Nightshade plant allergies and me, following a brief update

nightshadeplantsIncluded at the end of the post is a recipe.

I have not written anything in many days. Nothing original, that is, besides the little commentary I make on news items. I’m not sure I’m up to it now but I’m going to see as I do have a subject in mind.

I’ve not written because I’ve been grossly ill. I’ve spent most of the last week feeling drugged out of my mind and in a lot of diffuse achey pain. It’s very strange to me that as I come off the tail end of my cocktail I should feel so drugged. I call it the “just shot up with heroin feeling.” Unfortunately it comes without any of the bliss heroin reportedly gives. I just go straight to the nodding out faze.

I suppose I brought it upon myself. I’m so damn sick of this withdrawal which is going on six years and I’m so close to the end that I’m chomping at the bit. I, therefore, have gone against my own better judgment in some regards. I came off 5 mg of Valium in one week. Last Sunday though was the last day I came off one milligram. Since then I’ve made no more tapers but I’ve been incredibly ill. And so I’ve been relatively silent.

The reason I felt I could experiment and speed things up is because with the help of IV nutrients I did get off 10 mg of Valium in one week when I went to the detox center and so I thought I would push it now that I’m getting IV nutrients again here. I’ve come off a total additional 9 mg of Valium since I got back from the nightmare detox center.

Whether or not I’m being stupid, chances are I’ll push it again once I recover to some extent, but a bit more carefully next time. I simply want the drug out of my system and I don’t have patience anymore and I know that the IV nutrients help at least somewhat. My recovery was much faster than it would be otherwise. I think I’m pretty much back to my pathetically bad off baseline now.

So this post is actually going to be about the latest foods I’ve eliminated from my diet. My latest doctor found out through my own report to her that I’m allergic to peppers and tobacco. These are both nightshade plants. Many people are allergic to the whole nightshade plant family. These includes all peppers (not black pepper), tomatoes, white potatoes and eggplant. All foods I love with a passion! And then there is tobacco which I became grossly allergic to about two and a half years ago which forced me to quit smoking. I suppose I shouldn’t complain about that allergy!

I’ve known of my allergy to peppers for decades. They cause severe and instant gastrointestinal problems if I indulge in more than just a little. I am a spicey food junky so that is how I generally used pepper. Hot red pepper, chilis, jalepenos etc, to spice up my food. I was able to generally limit my consumption when using the hot stuff, since not a lot is needed, in such a way as not to have a very obvious reaction. Though on occasion I still ate too much and would pay the price with multiple urgent trips to the bathroom for several hours.

Tobacco on the other hand turned on me as I came off the drugs. I think I must have always been allergic to it though. The first time I smoked I had stolen a cigarette from my father at age 15 and I got so grossly ill I was in bed retching for 24 hours. I only became a regular smoker once I was on a lot of medications and I think, now, that the meds somehow mitigated the allergy and also made me want to smoke, both. I did not smoke until I was well medicated during my 27th year. Who’s ever heard of someone starting smoking at age 27? So, once I withdrew from a good number of the drugs the allergy came back in full force because I noticed over a period of a few weeks when I was withdrawing from Risperdal that my morning cigarette would make me very sick to my stomach. Within about 3 weeks I was no longer a smoker because it got so severe. I now can’t be around cigarette smoke at all without becoming instantly sick to my stomach.

So that makes me obviously allergic to two of the nightshade plants. Apparently people with nightshade sensitivities can have them to the whole family of plants or to just one or two of them. Sometimes my doctor told me the only way you can be certain you are not allergic to all of them is to cut them all out. The reason she suggested this for me is because, though my psoriasis is almost completely cleared up from my other dietary and nutritional changes, I still have it on my elbows and though it’s a mere shadow of what it used to be even there, it’s still technically somewhat “unsightly.” I’ve not cared too much about it because the problem was so much worse in the past. I used to have it all over my body—the dietary changes I’ve already made has mostly healed it.

Nightshades, though, are often implicated in skin problems as they cause inflammation and if that is your only obvious reaction to the plant family it’s hard to know unless they are cut out of the diet for at least 6 months. One may notice other positive changes as well if one is, indeed allergic.

So I’ve set out to cut out nightshades from my diet. I actually mourned, truly mourned, the thought of no more spice in my life. Hot peppers are used in so much of my cooking. I cried. I’ve cut out so many foods from my diet but for some reason this felt devastating. Oddly enough, as much as I love tomatoes I did not mourn them. I was quite surprised by my emotional attachment to peppers! I don’t even mind not eating sugar!! And that is generally people’s biggest difficulty when eliminating favorite foods. Caffeine is the only other really tough item I had to eliminate. Everything else, since I did the changes slowly over a long period has been relatively pain free.

So it turns out that nightshades are in EVERYTHING. It’s really almost impossible to go to a restaurant and avoid  peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. If you ask about ingredients chili or red pepper is in so many things and tomatoes too.

At home I’ve already screwed up several times. This last week when I was so sick I haven’t felt like eating. My favorite comfort food when I’m sick and don’t want to eat has been organic cream of tomato soup in a box to which I add brown rice, cheese and pesto. It’s delightful and I can eat it even when I have no appetite.

Since I could no longer do this I found a can of organic lentil soup in the cupboard. I ate that for a couple of days with lots of cheese added to it and then discovered it had tomato paste in it. That was very frustrating.

