People ask me if it’s hard not to eat tomatoes.
“Not really,” I tell them, “because, for me, tomatoes are a torture device devised in the Pit of Despair.”
Each of our bodies has its quirks of chemistry and genetics and one of the most valuable (and intense!) lessons I’ve learned from working with herbs and essential oils is how to listen to my body.
So when my insanely painful migraines crescendoed in the summer of 2009, I scoured my life for new influences and changed habits to take into account my nightshade allergy.
The answer, it turned out, was growing in my garden: my three tomato plants were flourishing that summer and I was eating them breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Since my migraines were at almost crippling levels so as an experiment, I stopped eating tomatoes. The headaches backed off considerably but didn’t disappear completely.
Thus the research began! While I couldn’t find much in the medical literature, reading about the chemistry of plants in the Solanaceae family backed up what my body was telling me about the nightshade allergy.
Here are the basics:
Solanaceae family is also called the Nightshade family.
Its members include:
- peppers (bell, sweet, capsicum, chili, paprika, cayenne, etc., but
not black pepper, which is from a different plant family)
- ground cherries
- lycium fruit (also called goji berries)
- also Belladonna, Datura, and Mandrake
These foods all contain compounds that are similar to nicotine although they have different names in different plants.
Without getting too technical, these chemical components can cause a back-up of sensation in the nerve endings. Kind of like a nervous system traffic jam.
When you remember that the nervous system runs on electrical impulses, and then you picture a nervous system traffic jam, it gets kind of ugly.
This kind of ugly can lead to headaches or migraines, arthritic symptoms, GERD, twitching muscles or muscle contractions.
Nightshades take 12-24 hours to cause these types of reactions, which makes it real tough to blame the tomato.
When you get a migraine at noon, you really don’t stop to think about what you ate for dinner the night before!
But if you suffer from any of these types of Nightshade-related symptoms, try a week or two being Solanaceae-free and see how you feel.
And if you too suffer with the
solanaceae symptoms and a nightshade allergy, here are my best tips, as well as tips from readers at maiatoll.com.
Here’s the thing: I’m not willing to purposely eat a potato in the name of science. So my nightshade allergy solutions have been tested slowly over a couple of years.
I’ve tried pretty much everything. Neither Butterburr nor Feverfew made a dent. I’ve eliminated wine and caffeine—nada. But this doesn’t mean these things won’t work for you!
Furthermore, I can’t tell you why what works for me works, nor can I assure you it will work for you. But I do think careful journaling and investigating can help keep you from The Pit of Despair.
Here’s my cocktail:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Homeopathic Bio-Salts
(Yes, ibuprofen. A few years back I looked at the damage these migraines were doing to my body and decided that soldiering through was worse for me than taking ibuprofen. I usually only take one. I know it’s not a perfect answer, but for me it’s the lesser evil.)
I learned an important lesson when I was in the Amazon and got a bladder infection: the shaman I was teaching with took the Cipro from me, blessed it, and handed it back. You take, he said.
So even though I know the damage ibuprofen does to the gut, I offer a thanks to the Gods of Pharmacy and swallow it down.
My personal antidote is not all supplements. I also need to calm my body’s early-warning system—the muscles in my neck that go into lockdown and spasm pre-migraine. The last time I had an accidental ingestion, I took I put a heat wrap on my neck, got into bed, and listened to a meditation CD. Twice.
When I originally posted this on the maiatoll.com site, readers shared their experience and suggestions. I wanna pass those along in case they can help you:
Tina shared Well, I use the herb goldenseal (usually in tea form). It’s INCREDIBLE! What it does is cleanse the body of the intruder, it pushes the poison out of the body in various ways—by cleansing the bloodstream, through the urinary system, through the lymphatic system (sweat), etc. Unfortunately, it does not provide immediate relief, but if you take some after an evening of Nightshade binging, you’ll definitely feel better in the morning. LOL.
Heather shared My family has learned that Bee Balm works well for both external and internal nightshade poisoning. We use a homemade bee balm tincture that has been passed down from my fiancé’s grandmother.
Maygan said I use aloe vera gels (inner leaf only) and white willow bark taken immediately. I keep them in my purse and often take them before eating any food that I didn’t prepare myself, no matter what I’m promised by the person serving it to me. I’ve discovered I’m sensitive to alkaloids in black pepper and garlic as well. So dining out is a huge issue without those. If I end up consuming anything from the nightshade family I have to take another dose about 6 hours later and again the next morning to avoid several days of agony.
Rose shared I also have a nightshade allergy. I get awful costochondritis and joint pain. I find turmeric, vitamin d-3, vitamin k-2, coconut water and a Benadryl works for me. As does drinking lots of water to flush it out.
Pat shared I found that if I soak potatoes, with skin on in water with baking soda, I have little problem eating fingerling or new potatoes. I hear and read that nightshades contain traces of arsenic and wonder if that is what I am reacting to. I recently went to a hot spring where the waters have many minerals as well as arsenic and I had the stuffy head and arthritis pain. That makes me wonder if this is a connection and if arsenic is the culprit for me.
Kari said I noticed in the article that you take Ibuprofen occasionally. Ibuprofen along with vitamins and other medications has an ingredient that is potato derived. The ingredient is sodium starch glycolate and another ingredient that is potato derived is magnesium stearate which is very common in allergy pills and vitamins, especially B12. There is also hidden potato in foods under the name dextrin, maltodextrin, modified food starch, vitamin A palmitate (cereals and juices), baking powder, dextrose (in table salt), and most yeast is made from potato, so it’s almost impossible to eat bread or baked goods. I hope this helps someone still suffering.
And I hope that this article helps anyone who is still suffering.