Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, may result in inflammation of the joints and symptoms such as joint pain, swelling and stiffness. A number of medications are used to treat arthritis, but dietary changes may improve the condition somewhat. Some professionals and natural health advocates believe that the nightshade family of vegetables may be responsible for increasing inflammation in arthritis sufferers. As with any natural or alternative health regimen, talk to your doctor before making changes in your diet.
What are Nightshade Vegetables?
The nightshade family is named after a plant “nightshade,” a common roadside weed that is highly toxic. Nightshade vegetables include potatoes, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. Tobacco is also a member of the nightshade family. While nightshade vegetables are not toxic and are tolerated well by most people, they do contain high levels of alkaloids, which appear to worsen inflammation in some people. Worsening of inflammation may appear to contribute to medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and arthritis, according to “The Prescription for Dietary Wellness.”
Are You Sensitive?
Not everyone will benefit from a nightshade-free diet. The best way to determine whether nightshade vegetables may be contributing to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis is to eliminate them from your diet. Improvement in arthritis symptoms may show that you should avoid certain foods, particularly if no other changes have taken place. Using a food diary to keep track of the foods you eat and any resulting symptoms may be helpful. After eliminating all nightshade vegetables from your diet, a dietician or physician may suggest a “rechallenge,” which is the reintroduction of foods to your diet one at a time.
Other Foods that may be Inflammatory
Nightshade vegetables are not the only foods that are thought to be inflammatory. Foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids from animal products such as red meat may increase inflammation, along with fatty and fried foods that contain trans-fats. Refined sugars and white flour as well as foods such as high-sugar sodas, snack foods and baked goods, may cause inflammatory problems for some people. Still others may be intolerant of dairy or grain products, which may increase mucus production and gastrointestinal problems as well as contributing to inflammation within the body. As with the nightshade vegetables, a dietician may assist you with an elimination diet that does not compromise nutrition.
Foods that may be Useful
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in cold-water fish such as tuna, halibut and salmon, are thought to be anti-inflammatory. Other healthy fats such as olive oil may also help to reduce inflammation and replace unhealthy fats in the diet. A diet that is higher in vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, along with fruits such as citrus and berries, may provide high levels of antioxidants, which are thought to be protective for age- and inflammation-related damage of the joints and may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
- The Prescription for Dietary Wellness; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2005
- Arthritis Today: Diets for Arthritis: Inflammation and Foods That Fight It
- The Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2004