What is Nightshade Intolerance

For years I suffered from digestive discomfort or unexplained symptoms after eating. It took me a long time to realize the culprit was nightshade vegetables. My diet featured them prominently, and my body did not like it. Sound familiar? You may, like me, have a nightshade intolerance. 

Nightshade vegetables belong to the Solanaceae family and include popular vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

While many people can consume these foods with no issues, some of us may have an intolerance or even an allergy to nightshade vegetables.

Symptoms can vary from person to person and may include gastrointestinal upset, skin rashes, joint pain, headaches, and in my case, fatigue. While not everyone with an intolerance to nightshades will experience the same symptoms, it is important to recognize and address any negative reactions to them.

brown fries on white ceramic plate

Because this is a condition I live with, I’m going to be referencing it occasionally since it affects my cooking and gardening choices. And while there’s more info about it now than when I started learning, I want you to understand that it’s real, and if you suffer from it, too, you’re not alone.

So come along and learn about my “weird sensitivity” and explore the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for nightshade intolerance. And after several years of dealing with it, I have some tips for living with this condition as well.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. This is my personal experience and information that has helped me feel better. If you’re experiencing symptoms like those I describe, talk to your health professional.

Symptoms of Nightshade Intolerance

For me, the worst symptoms were digestive issues, headaches, joint pain, and absolutely debilitating fatigue. And since my diet featured nightshade vegetables in almost every meal, I was constantly sick. I thought it was just normal. But it’s not.

You may experience a range of symptoms after consuming nightshade vegetables. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Digestive problems: You may experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation after consuming nightshades.
  • Inflammatory issues: Nightshades contain alkaloids that can cause inflammation in some people. This can lead to joint pain, muscle aches, and other inflammatory conditions.
  • Skin reactions: Some people may develop a rash, hives, or eczema after consuming nightshades.
  • Respiratory issues: In rare cases, nightshade intolerance can cause breathing difficulties, wheezing, or asthma-like symptoms.
  • Neurological symptoms: Some people may experience headaches, dizziness, or brain fog after consuming nightshades.
man holding forehead under sunset

Not everyone who consumes nightshades will experience these symptoms. However, if you have a nightshade sensitivity, you may notice that your symptoms worsen after consuming these vegetables.

If you are experiencing these kinds of symptoms, or suspect that you have a nightshade intolerance, it’s important to speak with your doctor. They can help you determine if you have an allergy or intolerance and recommend a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.

It is important to note that a nightshade sensitivity is not the same as a nightshade allergy. While a nightshade allergy can be potentially life-threatening, a nightshade intolerance may cause discomfort but is not typically dangerous. If you suspect you have a nightshade allergy, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Diagnosis and Tests

If you suspect that you have a nightshade intolerance, the first step is to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help you determine if your symptoms are caused by a food intolerance or another condition.

Your healthcare provider may ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They may also recommend some tests to help diagnose your condition. Here are some tests that may be used to get a diagnosis:

  • Skin prick test: A skin prick test involves placing a small amount of nightshade extract on your skin and then pricking the skin to allow the extract to enter your body. If you are allergic to nightshades, you may develop a skin reaction at the site of the prick.
  • Blood test: A blood test can measure the levels of certain antibodies in your blood that are produced in response to an allergen. Your healthcare provider may order a blood test to help diagnose a nightshade allergy.
  • Elimination diet: Your healthcare provider may recommend an elimination diet to help determine if you have a nightshade intolerance. This involves removing nightshade foods from your diet for a period of time and then slowly reintroducing them to see if your symptoms return.

No single test can diagnose a nightshade intolerance or allergy with absolute certainty. Your healthcare provider may use a combination of tests and other diagnostic tools to help determine the cause of your symptoms.

green and red tomatoes on green leaves

After my doctor ran some blood tests, including one for an autoimmune disorder, eliminating nightshades from my diet was what gave me the knowledge I needed. I felt better within days! I felt so good, I stayed away from them for a year before I slowly started trying them again.

What’s interesting for me is that I have different tolerance levels for the different vegetables. I learned I can eat tomatoes with no noticeable symptoms. And I can handle a small amount of peppers (like a small dash of cayenne in a pot of chili). But I have no tolerance for potatoes whatsoever, even the slightest amount of potato starch makes me sick all over again!

Treatment and Management

If you suspect that you have a nightshade intolerance, the first step is of course to avoid consuming any nightshade plants. This can be challenging since nightshades are found in many common foods, including tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. However, with careful planning and a little creativity, it is possible to follow a nightshade-free diet.

Diet Modification

To manage your nightshade intolerance symptoms, you may need to modify your diet. This involves avoiding foods from the nightshade family. Some common nightshade plants to avoid include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes (excluding sweet potatoes, they’re morning glories, not nightshades)
  • Peppers (including bell peppers, chili peppers, red pepper flakes, and paprika)
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillos
  • Goji berries
  • Tobacco
  • Ashwagandha 

It is also important to read ingredients labels carefully, as nightshades can be found in many packaged and processed foods. Some foods may contain hidden sources of nightshades, such as potato starch in shredded cheese as an anti-caking agent, or paprika in mayonnaise “for color.”


If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend medication to help manage your nightshade intolerance such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, or epinephrine.

It is important to work closely with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

By modifying your diet and working with your doctor, you can manage your nightshade intolerance and reduce your symptoms. With a little effort and planning, you can still enjoy a healthy and delicious diet.

When I first figured out 7 years ago that I had a nightshade intolerance, there wasn’t much information available. My health was poor, my energy was almost nonexistent, and I was in almost constant pain. If this sounds familiar, you might have a nightshade intolerance like me. Especially if you’ve had tests for autoimmune disorders and they come back clear.

Living with Nightshade Intolerance

If you have been diagnosed with nightshade intolerance, it is important to make lifestyle changes to manage your symptoms. Here are some tips for living with nightshade intolerance:

1. Avoid Nightshade Vegetables

It may be obvious, but the first step to managing nightshade intolerance is to avoid nightshade vegetables. This includes popular vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. It can be challenging to eliminate these vegetables from your diet, there are plenty of alternative vegetables that you can enjoy instead. For example, you can try sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and squash.

2. Read Labels Carefully

Nightshade vegetables are often used as ingredients in processed foods. Therefore, it is important to read labels carefully when grocery shopping. Look for ingredients like paprika, cayenne pepper, and chili powder, which are derived from nightshade vegetables. Black pepper, white pepper, and Szechuan pepper are not.

Ambiguous ingredients can also be suspect. Spices can mean peppers, while food starch and maltodextrin can be derived from potatoes.

3. Cook Your Own Meals

Cooking your own meals is the best way to ensure that you are not consuming nightshade vegetables. When you cook your own meals, you have control over the ingredients that you use.

You can also experiment with different vegetables and spices to find new recipes that you enjoy. When I first started my nightshade-free journey, I kept a Pinterest board for nightshade-free recipes for some of my favorite dishes.

4. Be Patient

Managing nightshade intolerance can be challenging, but it is important to be patient. It may take some time to adjust to a new diet and lifestyle. Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adapt. With time and effort, you can learn to manage your symptoms and live a healthy, happy life.

I am sometimes amazed by how much my life has changed from 10 years ago. The energy and strength I have gained has made such a difference in my life. I absolutely don’t miss constant joint pain, either. So yes, I’m the crazy person that will never eat another french fry or potato chip again!

If you deal with nightshade intolerance, you’re not alone. And it is possible to feel better. I hope you can find the help and answers you need. If you have questions about my own experience, or about cooking without nightshades, feel free to leave me a comment below!

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *