What are nightshades?
Nightshades are a family of flowering plants called Solanaceae, which consists of almost 3,000 species. The family Solanaceae extends well beyond vegetables to include innocuous flowers, but still, vegetables are a prominent part of the family. Some edible nightshades are listed below:
- white potatoes
- bell peppers
- goji berries
While the vegetables above are staples in many people’s diets, some people can still be allergic or intolerant to one or more types of edible foods in the nightshade family.
What is a nightshade allergy?
Nightshades contain a group of chemical compounds known as alkaloids, which are found within the plant, protecting it from molds and pests. An allergy to alkaloids is rare, but it can sometimes occur. Alkaloids commonly found in vegetables include solanine, nicotine, and capsaicin.
Nightshade Allergy Symptoms
Individuals who are allergic to alkaloids in nightshades may experience the following:
- skin ashes
- muscle and joint pain
- excessive mucus production
People with nightshade intolerance on the other hand, show less severe symptoms such as bloating and gas, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A doctor can diagnose nightshade allergy using either a skin prick test, or a blood test such as RAST or ELISA, wherein a doctor takes a blood and sample and tests it for presence of IgE antibodies related to specific allergens.
A person experiencing anaphylaxis should immediately call 911. They should lay on their back with feet elevated while waiting for an ambulance. Usually, medical personnel will administer a shot of epinephrine to reduce the severity of the allergic reaction.
The best way to diagnose a nightshade allergy or intolerance is to remove these foods from the diet temporarily. You may substitute nightshades with alternative fruits and vegetables. However, it is still recommended to see your doctor if symptoms appear, to identify and confirm what may have triggered your allergy.