To Nightshade or Not-To-Nightshade: That is the Question

To Nightshade or Not-To-Nightshade: That is the Question

Stephanie Mandel and Robin Foroutan by Stephanie Mandel and Robin Foroutan

To Nightshade or Not-To-Nightshade: That is the Question

September 26, 2019

If you’ve been to The Morrison Center, then you may have already heard us talking about nightshades and whether or not you should eat them. Since this can be confusing for everyone, we wanted to shed some light on this shady nightshade topic!

- What are Nightshades? -

Nightshades are a group of fruits and vegetables — technically called Solanaceae — that includes eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers, white potatoes, and spices from peppers - like chilis, paprika, and cayenne. While many of these foods have health benefits, you may have heard some people recommend avoiding nightshade vegetables for better health — there are a few main reasons for this:

  • Nightshades are high in lectins, which can irritate the intestinal lining in some people, making them both inflammatory and hard to digest.
  • They contain glycoalkaloids, which may contribute to leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease. These “anti-nutrients” are what nightshade plants use to fight off pathogens and insects – and what can trigger an immune response in some people.
  • Nightshades contain solanine, a chemical that may aggravate arthritis pain in some people.
  • Many of the nightshade vegetables, particularly tomatoes and peppers, are acidic, which can aggravate conditions like acid reflux, interstitial cystitis, and more.

- The following are all members of the nightshade family -

  • Ashwagandha
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Goji berries
  • Gooseberries
  • Hot peppers (chili peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, chili-based spices red pepper and cayenne)
  • Paprika
  • Potatoes (not sweet potatoes)
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes

- Nightshades do have health benefits -

Many members of the nightshade family provide some pretty impressive health benefits. For example, tomatoes are full of antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C. Lycopene has been linked to preventing heart disease and cancer, while vitamin C is an important antioxidant that protects against inflammation and helps your body respond better to stress. Plus capsaicin, the compound that makes hot peppers hot, may have anti-cancer activity, boost metabolism, and reduce certain pain conditions.

- Who should avoid nightshades? -

For those who struggle with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune disease, IBD or leaky gut, there is a chance that nightshade vegetables could be contributing to symptoms. Common symptoms of a nightshade sensitivity include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Digestive gas and bloating
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Body pain
  • Skin issues like acne and eczema

- So...should I eat nightshades? -

Stumped yet?

When we see patients at The Morrison Center with any of the symptoms mentioned above, or other general symptoms of systemic inflammation like fatigue, headaches, weight gain, and more, we’ll often do a 30-day trial elimination of nightshades from the diet — along with the other common culprits of inflammation, like gluten, dairy, and sugar. Then we’ll reintroduce them slowly to see if symptoms worsen. This is the best way to determine whether a person needs to avoid nightshades long-term.

That said, even if nightshades do trigger inflammation, it’s really a clue that the immune system and/or gut health is compromised. We recommend working with a professional to create a customized protocol to heal the gut and balance the immune system. It may be possible to bring nightshades back into the diet even if they’ve caused inflammation in the past.

For those of you with a healthy immune system and gut, enjoy these plants and pay attention to how they make you feel. We recommend enjoying them seasonally and organically whenever possible!


This guide was written by Dr. Morrison and the health and nutrition experts at The Morrison Center. Our team is dedicated to helping you achieve optimal health through the treatment and prevention of disease.



Dr. Jeffrey Morrison is an award-winning medical doctor, a leader in the field of Integrative Medicine, and champion of a nutritional approach to healthcare



Robin is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in Integrative Medicine, Functional Medicine and holistic healing modalities. She helps her clients address complicated conditions and return to wellness.



Stephanie is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner with a passion for helping her clients fulfill their potential through both emotional and physical optimization.


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