Fibromyalgia, CFS/ME: Pain and the Nightshade Connection

In Blog by Alyssa Reid1 Comment

We all know that eating healthier is important, whether we have fibromyalgia, CFS/ME or not.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is imperative to having better health.  But what if some of the stuff we are eating is actually increasing our pain and we didn’t know it?  Nightshades (tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant/aubergine, peppers and more) have been widely linked with increasing pain.

What are Nightshades?

They are members of the family Solanaceae.  There are a few that are edible (such as the list below) however, there are many that are not and are poisonous – such as the infamous belladonna used in the play Macbeth.

Edible Nightshades:

  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplant/Aubergine
  • White Potatoes
  • Goji Berries
  • Tobacco
  • Peppers (bell peppers, chili peppers, paprika, tamales, pimentos, cayenne, etc)

The Salad From Hell

Sitting down to a nice salad filled with lovely fresh tomatoes and peppers from the garden and thinking that you are doing your body good, might actually be very far from the truth.

For many people nightshades cause no issues regarding pain and inflammation.  For those of us with auto immune conditions such as fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, arthritis and Lupus, many of us find that we are intolerant to some/all of these fruits and vegetables.  Not only can they cause pain, but can also trigger psoriasis flare ups and other issues, such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, painful joints, headaches and depression.

Evidence That Nightshades Cause Issues

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot other than reports from people stating that they have found that cutting nightshades out of their diets has been extremely helpful in reducing pain and inflammation. (We need to do a research study app on this, I think!).

However, a study was published in 1993 by Dr Childers in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery ‘An Apparent Relation of Nightshades in Arthritis‘.  Here’s some interesting figures from the study:

In 1985-1986, another survey was made of over 5000 new book (1981) holders with a detailed 4-page questionnaire that drew only 434 (8.6%) replies, but did provide broader information . The survey of over 5000 new diet book (1981) holders canvassed provided the following information:

  • Of the 5000 readers canvassed, 434 returned a questionnaire (8.6%);
  • Arthritis had been diagnosed by a physician in 85% of respondents;
  • 79% had been treated with drugs, with 80% receiving some degree of temporary relief;
  • 52% indicated they were rigidly on the diet, 48% had “slipped” occasionally;
  • Rigidly on the diet, 94% had complete or substantial relief from symptoms;
  • Of dieters with an occasional “slip” 50% had complete or substantial relief;
  • Overall, 68% had complete or substantial relief

The Vitamin D Connection

One theory has to do with Vitamin D. There seems to be a lot of evidence in animals that have indicated that nightshade vegetables cause all kinds of joint and bone problems, mostly because of the way the animals’ bodies process the form of Vitamin D in the nightshades. Vitamin D is imperative for proper bone formation, but the extremely potent form of Vitamin D3 in nightshade vegetables actually prevents proper calcium metabolism, causing the body to deposit calcium in the soft tissue (where you don’t want it) instead of in the bones (where you do).  This is interesting to me, because I have a LOT of bone spurs happening on my neck and upper back…calcium deposits.  Painful ones at that…

Best Thing to Do?

Track what you are eating in order to eliminate issues – whether it is gluten, dairy…or nightshades.  The FibroMapp app is an excellent way to track pain, fatigue, mood, flare ups and much more.

I know for myself that eating tinned tomatoes and eggplant (aubergine in the UK!), that my pain levels soar within 2 hours and put me into a flare up that can last days. (And in typing this, I just realised that I also eat ketchup…doh! Never even clued into this nightshade in a bottle!).


Understanding our bodies and our patterns and knowing that we actually DO have an opportunity to gain more control over ourselves, whether by diet, reducing stress and handling things differently, exercise and more is imperative to regaining our health.

Nightshades are certainly not the cause of fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, but they could be an instigator in raised pain levels and inflammation, even IBS. Ultimately, everybody (and every body) is different and the only way you are going to find out is by tracking what you are eating and your increased pain and flare ups and then eliminating these foods to see if they are a trigger food.





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