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Quick, what do potatoes, paprika, and eggplant all have in common? If you said “delicious,” you aren’t far off, but there’s a more important similarity as well: these three plants (as well as tomatoes and all varieties of peppers) belong to the nightshade family. While the vast majority of people have no problems with nightshades, they can cause serious problems for anyone struggling with an autoimmune disease, as well as some people who simply have a digestive sensitivity to them.

What Are Nightshades?

Members of the family Solanaceae, common nightshades include white (but not sweet) potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, both the eye-watering chilies and the sweeter bell peppers. The list of edible nightshade plants also includes any spices made from peppers, like paprika, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper (although black pepper is a different plant).

The list of edible nightshades is fairly short, but the list of poisonous ones is quite extensive. Most nightshades are toxic to humans, with the best-known being belladonna, or “deadly nightshade,” traditionally valued for its use as a poison (in the play Macbeth, for example, belladonna poisoning features as a plot point).

The association with such toxic family members makes some people very concerned about all nightshades – they worry that if deadly nightshade is such a terrifying poison, then even the apparently harmless tomato must be up to no good. Farmers and gardeners in some traditional cultures seemed to agree: they were dubious about the food value of these plants, and mostly grew them as ornaments in the belief that they were unhealthy to eat.

Guilt by association and the accumulated wisdom of traditional gardeners makes for a plausible theory, but fortunately there’s just no evidence that nightshades are dangerous in any way for most healthy people. On the other hand, they might be a bad idea for people whose guts and immune systems are already compromised, especially anyone with an autoimmune disease.

Nightshades and Autoimmunity: Vitamin D

The best evidence for the health risks of nightshades is connected with arthritis and joint pain, especially the autoimmune disease of rheumatoid arthritis. But even the “best evidence” isn’t that great: it’s mostly based on personal reports and the experience of nutritionists and integrative health specialists. One doctor conducted several surveys, and found that eliminating nightshades was extremely helpful, but that kind of survey has many limitations: there was no control group, and that just asking people “what did you eat?” is an unreliable way of gathering evidence.

Even bearing in mind the relative lack of solid evidence in humans, though, it’s still an interesting theory, especially when you look into the proposed causes for this effect: why are nightshades so often blamed for pain, inflammation, and autoimmunity issues?

One theory has to do with Vitamin D. There’s a lot of evidence from animals indicating that nightshade vegetables cause all kinds of joint and bone problems, mostly because of the way the animals’ bodies process the form of Vitamin D in the nightshades. Vitamin D is crucial for proper bone formation, but the extremely potent form of Vitamin D3 in nightshade vegetables actually prevents proper calcium metabolism, causing the body to deposit calcium in the soft tissue (where you don’t want it) instead of in the bones (where you do).

In animals, this causes very painful arthritis and joint inflammation. On the other hand, though, humans don’t metabolize Vitamin D in the same way as cows and horses. Animal studies just aren’t always relevant to human beings: avocados, for example, are toxic to dogs, but perfectly healthy for people. So the animal evidence is interesting, but doesn’t necessarily prove that humans will suffer in the same way.

Nightshades and Autoimmunity: Alkaloids and Lectins

Other research doesn’t blame the Vitamin D, but attributes the autoimmune dangers of nightshades to various other factors, usually a group of chemical compounds called alkaloids. Alkaloids include solanine (in potatoes, especially green potatoes), nicotine (in very small amounts: nightshade plants are not addictive like cigarettes!), and capsaicin (the chemical that gives peppers their heat).

[Tomato, a nightshade] While the plant is alive, these compounds work as its home-grown “bug spray,” defending it from pests and molds that would otherwise kill it. In other words, they’re designed to be toxic. In the poisonous members of the nightshade family, these chemicals are so concentrated that they have deadly effects on humans, but in the edible nightshades, they’re present in much smaller amounts, and mostly in the leaves and stems (which we don’t eat anyway).

Since humans are so much bigger than bugs and mold, and since we’re not eating the most alkaloid-rich parts of the plant, most of us notice absolutely no effect from eating tiny amounts of this natural “bug spray.” It’s like trying to taste a single grain of sand in an enormous bowl of soup. In theory it’s a bad idea to eat sand, but such a tiny amount makes absolutely no measurable difference to your health.

Healthy guts can deal with these chemicals just fine, but people whose digestive system is already compromised by an autoimmune disease have trouble with them. For example, some kinds of alkaloids increase the power of the immune response – exactly what you don’t want when you’re dealing with an autoimmune disorder.

