Eggplants, tomatoes and bell peppers are part of a family of foods and spices known as nightshades. They are packed with nutrients and well-tolerated by most people. However, a small number of people may develop a sensitivity or allergy to them. Let’s examine how food allergies work and how to determine if you have one.
What Causes Food Allergies?
When you have a food allergy, your body misidentifies a food or substance in the food as something dangerous and responds by releasing IgE antibodies to neutralize the allergen. The next time you eat that food, the antibodies send a message to your immune system to release chemicals like histamine into your body. These chemicals cause your allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of food allergies develop quickly, and you may experience an itchy mouth, swelling of the lips and tongue, congestion and hives. In more severe cases you might have swelling in the throat or trouble breathing. Rarely, people with food allergies can experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that constricts the airways and requires immediate medical attention as it can be fatal.
Some people don’t have an immune response when they eat certain foods, but still experience unpleasant symptoms like nausea, bloating and heartburn. In these cases, a person may have a sensitivity towards a food as opposed to a true allergy.
Do Nightshades Cause Inflammation?
You may have read that you should avoid nightshades because they cause inflammation, which can lead to chronic health issues. The idea behind this is that because nightshades contain alkaloids, which can be dangerous in large doses, they should be avoided. However, nightshades only contain small amounts of alkaloids, and there’s not been any evidence that they are harmful to the vast majority of people.
If you believe you have a sensitivity towards nightshades, it may be worth cutting them out of your diet for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve. Just make sure you are replacing lost valuable nutrients by stocking up on other healthy foods at Mac’s Fresh Market or other grocery stores.
Get Tested for Food Allergies
The only way to know for sure if you have an allergy to nightshades or other foods is to visit an allergist. They can use a blood test or skin-prick test to help correctly identify your specific allergy trigger(s).
True allergies to nightshades are rare, so it’s possible your symptoms are actually caused by a more common allergen like soy, seafood, gluten, dairy or nuts.
If you do have a food allergy, your allergist will recommend avoiding that food and possibly prescribe medications for times when you might accidentally be exposed.
To learn more about food allergies or to schedule an appointment with an expert, contact Red River ENT Associates today.