Osteoarthritis, also called arthritis and degenerative bone disease, is the most common type of joint malady. Some scientists and nutritionists hold that the class of plants called nightshades contributes to the development of arthritis and other medical conditions, including stiffness, inflammation and muscle spasms, explains Norman F. Childers in the Macrobiotic Guide. According to the University of Washington, however, there is no direct evidence linking nightshade vegetables and osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis happens when joint cartilage erodes, causing bones to rub against each other. Bone growths or bone "spurs" then develop around the joints, which can be excruciatingly painful if the spurs grind against nerves, ligaments, muscles or soft tissue, according the University of Maryland Medical Center. Heredity and obesity are risk factors, although osteoarthritis may also be caused by medical conditions like hemophilia. Aging is another risk factor; by the seventh decade of life, almost everyone develops osteoarthritis.
Approximately 2,000 different species make up the nightshade plant family, Solanaceae. Included in this wide-ranging group are common food plants like potatoes, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chili peppers, pimiento, paprika and eggplant, explains Phyllis A. Balch in her book "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Another nightshade plant is tobacco, which is closely related to the food nightshades.
Macrobiotics and Nightshades
Macrobiotic nutritional theory frowns on eating nightshade vegetables and fruits. According to nutritionist Lino Stanchich, the chemical and energetic qualities of nightshade vegetables are thought to weaken the gums, bones and other organs, reports "New Life Journal." Childers, a horticulture scientist, believes that the consumption of nightshades is a major health problem, causing or exacerbating conditions like arthritis and asthma. He also writes that foods from the nightshade family are addictive and difficult to withdraw from your diet, as noted in Macrobiotic Guide. If you have arthritis, speak to your physician about the proper diet for you.
Diet and Arthritis
The University of Washington reports that no evidence currently exists to support the claim that nightshade plants help or hinder osteoarthritis. One unusual type of arthritis, however, is directly caused by sprue, a disorder that develops because of wheat allergies. If you have arthritis, a healthy, varied diet is critically important, especially since some medications can change your body's nutritional levels of sodium, potassium, vitamin B-12 and copper. A nutritious diet consists of selections from the five different food groups, which include fruits, vegetables, starches, protein and low-fat dairy products. Be sure to include antioxidants like vitamin E as well as omega-3 fatty oils that come from pumpkin seeds, walnuts and cold-water fish like salmon and herring.
- University of Washington Medicine: Diet and Arthritis
- University of Maryland: Osteoarthritis -- Overview
- "New Life Journal"; All About Nightshades: Explore the Hidden Hazards of Your Favorite Food with Macrobiotic Nutritionist Lino Stanchich; April-May 2003
- Macrobiotic Guide; Nightshades; Norman F. Childers, PhD,
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; Phyllis A. Balch; 2008