would have figured out on my own. At the time I was eating an apple with peanut-butter every morning for breakfast, so I suspected this was just an over-exposure. However, I eliminated them for months and realized the breakouts that I seemed to have fairly regularly completely cleared up on my chest, shoulders and upper arms. In fact, I am not sure I had ever had such clear skin. Then I inadvertently ate a blueberry protein bar and had a horrible #acne outbreak on my arms and chest. After reading the label more clearly, I found apple was included as a preservative. Still, five years later, if I have a hint of an apple in anyway, I will suffer significant outbreak. As much as I love apples, they just aren't appealing to me anymore.

Through the years, clients have found paprika to be the cause of their blood sugar instability, coconut to be the cause of their rage, and bananas to be the cause of their insomnia. Many times people have had the assumption that diary is the cause of their irritable bowel, and certainly this is true in many cases, but other times it is limited to beef or pork. I've even discovered pork as a sensitivity and red dye so that neither of the two primary thyroid medications were a good fit for my client. This is sort of the challenge with elimination diets. #Gluten and diary are easy targets as they are two of the more common inflammatory foods but eliminating either of these can significantly disrupt someone's life. While minimizing them is likely beneficial for most anyone, completely elimination may not be necessary and ignoring the real trigger will continue to cause on-going inflammation.

The Dark Side of Nightshades

Nightshades are plants which include thousands of inedible plants, such as belladonna, and many which are edible, but still sensitive to many. Tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, chili peppers, cayenne pepper, paprika, and goji berries are among this list. If you have chronic disease or underlying inflammation, these foods can be very aggravating. Their high lectin content can irritate and damage your gut lining. Nightshades also contain glycoalkaloids, which are contributors to #leakygut and inflammatory bowel disease. For the plant, these components help them ward off pathogens and insects, but can also trigger our immune system when we eat them.

This may be more than a sensitivity and rather, more of an intolerance. Bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and joint pain can be the result of insufficient #enzymes to fully digest these foods. Our bodies become inflamed in response, creating a plethora of gastrointestinal issues. The real challenge is how ubiquitously they hide in our diet and the fact that sensitivities, unlike allergies, can take three days to present. You may not even remember eating chili peppers from three days ago or associate that with your current nausea.

Many clinicians will recommend completely elimination of nightshades, which may be the less expensive option right up front, but it seems a bit drastic to me. Eliminating red pepper flakes, chili powder, and curry powder as well as all the nightshades mentioned above and awaiting for results is not always productive, and even if it is, you still don't know which one was the culprit or if all were so you may restrict more than even necessary. You can start introducing them back into your diet again one at a time and see how your body reacts to it, but you may also be consuming other #inflammatory foods unknowingly and confuse results. My second most inflammatory food is goat's milk although my body does not create inflammation to #diary, cheese, or butter. Beef though will destroy me in a matter of minutes. In fact, my response is so clear that I can identify which restaurants are using real beef and which ones are mainly #soy.

Most often people will discover that some nightshades are more inflammatory to them than others. Potatoes for example have more #glycoalkaloids than tomatoes or eggplant, so you may be able to tolerate the latter more than the former. Others find they have a dose dependent response so they could potentially tolerate potatoes in a stew but have to avoid potato soup. Again, my preference is to test your sensitivities in a quantifiable way and identify those foods you are not inflammatory to so that when you eat only non-inflammatory foods, you will be certain the foods you reintroduce are causing your reactions. The hassle of changing one's diet is significant enough that I like to be sure rather than make guesses.

Nightshade Substitutions

There are a couple of tricks. If you find yourself sensitive to white potatoes, replace them with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, parsnips, and carrots. If you struggle after eating tomatoes, try apples, grapefruit, beets, or jicama. Eggplants can be replaced with portobello or shiitake mushrooms and seasons can be swapped for apple cider vinegar, olive tapenade, citrus zest and juice, fresh herbs, and coconut aminos.

Sweet potatoes are not in the nightshade family. We all know the power of cauliflower as a replacement for gluten or potatoes. I've even started grilling them up like steaks! Get creative! Know that as you change your diet and reduce your inflammation, your taste buds will change. You'll start to taste more simple ingredients. Salt and pepper may becomes sufficient. There are a number of creative recipes on Pintrest and books available for replacement recipes. Please share your favorites with me!

If you're interested in testing your sensitivities to foods, dyes, and chemicals, please connect with me! This is a lab I will also offer those who aren't members of Eden as I find it so rewarding and beneficial.

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