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Nightshades, Solanine, and Pain

14 years ago

This is my blog entry, but I wanted to share it here because I know some of you suffer with joint pain and/or fibromyalgia. What I discovered yesterday might have some relevance for you:

I spent last weekend painting a small room: sanding, taping all the edges, and priming. Having lived with fibromyalgia and whatever autoimmune issue causes my joint pain for years, I knew Id pay for all this bending and stretching, and I did. When I got out of bed Sunday morning, I wasnÂt sure IÂd be able to walk.

By Monday I started to feel better. My legs still hurt, but at least they functioned. At work Tuesday evening, though, I felt worse. I was puzzled, but fibromyalgia is a quirky thing, as are autoimmune conditions, and I just accepted that my recovery was going to take a while.

Tuesday night I developed a headache in my sleep. I rarely get headaches. I woke up Wednesday morning feeling awful: pounding head, pain all over, shooting nerve pains in various places, total brain fog. I felt poisoned.

Being poisoned is not new to me. I have a wicked reaction to solanine, the substance that forms under the skin of potatoes, and if I get too close to potatoes in their raw state it gets life-threatening. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family. The other nightshadesÂtomatoes, peppers, and eggplantÂalso contain solanine and cause problems for me as well, mostly in the form of joint pain. It has been exceedingly hard for me to stop acting like a passionate tomato gardener, and I still havenÂt succeeded 100%. But I may after what I discovered this week.

Getting back to Wednesday, I managed to drag myself to work, driving the 25 miles without running over anyone (as far as I know). Fortunately, my tasks for that day involved sitting down for the most part. At 7:00 p.m. I heated up a mug of soup. As I took it out of the microwave and stirred, I eyed the vegetables. Okra had floated to the top. I hardly ever eat okra, but I had created a creole soup around it on Sunday and had been eating it every day since. I remembered what the plant looked like in my garden when I grew it years ago. Could okra conceivably be one of the nightshades, and somehow IÂd missed this fact?

I Googled okra nightshade. No, okra wasnÂt part of the nightshade family. But it contained solanine. That was startling enough, but my eye moved to the next line and stayed there. Another food that contains solanine is artichokes. The day before, Tuesday, I had cooked two artichokes. I ate one before I left to work, and I ate the other that night, when I got home. They were delicious. I love artichokes. IÂll never eat another.

IÂve been doing some reading on nightshades and solanine. Among the websites I checked out, this one explains that solanine is a powerful inhibitor of cholinesterase, an enzyme that originates in the brain and is responsible for flexibility of muscle movement.

It also talks a bit about Dr. Norman F. Childers, a former Professor of Horticulture at Rutgers, who observed livestock kneeling in pain from inflamed joints after consuming weeds containing solanine. This reinforced his own experience, as he knew first-hand the effects of nightshades on joints.

According to this website (which originates in the UK), Dr. Childers proved that the majority of people who ache, regardless of their diagnosis, have a sensitivity to nightshades.

So I'd been dosing myself with solanine for days. I expect it'll take a while for the effects to wear off. I wonder . . . how many flares have I had as a result of eating artichokes, the cause a mystery at the time? IÂm passing along my experience this week on the chance that others may be unwittingly poisoning themselves, too.

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