Another danger of alkaloids is gut irritation: their job in the plant is to kill things, and when they start killing things in your intestine as well, the cells lining the intestinal tract are their first victims. This irritation of the gut contributes to intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”), which can set off an autoimmune reaction when various proteins that should stay inside the digestive tract instead make their way out into the bloodstream, and the body attacks them in response.

On top of the alkaloids, there’s also the lectin issue. All foods contain lectins; many of those lectins are completely harmless, but others are gut irritants – the hard part is figuring out which is which. We know that the lectins in peanuts, for example, are dangerous. The lectins in nightshades may also be gut irritants in sensitive individuals, setting off the same leaky gut response as the alkaloids.

What’s the evidence for this actually happening? It’s fairly scanty, but suggestive. In this study, for example the researchers fed potato skins (the skin is where most of the alkaloids lurk) to mice with inflammatory bowel disease, and found that gut inflammation was significantly increased. The higher the alkaloid content of the potatoes, the worse the inflammation.

Toxicity vs. Beneficial Stress

It really can’t be emphasized enough that all these dangers are only relevant to people who are nightshade-sensitive. If you aren’t sensitive to them, there’s absolutely no reason to rush out and eliminate all these foods from your diet “just in case.”

[Bell pepper, another nightshade] In fact, the same chemical compounds that cause so many problems in nightshade-sensitive people can bring benefits to people with healthy digestive systems. Capsaicin, for example, might be more familiar to most of us as an anti-inflammatory, one of the big health benefits of eating hot peppers. That’s because it really does work that way in healthy people. The minor irritation of the capsaicin triggers such a strong anti-inflammatory response that the overall result is anti-inflammatory and beneficial (if this sounds familiar, it’s the exact same way that antioxidants work).

Alkaloids have even been studied as therapies for various diseases, precisely because of these benefits. The deadly nightshade, for example, has been used in folk remedies since we realized how strong it was, and it’s now the source of the antispasmodic drug atropine. The powerful poison can also be turned into an equally powerful remedy, if it’s prepared correctly.

To sum it up, it’s only for people with gut problems – autoimmune diseases, leaky gut, and related issues – that the minor irritation of alkaloids from edible nightshades is too much to handle. For healthy people, the hormetic stress of alkaloids is neutral at best, and may even be a benefit.


Should you avoid nightshades? If you’re trying to heal from an autoimmune disease (especially rheumatoid arthritis or anything else that causes joint pain and inflammation), a 30-day nightshade elimination is definitely worth a shot. After all, it can’t really hurt, and you might be surprised at the benefits. You can find details about the Paleo autoimmune protocol (which restricts nightshades, as well as a few other types of foods) here.

Total elimination is one option, but for people who are only slightly sensitive, it might be enough just to reduce the nightshade content of their diet, or to reduce the levels of the various problematic chemicals by properly preparing nightshades. This includes:

Peeling all potatoes (as the alkaloids are mostly found in the skin)
Avoiding green tomatoes and green and/or sprouting potatoes (unripe nightshades are higher in alkaloids)
Cooking nightshade vegetables whenever you eat them (this reduces alkaloid content further).

People without an autoimmune disease or chronic pain issues probably won’t see much benefit from eliminating nightshades. There’s not much harm in experimenting, but there’s no reason to make an already strict Paleo diet even stricter if you don’t have to. Most of us can enjoy tomato sauce, eggplant, and hot peppers just fine, and even see some benefits from those same chemicals.

credit by http://paleoleap.com/nightshades/

Proper Posture

Type your paragraph here.Your body posture can make a big difference in your overall health. Incorrect posture can lead to mental and physical duress, with symptoms such as neck and shoulder pain, back pain, headaches and migraines, poor sleep quality, and eye strain. Proper posture can improve digestion, blood circulation, all while making you feel younger and more energetic.

Proper posture is important not only for standing, but sitting and laying down as well. Many people spend the majority of their day sitting, be it at a desk, in their car, and on their couch. Sitting for too long can impact the pressure on your spine, causing poor posture. It is even more important to strive for healthy posture if you have a desk job.

Here are 15 easy ways to perfect your posture and get you feeling and looking healthy.

1. Take Breaks From Sitting

Sitting for long periods of time can stress your spine, leading to curvature and slouching. Stretch your body by taking regular breaks. Standing up and walking for just 5 minutes can rejuvenate your body and keep you from back strain. This action can be as simple as getting a glass of water or going to the washroom. Light stretching can also help loosen up tight back muscles that occur with sitting for too long of a period.

2. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise can play a big part in your overall posture. Strong core muscles will help support your upper body, letting you easily maintain a straight back. Posture during exercise is also important. Incorrect positioning while lifting weights can cause serious energy. If you are looking at getting more exercise, consider hiring a personal trainer. These professionals can help you identify the correct body positions to minimize strain and injury, while maximizing your work out.