I replaced that with some organic cream of corn soup that a friend of mine bought for me at the store which I then also added cheese and pesto…DELICIOUS…until I read the ingredients closely and found that it contained potato flour! When I shop I read ingredient labels very carefully, but I can’t expect my friends to when they are doing me the favor of shopping, but I still for whatever reason did not think to closely check the label after having told my friend what to avoid.

So, as I often say, I will try to stick to whole foods because you never know what is in even “health food” that has been processed. And given I’m not alert enough to always read labels once they are already in my home, and I can’t generally shop from myself as I can’t be on my feet long, I will revert to making my own soup with whole food ingredients.

I was so annoyed when I saw the potato in the corn soup yesterday afternoon. I’ve been trying to be nightshade free for almost three weeks and I keep discovering something I’ve been eating with some regularity has some nightshade in it. The humor, by the way, is not lost on me, but it’s also obnoxious. I just want to get any offending foods out of my diet because they can have implications that effect your whole well-being and right now being that I’m so delicate it’s the one thing I can try to control.

The nice thing with nightshades is that many people, once eliminating them entirely can eventually eat them again but not as often. It sometimes takes a few years, but one can reintroduce them every 6 months and see if there is still a reaction.

So to replace my nightshade infested canned soups, I’m going to buy a whole bunch of broccoli and make a huge batch of cream of broccoli soup which I will then freeze in small containers. No more crap shoots with pre-maid soup. In any case this broccoli soup I envision will be much more delicious than the tomato, lentil or corn soups I bought!! And it will be cheaper too!

**Note—24 hours later: Instead of buying broccoli for cream of broccoli soup I ended up emptying the freezer and I made a huge pot of Brussels sprout and spinach cream soup. I had both of those frozen veggies and they really needed eating as we are getting pretty much all our produce out of our garden currently.

I imagine it sounds strange, but oddly enough it tastes very much like cream of brocolli soup!! It’s really, really yummy. And it was easy too. Just boiled the Brussels sprouts, spinach, two large onions, a few garlic cloves in half milk and half chicken broth and then put in a bunch of grated cheese. After it was done cooking I pureed the whole thing and froze a bunch. Fantastic! and I never had to stand more than a few minutes at a time!!

I really get a kick at how I can still be creative in the kitchen in my compromised state. It’s one of the only things that makes me happy.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

9 Responses

  1. Saralynn Ingrassia

    I admire how you can still be creative in the kitchen in your “compromised state”. Unfortunately, my nausea keeps me out of kitchen unless absolutely necessary. The only thing that appeals to me is milk and apples. I cook for my husband…mostly Italian…but it is an effort. Any suggestions for eating when you’re feeling unwell?

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  2. I am allergic to nightshade as well — but only leaf and berry. For some reason I do not have the same response to potatoes, a root nightshade. I also seem to be able to deal with hotter peppers — the more capsaicin in them, the less they bother me (until they reach the exit ramp, that is, LOL). Guess it’s my Celtic blood, never met a spud I didn’t like.

    Sweet potatoes are also a nightshade — but yams are a totally different vegetable, and most supermarkets don’t know the difference. With my sugar allergy, I’m allergic to both, so I don’t have to worry about that.

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  3. After

    My fiance’s allergic to all tomatoes except tomato paste… maybe because the tomatoes used to make paste are a special breed (Roma, I think) or maybe because by the time they turn into paste the tomatoes have lost whatever the allergen ingredient is… so I’m used to looking for them when I shop for things to eat together. I never thought of the nightshade link. I wonder if you can still eat tomato paste, or if you’d even want to, for that matter?

    I haven’t been reading you for very long, so forgive me if I’m covering something you already know, but the woman who raised me used to have weird food sensitivites and she said the only thing she could do was just eat plain meat for a day or two and then slowly add things back… i remember she used to just eat a plain hamburger patty for lunch and take it from there. Have you tried that? Now for all I know you’re vegetarian… no offense meant if you are.

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  4. After

    When i was on psych meds I was sensitive to everything… never tracked down any specific allergies; I’d just rub up against a plant and get a rash, or have my hands feel slightly numb when I went clothes shopping, or go through bouts of IBS that came over me so suddenly I had to bolt out of the classroom (I’m a graduate student). During detox I was so sick all the time I didn’t know what was sensitivity and what was withdrawal. Now I’m drug-free and only have bouts of lithium withdrawal “flashback” for one or two days per month, and my sensitivities usually only seem to come back during those times… which is ironic, because my actual senses feel sharper and I know my reaction time is quicker. I bet once you’re well out of withdrawal your food sensitivities will get less sharp too.

    Of course, this is all just my experience. I had to do a sloppy withdrawal without professional help at all and it almost killed me… I didn’t do any of the research you’ve obviously done.

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  5. Ms Tiger

    I’ve known a few people who’ve experienced both heroin and valium withdrawals… unanimous vote was valium withdrawal was waaay worse – so you have my sympathies 😉

    I recently discovered my nightshade intolerance and was able to cut my use of painkillers dramatically. Diclofenac gone altogether and dihydrocodeine reduced by a quarter – all gone within 3 weeks of cutting out potatoes etc. After a couple of decades of constant moderate to severe pain, cutting out nightshade is the best thing that could have happened to me 🙂

    Fortunately although I was on antidepressants for 8 years, I’ve been off them for 5 years or more now. But the long process of emotional/physical recovery continues. Reassuring to find your blog and see that I share some of my experiences with others so thanks for writing.

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