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Symptoms of Nightshade Sensitivity

What symptoms are associated with nightshade sensitivity? It’s a good question—and it’s also difficult to answer—because there are also related questions for which we don’t have clear answers.

Below I’ll list possible symptoms of nightshade sensitivity. But first we have to talk about the limits to that knowledge.

While individuals have identified nightshade sensitivity, nobody has, with certainty, identified which substances produced by the plant cause it. (See The Trouble With Nightshades. Maybe.) We have also not precisely determined which bodily systems might be directly affected, and which might be the result of secondary effects. (See Pulling It All Together — A Nightshade Sensitivity Hypothesis.) Different people may have different symptoms. The same people may have more than one sensitivity.

Put all of this uncertainty and complexity together and you can see why medical professionals might have their questions, and why some might rather avoid the whole issue.

I believe the evidence shows that for most people nightshades are, on the whole, beneficial. But nightshade chemistry is so diverse, and the biological pathways are so varied that it would actually be surprising if nobody suffered adverse effects. (See Nightshades—Just Side Effects?) This website assembles a body of knowledge that documents the many ways that nightshade chemistry may influence human health.

But when cause and effect are not properly understood, both sides of the equation start to feel a bit wobbly. That’s particularly true when we’re talking about general symptoms that could be the result of myriad causes.

For example: nightshades trigger migraines for some people. Yet we know that there are many kinds of migraines, and also many migraine triggers. And so on.

If you believe you might have a food sensitivity, perhaps the most important thing is for you to develop an intimate knowledge of your own symptoms. This may sound obvious. Yet how many of us live with low-level discomfort—particularly as we age? Stiffness and aches can creep up on us. That’s one of the things that we learn from chronic illness: that many people don’t understand that they’re uncomfortable until the pebble is out of the shoe.

If you are going to test your own body and your own diet for negative interactions, you need to catalog what hurts, and make an effort to rank the discomfort. Only then can you notice and possibly understand any changes you experience as you begin to explore identifying possible triggers and finding potential solutions.

Here are the primary symptoms that may be associated with nightshade sensitivity—and with food sensitivities generally:

  • digestive problems
  • gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort aka tummy pain
  • headaches
  • chronic sinus drainage
  • low energy
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • eczema
  • skin irritations
  • joint aches
  • asthma
  • weight gain
  • autoimmune issues

Yes, it’s a laundry list. Yes, it’s maddeningly non-specific.

Doctors writing in the 4th edition of the textbook Integrative Medicine1 say that elimination diets may be useful with patients:

  • who have “multiple symptoms but no clear diagnosis”
  • when diet is known to aggravate symptoms for an already diagnosed condition
  • where patients suspect sensitivity and may already be limiting their diets

Once you have a sense of your symptoms, you can read more about using an elimination diet to diagnose them here.

  1. page 849, Integrative Medicine []


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