Nightshades and your vagina

The nightshade family (Solanaceae) of vegetables don’t go down very well in some people, so if you’ve been asked to avoid nightshades by your practitioner, it is to avoid possible sensitivities.

Removing possible problem foods can be an important part of treatment for chronic vaginal problems, but usually not the only step. You are usually able to eat nightshades again unless they clearly have a negative impact on your body at the reintroduction phase.

Nightshade toxin impact on the body

Is there a direct link between vaginal symptoms and nightshades? We don’t really know. Sometimes there will be a broader protocol adopted with the removal of nightshades part of that​1​. It might not be a clear link, but there is only one way to find out, and that is to remove nightshades from your diet and see. This is likely to be part of a broader diet protocol such as the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet.

The cause of the possible health problems is toxic alkaloids in several species of the nightshade family. Some alkaloids have a drug-like effect on humans, for example, caffeine, nicotine and morphine and have a historically bad reputation.

Glycoalkaloids are natural pesticides in plants that damage helpful cholesterol in your cell membrane (walls). Cholesterol increases the flexibility and strength of your cell membrane, to protect cells from unwanted items entering. Without this protection, the cell might leak its contents after being damaged by the glycoalkaloids.

Glycoalkaloids, a natural toxin, can be slow to be metabolised, sometimes over a day. This means a buildup can occur relatively quickly without much effort.

Nightshade foods to avoid on your special diet

  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Tomatillo
  • Tamarillo
  • Potato
  • Goji berry
  • Pimento
  • Capsicum/bell pepper/pimentos
  • Chilli, paprika, cayenne, hot chillies of any kind
  • Naranjilla
  • Pepino (not cucumber!)
  • Cape gooseberry/ground cherry
  • Tobacco
  • Ashwagandha/Withania (herbal medicine)

Do I need to avoid nightshades?

Everyone is different in terms of how we digest glycoalkaloids and their impact on the body. There is no reason to avoid the nightshade family of foods unless directed to by a practitioner or as an experiment to see if it helps your symptoms.

Typically avoiding nightshades is a temporary measure to lessen the load of known toxins and problem foods while working on other areas of your health. The same could be true for amines, salicylates, histamine, tyramine, sulphites, and so on.

References

  1. 1.
    Drummond J. Functional Nutrition Treatment of Vulvodynia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Depression: A Case Report. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(3):44-51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30962795


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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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