Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Nightshade Experiment

This is a post that I have been planning on writing for some time.  Around February of this year, I started experimenting with a nightshade plan.  Vegetables are part of a healthy diet, however "nightshade vegetables" contain alkaloids which can impact nerve-muscle and digestive functions. In addition, they can also compromise joint function.  Nightshade vegetables are in the Solanaceae family of plants. Among the most common, there are some 2800 nightshades, are tomato, potato, eggplant, and peppers of all kinds, except black pepper. Tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, Tabasco sauce  and tobacco are also classified as nightshade foods.

I do not adhere to a strict nightshade plan, having cut some out altogether while cutting back on others from the list.  I have to say that I did notice a difference soon after starting my altered nightshade experiment.  

What I am avoiding is:  eggplant, and peppers, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne,  blueberries (not a nightshade, but contain solanine) and tobacco (not hard for me since I don't smoke, dip or chew).  I find it hard to give up tomatoes entirely and while I eat a lot of sweet potatoes (ok - not on the list),  I just can't eat an occasional steak without a baked potato.

While potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are frequently blamed for causing arthritic flares,  according to Ronenn Roubenoff, MD, a nutritionist at the Tufts University School of Medicine, studies have shown this occurs in only 1-2% of patients.

I have to say that I am feeling better after 5 months of this plan.  I plan on continuing on my altered plan, maybe going further with it in the future.  Five months ago I could not eat a sandwich without potato chips, now, I don't even think about wanting potato chips any more.  Is it right or would it work for you?  Hard to say, but there is only one way to find out.  


deb aka murphthesurf said...

I agree about giving up the tomatoes. That has been the hardest on me as well. My daughter eats gluten, dairy, and soy free and we eat no red meats so I find it sooo limiting when I cook. We share the cooking here. I am eating her diet for dinner just to make life easier for now. But giving up the tomatoes has been impossible. I mean there are only so many ways one can cook a chicken breast. Glad that your altered diet is working for you. These diseases are such a trial and error sure does keep us busy.

Gisela said...

Glad to hear that your diet works for you. When I first was diagnosed over two years ago, I went on an "extreme" diet (by only eating organic foods that have anti-inflammatory properties). As it had no effect on my RA symptoms, I reintroduced foods from the nightshade family. In fact, I will shortly head out to the farmers market to see if I can find some vine-ripened organic tomatoes.

tharr said...

Deb, I didn't list it but I try to hold my red meat down to one, no more than 2 meals a week. I tried a gluten free diet a couple of years ago and could not tell a difference. You are so right about the trial and error, what works for one may not work for someone else.

Gisela, I have tried several diets over the 8 years since being diagnosed. Most that I have tried have had little to no effect on my RA for me. Some vine ripened organic tomatoes sound wonderful. Enjoy them!

Wren said...

There are so many potential "triggers" in rheumatoid arthritis: nightshade plants, the weather, gluten, sugar, red meat, exercise or not ... Sometimes it seems like simply living day by day triggers flares. I'm glad that eliminating most nightshade plants has eased your pain, Terry. I've tried that, too, with no noticeable result, so I continue to enjoy tomatoes, peppers and eggplant on occasion. Potatoes I've eliminated for weight-loss purposes, but, heheheh... I'm still flaring. It's a see-saw, this disease.
I enjoyed reading your post, Terry, and I'm looking forward to the next. Have you taken any exciting rides lately?

tharr said...

Hello Wren! So good to hear from you. You are right, there are many things that trigger our flares. It is a trial and error disease and you have to be willing to experiment for yourself. What works for one may not work for you, as you pointed out that eliminating nightshades did nothing for you. I hope you get your flare back under control quickly.
Haven't been riding much at all lately, the heat is unbearable right now. We have had so many days over 100 that I have lost count. Right now, it is 4:15 pm and the actual temp (not heat index) is 108.

mary said...

I'm glad the night shade diet is working for you. I didn't have much sucess with it but, as you say, we are all different.

Hope your weather cools some and you can get out and about. This summer had been truely miserable heat wise.

Cathy said...

Yay! I have been waiting for this post. I am glad you are feeling a difference and that difference is for the better. :)

I have completely eliminated nightshades twice since my diagnosis, both times for a complete year. I do feel better without them. Now, I have them on occasion, but if it is more than that, I can feel it. Even my family now notices they don't feel as good with them. Thanks for sharing.

tharr said...

Mary, it is odd how we all have the same disease but not everythibg works the same from one to another. Trial and error are a big part of dealing with RA.
I am so ready for the temperatures to cool down, not ready for winter but definitely ready for some 85 degree days though. Hope you have been riding this summer.

Cathy, I put this post off for a while to ensure that I continued to do well without them. I started to write about this earlier a couple of different times, but waited to make sure it wasn't just a coincidence that I was feeling good at that time. I don't think I will ever completely eliminate nightshades, but I am happy drastically cutting back on them.

Anonymous said...

It is tough to know what exaclty triggers some flares and I honestly have not felt like taking the time to look at all the things that I do or eat so I salute you for putting forth the effort. I think I was 3 or 4 when I made my first flower and egg volcano and learned to make pasta (Mom tossed most after we tried), but tomatoes, peppers,and even potatoes are very much a part of my life. We bought a house last year and I started a garden with tomatoes, squash, zuccini, watermelon, sunflowers, basil, and peppers so maybe I will wait till after the fall to consider an experiment. The Orencia seems to be losing it's effect a bit so maybe I should try the diet thing and maybe I can find the willpower that you seem to posess. Reading your entries is as always something that I look forward to so keep up the good work. Things have been really hot here and next week we go on vacation to North Carolina's outer banks so I'm sure to have more heat this summer.
Hang in there buddy.
Phil from Syr NY
Glad that you have found some relief.

tharr said...

Phil, good to hear from you buddy! I can take or leave the peppers, but I have found it very hard to completely give up tomatoes and potatoes. I have cut back drastically on both of them though. I hate to hear the Orencia is losing its effectiveness for you. Have fun in NC, bound to be a hot one there though.

Lana said...

Great way to go Terry. Research is divided on nightshade plants - right of like the arthritis/weather correlation. Those of us who have eliminated or minimized these foods from our diets have found relief in symptoms. Keep up the progress friend, every bit counts.

tharr said...

Thanks Lana. I think that, as far as chronic patients go, we have to do our own research. What works for one is not the answer for everyone else. I have tried several other things that work for some but did nothing for me.

btw, congrats on the diploma. Now, go conquer the world!