Solanine Sensitivity

Some people are finding out they have a sensitivity to a particular chemical found in the nightshade family which includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tobacco. Each of these plants have one thing in common; they contain the chemical solanine. While thoroughly cooking each of these foods reduces the solanine content, even a small amount may trigger sensitivities. If a person tends to have any chronic symptoms outlined in the following list, consider avoiding consuming nightshades to see if there is a reduction in any of these symptoms.

Symptoms of Solanine Sensitivity

A person who is sensitive to the alkaloid solanine may experience one or more of the following symptoms after eating a food in the nightshade family:

  • hives and skin rashes
  • itchiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • excessive mucus production
  • achy muscles and joints
  • inflammation1

The FDA has reported numerous incidences of severe solanine poisoning. The most common occurrences have occurred after eating green potatoes which contain a higher concentration of this chemical. Older potatoes with sprouts also contain a higher concentration of solanine.

Historic Cases of Solanine Poisoning

“Seventy eight schoolboys became ill after eating potato at lunch on the second day of the autumn term. Seventeen of the boys required admission to hospital. The gastrointestinal, circulatory, neurological and dermatological findings and the results of laboratory investigations were in keeping with solanine poisoning. The illness affected the junior boys and all the monitors but no other senior boys or staff. This pattern was compatible with the consumption of a relatively small number of toxic potatoes believed to have come from a bag (A) left in the stores since the summer term.”2

“In a recent (1983) poisoning associated with a school lunch programme, 61 of 109 school children and staff in Alberta, Canada, became ill, most within 5 minutes, after eating baked potato (weight of potato not given) containing 49.4 mg ‘solanine’ per 100 g (analytical method not indicated). Test results showed that there was no evidence that the illness occurred due to the presence of viruses, bacteria, moulds, pesticides or other chemicals in the food items or their containers. The potatoes had a slight tinge of green and had a bitter or unusual taste (noted by 44% of those affected), causing a burning sensation in the throat of 18% of those affected. The predominant symptoms in order of frequency were nausea (69%), abdominal cramps (43%), headache (33%), vomiting (11%), fever and diarrhoea (8%). The children recovered in about 3 h. The reviewers estimate that, assuming the children ingested 200 g, and had a bw of 40 kg, the dose was about 2.5 mg ‘solanine’/kg bw (Anon, 1984).”3

Tomatoes Contain Solanine

Similar to green potatoes, green tomatoes also contain a high level of solanine. As a tomato ripens, the bitter chemical begins to reduce in this fruit. Be very cautious about eating all green tomato products. Thorough cooking reduces some of the solanine content.

Unripe eggplant contains higher amounts of solanine than those fully ripened. To reduce the concentration of solanine, thoroughly cook eggplant before eating.

How to Identify a Sensitivity

If a person suspects a solanine sensitivity, avoid foods in the nightshade family for three weeks. Assess if any of the above outlined symptoms are reduced. After not eating nightshades for three full weeks, and symptoms return after eating them again, a sensitivity is certainly indicated. If so, it might be best to completely avoid eating nightshade foods. Perhaps one nightshade may contribute to more symptoms than another. Trial and error removing certain foods from the diet will identify these sensitivities.




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