Nightshade Vegetable Intolerance and the AIP Diet

Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and several other vegetables that are a common part of the human diet belong to the nightshade family. Nightshade vegetables contain trace amounts of toxic alkaloids, nitrogenous organic substances, that can cause health concerns like inflammation, migraines, leaky-gut syndrome, joint swelling, and osteoporosis. These veggies are extremely healthy on one hand in that they are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They can be problematic, however, for those whose bodies cannot properly process the alkaloids. For that reason, people with a nightshade intolerance will often seek out the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet for relief.

Let's take a look at which vegetables belong to the nightshade family and how the AIP diet can be a good route for those with sensitivities to them.

The Deadly Nightshades

Nightshades are a group of flowering plants belonging to the Solanaceae family. One of the world's most utilized and important plant families, they are both desirable and dangerous. In the Middle Ages, the fruit of these plants were believed to be poisonous despite women using them in their beauty regimes. Nightshades occur all over the world except Antarctica, and approximately 50 species of nightshades are found in North America. We eat many of them on a regular basis.


Tomatoes contain a compound called tomatine. Tomatine is found throughout the entire tomato, and the content changes as the plant matures. Individuals who are sensitive to this alkaloid may suffer from redness, swelling, pain around mucous membranes, coughing, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Eggplants produce alkaloids in their skin, seeds, and flesh. When eaten, any part of the eggplant can have a number of arsenic and strychnine-like effects on health including gastrointestinal disorders and confusion.


Whether they are hot or not, all peppers, including bell, chili, jalapeño, and banana, contain alkaloids, but not as much as their fellow nightshades. The capsaicin in peppers may contribute to nightshade-like symptoms such as stomach or gallbladder issues. 


Although a staple in the Western diet, white potatoes are nightshades. Sweet potatoes and yams, however, are not. Those who are sensitive may experience gastrointestinal discomfort including vomiting or diarrhea.

Despite the fact that nightshades include beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, B vitamins, and antioxidants, the compounds they contain can cause numerous issues for the body. These alkaloids serve as a natural insect repellent that prevents the plants being eaten or destroyed when they are growing. In a society where these food items are prevalent, you may be suffering from eating them and not even know it.

How the AIP Diet Can Help

Those with nightshade sensitivity may finally find relief in the AIP diet. The AIP diet is a variation of the Paleo diet in that it eliminates potentially inflammatory triggers like seeds, nuts, eggs, and most sweeteners. Off the table are all nightshades.  

The foundation of the diet plan is fresh or freshly cooked vegetables, healthy fats, high-quality lean meats, and fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It allows leafy greens and cruciferous plants as well as dairy-free fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and pickles. It also includes common anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and ginger. Black pepper comes from a peppercorn which is not a nightshade.

Aside from avoiding nightshades, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, dairy, processed foods, or added sugars, alcohol, chocolate, and coffee are also prohibited. Healthy substitutions for the nightshades include strawberries, pumpkins, beets, and watermelon instead of tomatoes; sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and cauliflower for the potatoes; squash, carrots, cucumbers, and celery for the bell peppers; onions, garlic, turmeric, and cloves rather than hot peppers; and mushrooms as a substitute for eggplant.  

AIP is not a quick dietary fix, but a long-term dietary plan that helps inflammation and other symptoms subside over months. It is basically a lifestyle, if you will. If you have a sensitive stomach or suffer from inflammation, it may be time to explore the AIP diet.

Start the AIP Diet with Paleo Angel

Autoimmune disease can cause your body to attack its own tissues. Nightshade vegetables exacerbate the issue because eating them can lead to inflammation of the GI tract and throughout the body. That's where the AIP diet comes in. Once you have eliminated all the suspects, you can slowly begin to reintroduce foods after a few weeks of clean eating to pinpoint exactly what has been causing your body to overreact. The process can be long and difficult, but it is worth it in order to cut down on symptoms and reduce the chances of developing a secondary autoimmune disorder.

Paleo Angel makes it easier to stick to the AIP diet with tasty treats that are Paleo, Keto, and AIP friendly. Founded by a life-long sufferer of autoimmune disease, the company provides nutritious snacks that taste great to help make adhering to the plan doable.

The Autoimmune Protocol Variety Pack features four packs of our Power Balls packaged two balls per pack for easy snacking. They come in Lemon, Vanilla, Orange Cranberry, and Carob flavors to help you decide on a favorite. Power Ball ingredients include yummy, healthy things like organic coconut, organic raw honey, coconut milk, collagen protein, and natural flavorings.

Additional offerings include Tiger Mamas. These AIP-compliant super cookies contain no gluten, dairy, nuts, grains, soy, or GMOs. They are made using tigernuts, an ancient all-natural root vegetable that is nutrient-dense with antibiotics, prebiotic fiber, iron and vitamin E. The prebiotic fiber may help to reduce blood sugar spikes and lower LDL cholesterol levels. The antioxidants can aid in lowering the risk of chronic inflammation by fighting free radicals. Coming in packages of 8, these delicious and healthy cookies are made of organic tigernut flour, organic coconut sugar, organic maple syrup, and organic palm shortening.

Paleo Angel products are an excellent way to handle on-the-go snacking and the desire for something delicious when you need to adopt an AIP, keto, gluten-free, or paleo-friendly diet.