Foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant sometimes referred to as “nightshade foods” could be the cause of stiff joints, pain and inflammation.
As early as the 1940’s, Norman F. Childers, Ph.D. discovered the link between foods that share a botanical family and his own arthritic symptoms. “We have been working at this since about the late 1940s when I got onto the relationship with my own problem at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I was pushed by many people to ‘do something’ about the find and help other sufferers,” commented Childers.
The doctor was suffering from a severe form of arthritis when he decided to study his own diet. He knew from his work that tomatoes had long been thought to be poisonous, which led him to take a closer look at the nightshade family. Eventually he discovered that by completely removing nightshades from his diet, his symptoms greatly improved.
Over the last 20 years, researchers have debated whether or not there really is any connection between foods in the nightshade, or solanaceae family, and arthritis. Data has been growing to support the anecdotal evidence of many sufferers, including the publication in 1993 of a scientific study called An apparent relation of nightshades to arthritis.
While some doctors remain skeptical about the link between arthritis and certain foods, others swear that totally eliminating vegetables in the nightshade family from their diet has significantly reduced the severity of their symptoms and decreased the frequency of flare-ups. Childers, the principal researcher of nightshades, is a strong advocate of completely eliminating these foods from an arthritic patient’s diet.
What Foods are in the Nightshade family?
Curiously, many of the foods in the solanaceae, or nightshade family, were viewed with great suspicion when first introduced into the country in the fifteenth century, as the leaves and fruits of the European members of the family were mostly extremely poisonous. Today we enjoy several well-known vegetables in the nightshade family. These are:
* Red and Green Peppers
Many food products, especially processed foods, contain derivatives of nightshade foods such as potato starch and tomato paste.
Why do these foods affect arthritis symptoms?
According to a study conducted in 1993 by Childers, eating nightshade foods results in “a buildup of cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroids…and may cause inflammation, muscle spasms, pain, and stiffness.’ The less cholinesterase the body produces as it ages, the less agile the body will be. Therefore, anything that additionally inhibits cholinersterase will add to joint deterioration and stiffness. Cholinesterase inhibitors such as nightshade foods affect mostly rheumatoid-type arthritis.
Additionally, the study also reported a link between osteoarthritis and vitamin D3, which is produced by the nightshade foods. The researchers concluded that “osteoarthritis appears to be a result of long-term consumption of the Solanaceae, which naturally contain the active metabolite vitamin D3, and in excess causes crippling and early disability (as seen in livestock.)”
Other research suggests that these nightshade foods all contain a substance called solanine, a bitter poisonous alkaloid that inhibits nerve impulses.
What improvements can I expect with a nightshade-free diet?
Several surveys and studies report on good improvements in arthritis symptoms for people who stopped eating nightshade foods.
The 1993 study, published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery, reported that “rigid omission of Solanaceae, with other minor diet adjustments, has resulted in positive to marked improvement in arthritis and general health.”
In general Childers reports that “We have got around 70% positive results in reducing arthritic problems if the cooperator can stay rigidly with the (elimination) diet from here on in. People truly rigid may get 94% freedom from arthritis in surveys we have made. This included many forms of arthritis, all of which seem to be affected by the nightshades.”
According to Norman D. Ford, author of 18 Natural Ways to Stop Arthritis Now, “some 30 percent of people with genuine rheumatoid arthritis experience some degree of improvement after they eliminate nightshade foods from their diets.”
Researchers are quick to point out that when these people accidentally ate one of the foods or tried to go back to their former diet, their symptoms would return. The worse the initial problem, the longer it will take to see any signs of improvement. It could take several weeks or months to notice any benefits to dietary changes.
Where can I get more information?
Childers founded an organization dedicated to researching the connection between nightshade foods and arthritis. It is called The Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation. They can be reached at 1-888-501-8822, or 3906 NW 31st Place, Gainesville, FL 32606, USA.
Several books are available specifically aimed at arthritis and diet, such as Arthritis-Free Cooking, which contains recipes without any nightshade ingredients, and most general books on the disease have a section about nutrition and diet.
Doctors speculate that some people may have general food allergies that cause their arthritis and they are often unwilling to pinpoint allergic flare-ups to this one particular group of foods. For those who suspect that food may be worsening their symptoms, there are food allergy tests available. Certain laboratories specialize in these tests. Ask your healthcare provider for information and a referral. The lab mentioned in the book Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure is Immuno Labs, Inc., 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311. 1-800-231-9197.