Animals that don’t want to be eaten can run away, or fight back if they’re able, when threatened. Plants on the other hand are rooted to the ground and so must have other strategies if they wish to avoid being something’s lunch or dinner.
Let’s look at potato, as an example.
Potatoes are tubers that grow underground, where they’re fairly safe from animal predators. Well, at least the tuber part is. The potato leaves and vines grow above ground and are easy pickings for predators of all types.
To discourage creatures from eating the plant, the potato produces its own pesticides. One is a glycoalkaloid called solanine. (Solanine is also found in abundance in eggplant.) Solanine is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it inhibits the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
So what, you say? Acetylcholine is released at neuromuscular junctions to activate motor neurons, which stimulate skeletal muscles to contract. If you have too much acetylcholine around the synapses of motor neurons, perhaps because you’ve got too much solanine in your body, you’ll likely feel stiff when you wake up in the morning or sit for extended periods of time because of prolonged muscle contractions.
If you’re a small animal or a bug, assuming you survived, you’d likely feel bad enough that you would look elsewhere for a meal next time. Which is the potato’s wish.
If the exposure is sufficient, solanine is poisonous. Symptoms of solanine poisoning are primarily gastrointestinal and neurological in nature: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, cardiac dysrhythmia, headache, and dizziness. More severe cases may include hallucinations, loss of sensation, paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils, and hypothermia.
When the tuber is exposed to sunlight, it thinks it’s exposed to predators so it goes into overdrive producing solanine in and close to the skin. Any animal that eats the tuber and gets sick will pass on the tuber next time. Potatoes used to be kept in sacks to keep them away from light. Now they’re stored in mostly clear plastic bags and may be exposed to a lot of light. If a potato looks green or has begun to sprout, toss it out.
Animal studies show solanine causes cell membrane disruption in the digestive tract. This exacerbates irritable bowel disorders in mice and destroys GI tissue in hamsters. In humans it’s been shown to affect gene expression of the intestinal cell lining and inhibit proteolytic enzyme activity (decreases protein digestion).
These effects are likely dose-dependent. They may also, in my opinion, be dependent on whether one is “sensitive” to potato or solanine or not. A toxic substance is a toxic substance, but negative effects from being exposed to it may be more prominent in sensitive individuals.
Solanine is also found in tomatoes, as is the glycoalkaloid tomatine, also a “natural” pesticide produced by the tomato plant to discourage animals from eating it. Like potato, tomatine is found in more abundance in the stems and leaves, and in the fruit when it’s still green. Levels of tomatine are very high in green tomatoes but drop dramatically when the fruit ripens. Artificially-ripened tomatoes (sprayed with ethylene gas) likely have higher levels than vine-ripened.
Tomato glycoalkaloids are about twenty times less toxic than in potato. (Still not a good idea to eat green tomatoes [not to be confused with tomatillos].) As with potato plants, humans shouldn’t eat tomato leaves or stems. They can also be toxic to dogs.
All nightshades contain calcitriol, the most active form of vitamin D (do not confuse it with D3). Calcitriol may be the most powerful hormone in the body and is responsible for telling the intestines to absorb more calcium. This is necessary when more calcium is needed, but harmful when it isn’t but occurs because someone is eating foods that contain calcitriol. Or possibly have a kidney problem as the kidney regulates the amount of D3 that gets converted into calcitriol.
The body doesn’t like having extra calcium in the blood because it can affect the heart, among other things, so it wants it out of the blood ASAP. The easiest and quickest way to get it out of the blood is to deposit it in soft tissue. If it occurs in the joints it results in osteoarthritis. If it occurs in the walls of the arteries it results in coronary artery disease.
Nicotine in nightshades
All nightshades contain some nicotine, but there is very little in the nightshades we eat. About 2–7 micrograms per kg of food. Some say it has no consequence, others say it does and may explain why some people claim to be addicted to nightshade foods. It is obviously quite high in the tobacco plant.
Nightshades we eat
There are many members of the nightshade family, but only a few we eat:
Common symptoms related to nightshades
I’ve been concerned about my knees for about five years now. I sprained the right knee pretty bad twice, once in the mid-80s playing basketball (which I did return to) and once in 1999 jumping over a chainlink fence (which I will never do again, unless it’s necessary to save my life, or the life of a loved one). Surgery wasn’t needed either time.
I never hurt my left knee (that I can recall), yet it’s now makes snap-crackle-pop noises when I go up a flight of stairs (but not down).
Both knees can get infrequent, sudden, sharp pain that almost causes them to buckle. Typically caused by going up stairs or some activity where the knee is bent, such as stooping to pick a weed out of the lawn. Other than that, there isn’t much pain, but I feel they’re getting worse.
I’ve also developed progressive inflammation in the metacarpal-phalangeal joint of my right thumb and a bit in the distal joint of my left index finger. And, I got gout in my left big toe last year. I only had one gout flare-up after the initial occurrence that I handled by keeping the joint slathered with aloe vera gel. But, the toe seems to be heading toward being arthritic now. When I realized the thumb was getting worse, and I considered the downside of having an arthritic toe, how it would affect my mobility, I decided I had to find a fix.
I’ve tried different things the past few years, including clearing myself for cartilage and other specific parts of the knee, which I don’t believe did anything. I started taking an herbal formula for the joints last November and feel it’s led my thumb to feel about 75% better. Capsaicin creams did nothing and it’s too early to judge whether the glucosamine/chondroitin supplements I started in January will help. I don’t think these things have helped the toe or knees.
I came upon an article on the Weston Price site that got me thinking about nightshades. I love spicy food and have been ramping up my tolerance. I roast Serrano peppers over our gas range and can eat four or five a meal, plus the habanero pepper sauce I make. I love the heat, but had likely been giving myself an increasingly greater dosage of nightshades.
After reading the article and pondering, I went (almost) completely off nightshades for two weeks. Then I created and ran the Nightshades BioSurvey on myself and did the clearing. (I found it interesting [but not all that important] that capsaicin had the highest dR, considering how many peppers I was eating.) That was a little over a week ago. It seems things have improved. My knees feel less inflamed (the left one still crackles and pops) and even the gouty toe feels a little better. But, it’s still early. Time will tell.
Are nightshades a problem or not? The likely answer is, it depends. Some people can eat them without apparent detriment to the their health while others seem to suffer greatly and do so until they stop eating nightshades (or have them cleared?).
There doesn’t seem to be much research on nightshades causing health problems, but there are tons of anecdotal stories. Many thousands, actually. Is someone making all those stories up? Unlikely.
I think it’s worth looking into nightshades as a possible cause chronic problems or as something that aggravates a condition.
What I’m curious about is, will clearing nightshades be enough, meaning will the clearing allow someone debilitated by nightshades to not only get better but also eat them safely? A toxin is a toxin is a toxin. But, we eat small amounts of toxins all the time without suffering debilitating health (unless we’re sensitive to the toxin?) Lastly, the possibility exists that intolerance to nightshades may depend on one’s epigenetics, or how nightshades interact with one’s genes.
The first thing that needs to be done is, SET-DB™ practitioners need to start using the Nightshades BioSurvey and start clearing nightshades sensitivities. We can then go from there.
For those who wish to go the avoidance route to see if nightshades are bothering them, try the following:
The Nightshade BioSurvey has been in your software since last week. Start using it and report back any experiences. Together we can figure this out.
Dr. Teryl Boothe and selected guests.