Do nightshades cause joint pain?

I am not thirty yet. But in the last couple of years I have felt the occasional annoyance of joint pain, especially in my left knee. There is nothing that makes you feel more old than joint pain. But if I cut out a certain food group, it all magically goes away. Nightshades, which include peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, can actually cause joint pain, or at least aggravate an inflamed condition. I am very thankful that I knew this, otherwise I would have definitely felt like I was 27 going on 100.

Why should you care about this? It’s likely that you enjoy eating these foods and can’t imagine that they are bad for you in any way. Well, if you suffer from inflammation, joint pain and cracking, avoiding nightshades will lessen your pain, whether or not the nightshades are the true source of the pain. Are you sensitive to weather changes? This can be an indication of nightshade sensitivity. Muscle pain and tightness, morning stiffness, poor healing, arthritis, insomnia and gall bladder problems—these can all be caused by nightshades. Nightshades can also cause heart burn or GERD—a lot of people already know they react this way when they eat peppers or tomatoes.  Nightshades, Garret Smith

When I was reading  Lark Rise to Candleford, a beautiful autobiographical story set at the turn of the century, a thought occurred to me. While the hamlet people were hearty and healthy, with shining white teeth and robust constitutions, when old they would often be overcome with rheumatism. I wondered if the reason why these healthy people succumbed was found in their garden. They grew many potatoes for their daily fare! It is a possible connection. It is sad to think that with a little adjustment in their diets, they could have experienced much less pain and suffering.

What do you want to do if you want to see if nightshades are the root of your aches and pains?
Cut them out completely for 6 weeks and see if it improves. Just be careful that you cut all sources of nightshades from your diet!

The ones that concern us in the Western diet mainly include tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes or yams), eggplant and peppers—this means all peppers including chili peppers, habenero, cayenne pepper and paprika (not peppercorns, see sidebar). Paprika is a sneaky one, showing up in lots of flavoring mixes and often under “spices” on ingredient labels. Other nightshades include goji berries (the new darling of the antioxidant crowd), ashwagandha (an adaptogenic herb from Ayurvedic medicine), Cape gooseberries (not normal gooseberries), ground cherries and garden huckleberries (not blueberries). Nightshades, Garret Smith

Personally, I find that small amounts of nightshades cause no problem. It’s only when eating large amounts consistently that I start feeling it in my poor knee. So, I still eat nightshades right now, just not everyday.

Garret Smith also explains why some people may be more sensitive to nightshades.

But the real question is, why are some people more sensitive than others? Nutrient deficiencies certainly come into play. For example, if you don’t have enough magnesium, you will be more prone to calcinosis. Deficiency in vitamin D may exacerbate the problem. The speed at which one’s liver and kidneys detoxify these compounds plays a huge role, and this is dependent both on genetics and nutrition.

A key nutrient is vitamin K2—Dr. Price’s famous Activator X. I love this study on vitamin K2: The Effect of Vitamin K2 on Experimental Calcinosis. 18 They gave rats calcinosis by giving them way too much vitamin D2. D2 tends to cause calcinosis anyway. What did they find? A high dose of vitamin K2 suppressed experimental calcification of soft tissues induced by vitamin D2. So if you want to avoid problems with nightshades, be sure to eat goose liver, cheese, fatty grass-fed meats and pasture-fed butter—and take your butter oil.

Besides avoiding nightshades all together, you could also explore why you are sensitive to them, if that proves the case.

Has anyone else experienced a sensitivity to nightshades? Or, do you wonder if current stiffness and aches could be related?

Photo: photon_de/Flickr


I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!


  1. says

    Two weeks ago I stopped the most common nightshade veggies and fruits and have had wonderful results. Absolutely wonderful. I never felt mine was joint pain.. but instead unrelated pain that had nothing to do with any damage or reasonable issue with movement or illness. The pain would come and go seemily at random. It was responding to my having eaten certain items! And it did not hit right away. With some food items it seems it had to digest (maybe 24 hrs before i felt it) So I have been so successful with great result avoiding these allergens (to me) that I want to do research to make sure i remove possible hidden sources of these ingredients from my diet. Any help will be appreciated! This problem is real and I have so many issues, gastric reflux and I was eating BLAND potatoes to help myself and did not know why two days later I was at deaths door unable to sleep, sick sick at my gastric reflux and horrible nerve pain.


  1. [...] From my last post, it seems that I am not the only one sensitive to nightshades. This recipe is actually quite delicious! When you can’t have nightshades for whatever reason (candida diet, or allergy), this definitely hits the spot. [...]

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