3. Have An Ergonomic Assessment

In large offices, ergonomic assessments are sometimes available. A professional ergonomists will measure your workstation and where you fit with the equipment. They will then let you know the changes you can make to optimize your workplace experience. If your office does not offer this service, there are online questionnaires that can help you identify changes you can make. Some common changes that make a big difference in your posture are chair height and computer monitor angle.

4. Use A Chair Pillow

Lower back support is important when sitting for long periods of time. Many high end computer chairs offer multiple layers of back support. If you do not own a chair with back support, you can supplement the action with a small pillow. Place the pillow in the small of your back and lean against your chair. It should support the gap between the chair and your lower back.

5. Find Your Ideal Sitting Position

Previous schools of thought believed that sitting completely straight was the best position for proper posture. New discoveries have shown that this position can actually place extra strain on the spine. Leaning back can be the most comfortable position for your body. Find the position you are most comfortable in but make sure that your spine is relatively straight. Slouching shoulders should be minimized.

6. Change Your Pillows

Your position when you sleep can make a big impact on your posture. Pillows can make a big difference in both your head position and spinal position. Choose a pillow suited for which style you sleep in- moulded and medium support for back sleepers, firm support for side sleepers, and light support for stomach sleepers. If you sleep on your side, also consider tucking a pillow between your knees to straighten out your spine.

7. Maintain Your Mattress

The quality and age of your mattress can affect your posture. An old mattress in disrepair can put pressure on different points of your body. If you have an old mattress, you can easily extend the life and comfort by adding on a memory foam topper. This special foam cradles your body, evening out the weight and pressure. If you have an spring mattress, check to see if you should be turning and flipping it to even out the ware patterns.

8. Adjust Your Car Head Rest

If you have a long commute, you can adjust your car to promote good posture. Your headrest should come up to the center of your head. The angle should be parallel with your neck and head. It should be placed 3-4 inches behind your head. Some cars have headrests that cradle the head in a much closer position. Insure you adjust your mirrors to make it easy to see the road without having to put your neck in a painful position..

9. Adjust Your Car Seat Position

Your seat position in your car will also make a big difference in your posture. Slide the seat so that you are an ideal distance from the peddles. You should not have to stretch to reach them, but you also don’t want your knees hitting the steering wheel. Adjust the angle of the seat so that you are comfortable and can easily see the road. Putting it too far back can be dangerous as you may not be able to see around the car for traffic.

10. Keep Your Head Back

Throughout the day you may notice that your head creeps forward and is no longer in position with your spine. This can happen by reading, looking at the floor as you walk, and incorrect computer monitor positioning. When ever you notice your head in this unnatural position, make a conscious effort to straighten your back and neck. Keeping a sticky note with a reminder and post it on your desk or computer for extra motivation.

11. Use Balloon Imagery

As you go about your day, imagine a balloon tied to the top of your head. This will help tighten your back muscles and pull your head high. You should feel taller and more confident. Practicing perfect posture can be a sore experience as you will be utilizing muscles that have been relaxed for many years. It will take a number of weeks to break bad posture habits and for you to feel comfortable with a straight back.

12. Stretch

Regular stretching can help loosen up tight back muscles that prevent you from having perfect posture. One exercise can be of great benefit to sore neck and shoulders. Tilt your head in all directions and feel the stretch in your shoulders and back. Resist rolling your neck and shoulders as this can strain the muscles further. Massages can also help, be it from a professional or a significant other.

13. Practice Yoga

Yoga is an amazing stretching exercise that can help with posture. Yoga can improve your core muscles, your balance, and body alignment. This practice can help you get in touch with your body. You will learn to listen to the different pains you experience and you will know how to remedy them with stretches and positions. Let your yoga teacher know that your goal is to perfect your posture and they will further guide you with extra movements to achieve this goal.

14. Lift From Your Knees

Injury can be a major cause of poor posture. Back strain can leave your muscles tightened and give you a slouched appearance. Prevent injury by learning the safe way to lift heavy items. You should always lift with your knees, much the way toddlers lift their toys. Resist bending at the waist and through the back. If you have previously injured your back, or need to lift many different items, consider wearing a supportive back belt.

15. Consult Your Doctor

If you have previously injured your back, always check with your doctor or a chiropractor before you try and perfect your posture. Some injuries, like a slipped disk, can be further exacerbated with stretching and exercises. Your doctor may provide extra tips based on your health. Losing excess weight can take extra strain literally off your shoulders. If you see a chiropractor, they will be able to help stretch your back to give you better posture.

credit by http://www.activebeat.co/fitness/15-easy-ways-to-perfect-posture/15/

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