Nightshade vegetables – Should you avoid them?


Certain foods from the nightshade family can contribute to your migraines. Popular Nightshades are:

  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper

Over 2,800 species of plants that belong to this group1. As migraine sufferers, we need to pay careful attention to nightshades. You may have to avoid this group of vegetables altogether, as the nightshade contains neurotoxic alkaloids that can trigger a migraine.

To avoid or not avoid the nightshade

When in doubt, remove the nightshade

I always enjoyed a variety of different foods, especially the taste of  eggplant and paprika. Cayenne pepper used to be my spice of choice when preparing a meal. Since they turned out to be significant migraine triggers, I was forced to completely remove all of these nightshades. My digestive system was highly sensitive to the vegetables.  Keep a detailed food journal in order to understand whether nightshades should be partially or completely removed.

Does quantity matter when it comes to nightshades?

As migraine sufferers, we all have different thresholds that govern when a migraine will strike. In my case, even a small amount would cause an episode.

Does boiling help?

According to research, boiling can reduce the amount of the toxic alkaloids in half. But you will not be able to remove all of the toxic substances using the method. In my case, it  has not worked and even a small amount of neurotoxic alkaloids can have a tremendous impact on those of us with migraines.

Nightshades can be high in biogenic amines like histamine and tyramine

Biogenic amines are difficult to deal with for most of us suffering from migraines. Few of us have heard of these before but they can often wreak havoc on our bodies. While both histamine and tyramine are present when food is purchased, the amounts build quickly over time as the food ages. This is the real problem, because a small quantity may not necessarily cause issues. However, the exponential increase in these organisms make it virtually impossible to eat almost anything that has aged without getting a migraine.

Be your own boss and listen less to experts

While cayenne pepper is widely touted for its healing properties, I found that it acted as a severe trigger. Since I was using the spice as seasoning in many different meals, it became difficult to isolate. Only through experimentation was I able to discover the offending trigger. It is also worth remembering that not all nightshades need to be removed from your diet and many of the nightshade vegetables are an excellent source of necessary vitamins. Do your own research by carefully removing and reintroducing a particular nightshade. Pay close attention to how you feel.

1.        www.whfoods.com, “What are nightshades and in which foods are they found?”, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62

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Susan
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Susan

I made and ate ratatouille yesterday evening, with sweet red peppers, tomatoes, courgette and aubergines and am in bed all day with a migraine. So it wasn’t a good idea….

Debra
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Debra

My children and I always get bad migraines from eating even a tiny piece of bell pepper. It took me years of food journaling to work it out. We are also very sensitive to eggplant. We don’t react badly to chili peppers or tomatoes though. We become hyperactive after eating potatoes. Our capsicum migraines give us migraine strokes that damage our brains and cause hemiplegia which both take months to heal. There are suggestions that capsicum can stop the pain from migraines. This is very dangerous if nightshades are your problem and you don’t know it yet.

Susan Harter
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Susan Harter

I realize this is an old thread, but I too am lying here with a white-potato-induced migraine after carefully eliminating and re-introducing potatoes. And tomatoes- my beloved tomatoes!- are also a no-go. In response to the homemade versus commercial potatoes comment above, I learned recently that pretty much ALL commercially prepared potatoes, either in restaurants or the grocery store freezer aisle, have been sprayed with sulfites to prevent browning. Like a lot of migraine sufferers, I have terrible reactions to the sulfites in wine. What I hadn’t known is that sulfites are used as preservatives in practically every boxed, jarred,… Read more »

Val
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Val

Thank you very much for sharing your discovery of migraine and nightshades. I have been suffering more than usual the amount of migraines lately. (I am currently having one so apologies if it turns out this post does not make sense). I organically grow eggplant and tomatoes in my garden and have eaten a lot of yucca (a type of tuber) with heaping servings of poblano and sweet peppers. I had always thought it was hormones and milk compounded with a sluggish thyroid that was the culprit. But I regularly eat cinnamon toast crunch cereal with milk to get me… Read more »

Clayton
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Clayton

Maybe my comment helps others. I get migraines when I eat potato (even potato flour in something like gluten free bread). But can eat chilli and tomatoes without issue. I would like to know the cause of this, as when I was younger it was no problem.

Shelli
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Shelli

Thank u one million percent. I ate lots of watermelon and have had 3 days of headaches and light sensitivity!!! Sooo grateful 2 have some VERY clear info from u and others here. Thank u again.

Corina
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Corina

I suffer from migraines for more than 10 years already. As many of us I tried everything. And there are 2 things that helps: 1-pulse diagnostics done by a very very good ayurveda doctor; 2-removing of nightshades. I discovered nightshades very recently. First, I thought I have migraines from fried potatoes, that was true. Then I thought it is from fried food (homemade only) but when I did the research, turns out it is the nightshade plants!! And now for 1 month avoiding nightshades I see wonderful results, considering, it is summer heat outside, some bad sleep patterns and stress.… Read more »

Marya at SimplyWell
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Marya at SimplyWell

Potatoes are an amazing healing food for those with migraine as they contain lots of potassium and magnesium as well as prebiotics that help feed the friendly flora in the gut. Tomatoes, especially concentrated tomato paste, contains naturally-occuring glutamates. I have more of an issue with tomato than potato.

Cayenne increases nitric oxide and contains capsaicin, which actually activates the herpes virus that lives in the cranial nerves contributing to migraine. It is a huge trigger.

SME
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SME

I have had problems with commercial hash browns, but not with homemade ones.There is sometimes an additive, like MSG, that can cause problems. I am presently testing raw organic potatoes as a migraine trigger, and they may well be the culprit. I have attempted to use them only very recently as a resistant starch (one digested by bacteria in the lower GI tract to reduce insulin resistance and improve butyrate formation). It seems to me that I am unable to use raw potato for this.

Jennie
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Jennie

Potatoes are one of the biggest migraine triggers for me. Unfortunately I an recovering from another “test” of this now. Only 4 bites of hash browns were the cause. This time it took less than day to start, but often there is a delay of 2-4 days. I have tried organic potatoes to see if it makes any difference – it doesn’t.

Mariluzi Rosario
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Mariluzi Rosario

Based on the pictures above, (I searched online and didn’t find nothing about) are Okra and Zucchini nightshade plants?

Andrea
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Andrea

Have you found that potatoes with even a small bit of green on them are especially toxic? I grow my own potatoes and often they are not kept entirely out of the light before I eat them. And can you cut off the green and still eat the potato?

Wendi Briggs
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Wendi Briggs

At the advice of a naturopath I did an elimination diet in September where migraine triggers, dairy, gluten, sugars etc. were removed from my diet. At the beginning of this month I started to re-introduce foods. On Thursday I tried white potato and felt like I was going to get a migraine (I usually have them with auras) and ended up with a headache for 3 days. While my naturopath said that the nightshade family can trigger migraines I am still shocked at what happened. My plan is to hold off on any other foods from this group till the… Read more »