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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

The Secret Life of Vegetables: Chronic exposure to nightshades can wreak havoc on our bodies, says Dr. Noah Lebowitz

Jan 31, 2015 10:28AM ● By Dr. Noah Lebowitz

Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, paprika, goji berries, peppers, tomatillos and tobacco all are part of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, which consists of more than 2,000 plants. They all contain a dangerous neurotoxin called alpha-solanine, and most nightshades were looked upon as poisonous, except in South America, until the 1800s.

Solanine content is higher in the leaves and stems, which is why it can be deadly to consume tomato or potato leaves. Also, unripe potatoes and tomatoes contain much higher levels than ripe ones. In a school near London, England, 78 schoolboys fell sick with diarrhea, vomiting, central nervous system depression and hallucinations in 1979 from eating boiled green potatoes during school lunch. While most people don’t have such severe symptoms from eating a ripe potato, chronic exposure to nightshades can wreak havoc on one's body.

While solanine is found in only very small amounts in most nightshades, the consumption of only 50 to 200 milligrams (mg) can cause death. Solanine is an acetlycholinesterase inhibitor which alters the nervous system. Many of the issues with solanine arise because it cannot be broken down by the body and is excreted very slowly. In the book Nightshade Free, Pain Free, by Michael Fowler, the author states the average person consumes 13 mg of solanine per day, with a half-life (the time it takes to excrete the first 50 percent) of one to two months.

Dr. Norman Childers has been studying nightshades for more than 50 years. In one of his studies, 94 percent of participants reported substantial or complete relief from following a strict nightshade-free diet. Childers espouses that calcium is removed from the bones and also mitochondria when we overeat nightshades. This leaching of calcium from the bones can predispose us to osteoporosis. In many patients with osteoporosis, vitamin D and calcium supplements won’t help until they go nightshade-free.

The calcium removed from the bones has to go somewhere and can be deposited in the arteries, contributing to atherosclerosis. Calcium deposition can also occur in joints of the body, causing irritation, inflammation and osteoarthritis.

In addition to solanine, nightshades also contain lectins, which can cause and/or exacerbate leaky gut. Solanine and other chemicals in nightshades can alter neuronal transmission to muscles, causing muscle spasms due to the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, leading to many common aches and pains. Solanine also has an affinity for the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism.

Other food sensitivities can play a large role in inflammation and illness, including gluten, dairy, caffeine, eggs and corn, among others. Dysbiosis (too many “bad” microbes in the gut), bacteria, parasites and fungus can all increase inflammation and alter biochemistry, as well as heavy metal and chemical toxicity.

In clinical practice, doctors have seen rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, rashes, irritable bowel syndrome and many other conditions relieved by removing nightshades from the diet. While nightshades aren’t necessarily good for anyone, neither are they evil. Many people have no symptoms; but those with symptoms should check with a health professional.

Dr. Noah Lebowitz is certified by the International College of Applied Kinesiology as a professional applied kinesiologist. He now lives and practices in Scottsdale. For more information, phone 480-991-5555.

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