Can nightshades be bad for skin rashes? Could they be causing your flares?

It’s certainly possible that they’re one of your root causes.

But before you eliminate them, I have to acknowledge just how frustrating it is to figure out skin rash food triggers.

Sometimes you seem to have pinpointed a problem only to discover it’s not what you think!

Though nightshades can be an issue for people with chronic inflammatory conditions, the reason it affects skin isn’t so clear cut.

One interesting study from 2017 found that 52% of psoriasis sufferers saw an improvement by removing nightshades from their diet.(1)

Much has been written online about nightshades being a potential rash trigger, but I’m not sure that they truly do the topic justice. That’s why I spent hours scouring not just blog posts, but also clinical research to see how big of a problem they are. AND I wanted to share with you a clearer explanation about why they could be an issue.

That said, nightshades aren’t a problem for everyone. And this article shouldn’t be used as justification for everyone with skin problems to cut them out.

It’s better to test things out on yourself (since it’s pretty common for your triggers to be different than someone else’s). That way, you can minimize the number of foods that are removed from your diet.

Eggplant, peppers and tomato

What Are Nightshades?

Before we dive into the specifics behind why nightshades could be a skin rash trigger, here is a list of foods that are in the nightshade family (2). Please note that they span both fruits and vegetables as well as herbs!

  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Chili Peppers
  • Bell Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes (not Sweet Potatoes)
  • Gogi berries
  • Huckleberries
  • Chili powders
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Tobacco
  • Ashwagandha (an adaptogenic herb)
  • Sorrel
  • Gooseberries (also known as Goldenberries)
  • Belladonna (typically found as a homeopathic remedy)

A common misconception is that both black and white pepper (spice) are nightshades, however this is not true! They are safe to eat if nightshades are problematic for you or during your elimination test.

I’m sure a few items on here might also be pretty surprising — like gogi berries and ashwagandha (an adaptogenic herb often used in adrenal support supplements).

Dried Goji Berries

Why Do Nightshades Cause A Problem?

The primary reason that nightshades could trigger rashes is due to naturally-occurring phytochemicals that are there to protect the food from pests.

They can’t be washed off because the plant produces them within it as it grows.

The three big concerns are…

  • Salicylates
  • Histamines
  • Glycoalkaloids (most notably Solanine)

Salicylates can certainly be an issue for some. You’ve probably heard of the low-salicylate diet which is often promoted as a way to calm eczema or atopic dermatitis.(3) Though I’ll certainly go into salicylates more in-depth in another article, just know that salicylate sensitivity is a reflection of liver detoxification issues, NOT gut problems.

That means it’s not actually a food issue, but your liver struggling to process salicylates through Phase 2 Detox. (If you’re not familiar with the liver detoxification system, CLICK HERE to check out this breakdown I created).

The best way to support your liver is with the addition of glycine and B6 so that it can properly process salicylates.

As far as histamine is concerned, nightshade foods can create a higher histamine burden than your body can handle. Symptoms of a high histamine response can look like hives, itchiness, swelling, nausea, heart palpitations, elevations in blood pressure, anxiety, and other GI symptoms (just to name a few).(4)

Here’s a great explanation of how to start dealing with high histamine foods on the Healthy Skin Show. It’s possible to help support the breakdown of histamines in your diet by supplementing with the DAO enzyme about 10 minutes before eating every meal.

As far as the Glycoalkaloids like solanine, it was difficult for me to find any good data connecting it as a trigger for skin flares. The jury is still out, but I suspect that the first two phytochemicals listed in this section likely explain most of the reactions.

That said, it’s always possible to have an actual food allergy to any one of these foods, so that should also be ruled out.

Basket of blueberries

If by chance solanine is an issue, you’d also need to be careful of blueberries (even though it’s not a nightshade family member). It happens to contain a decent enough dose of solanine that may warrant exclusion. (5)

Another potential solanine-rich food (which sometimes appears on nightshade lists) is okra.

Before we talk about what you can do… there is one exception to the rule — white potato.

White potatoes might not be as guilty as some of the other nightshade family members!

It comes down to peeling the potato… I kid you not.

By removing the peel, the salicylate and glycoalkaloid burden is significantly lowered to the point where the potato itself would now be considered low in salicylates. In fact, just the solanine burden alone is 23 to 50 times greater in the skins of potatoes compared to the flesh.(6)

Eggplant and tomatoes

Do You Need To Avoid All Nightshades?

One of my biggest grievances with the food elimination diets that are rampant in the health world is that it feeds a more destructive fear of food.

It’s not inherently wrong to try different eliminations. But it is a problem when you pile food group upon food proteins upon naturally occurring food chemicals.

THAT is a recipe for disaster that can lead to both micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies!

I cannot stress this enough — nightshades are not a problem for everyone.

Even though I had dyshidrotic eczema for 3 years, I never had an increase in flares from eating nightshades, nor do they trigger my eczema to reoccur now.

With all that said, I’m not YOU.

Child detective investigating

Your system, as well as your root causes, may be completely different from mine. And that’s why you’ve got to do a little investigating to see what could be a problem.

The reality is that if your “issue” with nightshade foods is because of the high salicylate load, then you aren’t actually sensitive to the nightshade family itself.

The problem lies in your liver’s ability to properly process salicylates!

Reducing the load of salicylates in your diet can certainly be helpful. But it can be really challenging to follow the diet. That’s why adding in additional glycine and Vitamin B6 could help!

If you want to test out if nightshades are an issue, try completely excluding them from your diet for 3 weeks. See if you notice any improvement in your skin during that time AND any flares when you attempt to reintroduce them.

Make sure to read all ingredient labels for your condiments because some of these nightshades could be hidden in the products. I’d also suggest steering clear of potato starch (often added to food products) during your test just to be on the safe side.

The key word there is “completely”. You cannot have “just a little bit”.

I typically recommend clients who attempt food elimination diets to track and rate their symptoms. This way, you know if what you’ve done actually has helped.

And remember, if you need some great breakfast ideas to jumpstart your day, my Eczema-Soothing Smoothie eGuide is a great place to get some yummy recipes!

Roasted Pork

Tips To Avoiding Nightshade Foods

If you’re interested in giving this elimination diet a try, it’s best to plan out your food in advance so that you don’t end up caving part of the way through.

Here are 10 nightshade-free recipes to try:

Balsamic Roasted Green Beans With Pomegranate & Goat Cheese

Herbed Polenta

Vegan Lime Coleslaw

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato And Beef Stew

Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken

Sweet & Savory Strawberry Avocado Salad

Peach Salsa

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Italian Wedding Soup (leave out optional red pepper flakes)

Easy Tuna & Chickpea Salad

Pear & Walnut Salad

Savory Italian Roasted Pork

Now I want to hear from you!

Have you tried eliminating Nightshades before and what was the result?

If you haven’t given it a try yet, are you considering this elimination?

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28526915
  2. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/what-are-nightshades/
  3. https://www.dietvsdisease.org/salicylate-intolerance/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/histamine-intolerance#symptoms
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/most-nutritious-nightshade-plants#blueberries
  6. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@[email protected]+3539

 

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Should You Avoid Nightshades for Eczema, Psoriasis and Other Skin Rash Problems?


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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