Is This Food Causing Your Joint Pain?

Are plants secretly trying to kill us?

Are all vegetables actually meant to be eaten by humans, or should some be avoided?

They are interesting questions, especially when you consider the defense mechanisms plants have. In fact, some plants produce compounds specifically to protect them from being eaten by insects and other predators.

Glycoalkaloids are one of these compounds. When a pest or predator eats a plant that produces these alkaloids, the compound binds to the cell membranes of the predator and causes its cells to burst open, killing the pest and protecting the plant.

Glycoalkaloids are found in many plants and vegetables but are concentrated in high amounts in plants from the nightshade family.

What are nightshades?

Nightshades are the common name for plants in the Solanaceae family, and include:

Tomatoes

Eggplants

Peppers, including spices from pepper like cayenne and paprika (but not black pepper — that’s a different plant)

Potatoes (but not sweet potatoes or yams)

Tobacco

Goji berries

Ashwagandha

There are poisonous nightshades as well, the most famous of which is the deadly belladonna. In fact, it wasn’t until about the 1800s that humans ventured to eat other plants in the nightshade family for fear they also were deadly.

How might nightshades cause joint pain?

The thought behind how glycoalkaloids in nightshade could present a problem in humans is that if you ingest considerable amounts of them, the alkaloids can damage the cell membranes in the intestines and lead to increased intestinal permeability, otherwise known as “leaky gut.”

The problem with “leaky gut” is that it allows bacteria and undigested proteins from food to enter the bloodstream. The immune system does not recognize these foreign proteins and bacteria, and mounts an attack against them that invokes inflammation. If the bacteria or proteins wind up accumulating in the fluid and tissues around the joints, the inflammatory response is localized and causes joint pain.

To make matters worse, some of the body’s tissues can closely resemble proteins from foods. So if the body is primed to attack a particular protein that happens to resemble joint tissue, joint inflammation can ensue.

What’s the evidence?

Researchers have found that glycoalkaloids from potatoes do indeed have harmful effects on intestinal cells — at least in mice.

In one study, mice that were fed deep-fried potato skins had increased levels of inflammatory markers and enhanced intestinal permeability. (The deep frying increased the glycoalkaloid content of the potato skins.) [1]

There haven’t been any placebo-controlled human studies that definitively shown nightshades can cause joint pain. However, there are extensive reports of folks that eliminated nightshades and experienced pain relief.

The closest thing to a human study was a survey done in the 1970s by Dr. N.F. Childers. Out of 763 people who responded to the survey, 72% responded that a nightshade-free diet had positive results for improving their joint pain. Dr. Childers did another survey in 1985, and 95% of 434 responders said a nightshade-free diet helped.[2]

Surveys like this certainly have their limitations for proving causality, but the magnitude of result is intriguing. Additionally, a simple Google search of “nightshades and joint pain” brings about countless anecdotal reports of people who have experienced improvement by eliminating nightshades.

Many alternative health practitioners advise eliminating nightshades for 30 days if you have joint pain or any other autoimmune inflammatory condition and then see if your symptoms improve. Then after 30 days, you reintroduce the foods and see if your symptoms return.

Bottom line: If you have joint pain, it might be worthwhile to try a nightshade-free diet for 30 days and see if it helps. It certainly won’t hurt to eliminate those foods for a month.

You can also reduce the glycoalkaloid content of certain nightshades by preparing them properly. Peel potatoes — most alkaloids are found in the skin. Avoid green tomatoes and sprouting potatoes — unripe or sprouting nightshades have higher alkaloid content. Ripe tomatoes contain far fewer glycoalkaloids compared with potatoes. Eggplants fall between potatoes and tomatoes.

Other ways to relieve joint pain

The cool thing about Mother Nature is that she has provided us with other plants that can help reduce joint discomfort.

Curcumin, the active component in turmeric (the bright yellow spice in curry) has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint pain.

Boswellia, found in the frankincense plant, has shown really great results in human studies to reduce joint pain and improve mobility.

White willow bark is the natural source of salicin and can help promote joint comfort.

Enzymes from plants are also showing great promise in promoting a healthy inflammatory response, which can help keep joints comfortable. When taken on an empty stomach, enzymes can help break down proteins such as fibrin, which can contribute to inflammation.

In fact, an enzyme from pineapple called bromelain has been shown to reduce mild knee pain in two human studies.[3] [4]

Bromelain and other helpful enzymes are the foundation of Enza-Soothe, Living Well’s joint comfort formula. We also added herbs such as white willow bark and devil’s claw to the formula, to help promote joint comfort.

We’ve gotten some really great feedback on the product. One gentleman told us: “I’ve noticed after a day on the golf course at age 57 I have far less joint discomfort.”

You can learn more about Enza-Soothe here.

Have you tried eliminating nightshades from your diet and had improvements in your joint pain? Let us know! livingwelldaily@lfb.org.

To living well,

Jasmine LeMaster

[1] Iablokov V., et al. Naturally occurring glycoalkaloids in potatoes aggravate intestinal inflammation in two mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease. Dig Dis Sci. 2010 Nov;55(11):3078-85. Epub 2010 Mar 3.
[2] Childers, N. F. et al. An Apparent Relation of Nightshades (Solanaceae) to Arthritis. Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery (1993) 12:227-231

[3] Akhtar NM, et al. Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Oct;23(5):410-5. Epub 2004 Jul 24.

[4] Waler AF, et al. Bromelain reduces mild acute knee pain and improves well-being in a dose-dependent fashion in an open study of otherwise healthy adults. Phytomedicine. 2002 Dec;9(8):681-6.

Jasmine Lemaster

Written By Jasmine Lemaster

Jasmine LeMaster is head of quality assurance for Laissez Faire’s Living Well brand and is an integral part of their product research and development team. To hear more from Jasmine, sign up to receive Living Well Daily for free, here.

View More Free Articles

Easiest Way to Get Your 40 Winks

Dear Reader,  It’s hard enough to get a good night’s sleep – even good during good times!  But with all the news, politics, and the ongoing coronavirus… it is downright impossible to get your forty winks.    You might even find yourself tempted to grab an over the counter sleep aid.  But before you go buying one of these drugs that are riddled with side...

Read This

Is Your Prescription WRONG?

Dear Reader,  You make an appointment at your doctor’s office (which, let’s be honest, is no small feat in an “Era of Infection”).   You pass the temperature and the pandemic questions with flying colors.  You brave the waiting area, where any number of people might be infected and breathing viruses into the air…   Everything inside the exam room goes as planned. But there’s something all-too-common that could be happening when you leave – something you don’t expect....

Read This

“Healthy Habit” a Wrecking Ball for Your Heart!

Dear Reader,  Overall, you try to eat healthy, do well for yourself, and even exercise.   Maybe you even think about your heart health when you’re choosing food at a restaurant or the grocery store.   You try to get your fruits and veggies, order diet drinks instead of full-calorie sodas, skip the dessert on most occasions (we all have to splurge sometimes!), and focus on lean meats and whole...

Read This

[Breaking] A Source of Alzheimer’s Discovered?!

Dear Reader,  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the world.   You’ve probably heard that this degenerative brain epidemic is caused by a buildup of harmful plaque in the brain.   That much we know.   But why that plaque builds up in the first place is a source of heated debates in the medical community.   And now a new study suggests a key player...

Read This

The “Sweet” Solution to Lowering Your Blood Pressure!

Dear Reader,  It’s Thanksgiving. And while we’ve been living in some strange times, I hope you’re able to safely spend some time with your loved ones.   Incredibly enough, we’re cruising right into the holiday season. And while it’s a time of joy, thankfulness and family, many people also feel something else…  Stress. While we may not...

Read This

[Warning] An Air Pollutant Hiding in Your Home?!

Dear Reader,  When you think of air pollution, the typical culprits come to mind…  Automobile exhaust, factory fumes, cigarette smoke…  But have you ever considered one that’s hiding in your own home?   In fact, it could be in your house right now.  Here are the facts…   Maybe you are like my wife; whenever we have friends over, or when she wants to relax, she lights a candle.   She’s not...

Read This

[BREAKING] New Formula Holds Key to a Healthy Heart

Dear Reader,   If you’re over 50 I’m willing to bet there’s always one thing on your mind whenever you think about your health: Your heart.   And with good reason. Your heart is your body’s no. 1 life source. Each pump keeps everything working smoothly.    Which is even more reason why it’s crucial to keep it as...

Read This

Alzheimer’s: “Light” at the End of the Tunnel?

Dear Reader,  For decades, Big Pharma has been pouring millions into Alzheimer’s research.  And there hasn’t been a whole lot to show for it.   Sure, they’ve figured out that this devastating disease is caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins that attack your brain.   But none of their pricey, risky drugs can stop them from growing.  ...

Read This

Toxic Ingredient Ups Diabetes Risk?!

We all know that processed food is bad for us.   The mountains of refined sugar and cheap salt can make you gain weight… mess with your heart… and even impact your brain.   Now, it looks like these foods could be doing even more damage to your body.   Because researchers have found that a popular ingredient...

Read This

Kidney Stone Culprit Hiding in Your Medicine Cabinet?!

Dear Reader,  If you’ve ever dealt with the pain of a kidney stone before, you know they’re no joke.   So, when a good friend of mine had to repeatedly take their 15-year old son to the emergency room for kidney stones, you can imagine how concerned we all were.   Aside from the fact that, kidney stones are...

Read This