Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nightshade Vegetables - A Harvest Experiment

 Harvest season here in Nova Scotia means lots of new potatoes at the markets. I do like new potatoes, boiled (in skins) with butter and sea salt. The thin skinned, firm and crisp tuber have always been a late Summer/early Fall favorite.They also tend to be shipped direct from the fields to the markets thus limiting their exposure to light and (storage) damage. That helps limit the amount of antinutrients, specifically solanine, found in fully mature sprouted tubers or those exhibiting green spots,green tints and damage.

 I have essentially ceased eating white potatoes (and other nightshade vegetables) since assuming a paleo/primal way of eating during the winter of 2010 due to my predisposition towards joint and muscle pain and a possible connection to the anti nutrients found in nightshade vegetables.

"Nightshade family plants manufacture drug-like chemicals within their tissues. These chemicals are of a type known as alkaloids......In some people, the nightshade vegetables appear to cause arthritic pain, arthritic deformity, nerve pain, and other central nervous system problems..."

Confounding Factor?

Since avoiding nightshade vegetables I have noticed a definite improvement in my joint and muscle pain especially the tendinitis type symptoms in my elbows, shoulders and neck. Hand numbness is also improved. That said I also began regular chiropractic adjustments at the same time as I adopted a paleo WOE so it begs the question of whether the improvements were the result of dietary change or my chiropractic regimen?

Geo`s Flawed Design

My  chronic subluxations are focused upon my my cervical spine(C1 - C7) and the upper thoracic spine(T1 - T6). Both can have an impact upon proper functioning of shoulders, arms and elbows......

"T1 - arms from the elbows down including hands, wrists and fingers.....C7 - Thyroid gland, bursa in the shoulders, elbows...."

Since childhood I have had joint and muscle pain as has my siblings, often related to other undiagnosed symptoms including low platelets. A bike crash in 2005 resulted in additional shoulder and neck issues and was a major reason for my regular chiropractic treatmentss specifically in regards to my upper back/neck. Previous to 2005 my lower back was the main problem area but core training and weight loss has improved mobility substantially.

Interestingly enough, and on the heels of my Seasons Of  The Omnivore posting, I see that the alkaloids present in nightshade vegetables may accumulate in the body (although debates that claim). Is it a case where regular consumption can/could lead to a toxic tipping point(and associated illness) but limited(seasonal) use managable over the long term?

"The alkaloids found in common nightshade vegetables are powerful, with effects on various tissues, including the membranes of the cells of the body. They bioaccumulate: they remain unprocessed by the body and simply accumulate in tissues. In addition, nightshade alkaloids are cholinesterase inhibitors, just as organophosphate pesticides are. They affect the central nervous system and cause, among other adverse effects, pain...."

Premise(September 13)

 - A reintroduction of (new) white potatoes into my daily diet (that commenced) September 11 2011 to determine if the regular consumption of a nightshade vegetable will result in the reoccurance of my joint and muscle pain, specifically the tendinitis type symptoms in my elbows. I currently have no pain in my elbows, neck or shoulders.I will begin tracking feedback on Sept 14 2011.


 - I am scheduled for a chiropractic manipulation (tonight) on Sept 13 2011 which should address any subluxations that have arisen since my last appointment that may have an impact upon my neck, upper back, arms, elbows and hands.In laymans terms I should be "untwisted" for the most of the potato reintroduction.

 -Ball hockey does not start until October so I will not have to factor in the potential for "hockey elbow", the result of repetitive strain from manipulating hockey sticks(regular and goalie).


 - I will eat (at least) two medium sized new potatoes per day boiled(in skins) served with butter, sea salt and pepper as a side to my usual foodstuffs. No other new additions to my diet will be added. No new additions to my exercise regimen will be added. I will continue to practice intermittant fasting throughout the experiment. Exercise will continue to focus upon cycling, sprinting and periodic strength training with 12 lb medicine ball and 15 lb dumbbells.

Purpose -  I just have to know.....was the improvement in my joint and muscle pain the result of the elimination of nightshade veggies or was it the twice monthly chiropractic adjustments?A recent bloodscreening has shown my platelet levels continue to be well below normal(as usual) so that can be ruled out as a reason for improvement.

 - As a side experiment I will also weigh myself daily(first thing in AM each day) since another issue with potatoes(starch) is potential weight gain.Two or more potatoes a day will definitely add additional carbohydrates to my diet.

Bring on the potatoes!

Update - Sept 14(6am) - no joint/muscle pain(henceforth known as JMP).Fasted Sept 13 for 18 hours. Weight - 194.6 lbs. No exercise other than bike commute of 10kms.

Update - Sept 15(6am) - Five days in the experiment and I am showing symptoms this morning.....

  - some minor stiffness in right elbow.Noticed it on the bike commute home yesterday when out of the saddle on a standing climb and this morning when picking up a cup of coffee.

  - Neck is definitely stiff this morning (side to side mobility issues) with JMP along left side from ear to shoulder.

 - Tension and JMP increasing across shoulders.

 Fasted September 14 for 15 hours. Weight - 196 lbs.

Update part two - Sept 15(8am) - Definitely feeling JMP today. No exercise last night and no sleep issues that might explain my neck difficulties this morning.

Update part three - Sept 15 (4pm) - Experiment Concluded!

After consuming 4.8 lbs of potatoes since Sept 11 I experienced a return of JMP today as indicated . Neck and shoulder discomfort has continued all day although elbow has stabilized.I noticed some minor lower extremity JMP this afternoon and knees ached on the bike commute home with some pain under the knee cap.It has only been four days but long enough for me to consider "case closed" based upon my JMP being felt today. Interestingly I was symptom free till day four so, perhaps, there is an accumulative affect/tipping point caused by potato alkaloids afterall? The remaining question will be how long it takes to detoxify and return to my pre experiment state? Stay tuned........

Concluding note - Having reintroduced sweet potato this summer I can now conclude that consumption of the (non nightshade) sweet potato (in similar quantity/frequency as the white potato) did not result in similar levels(or any) of JMP.Sweet potato will remain in my diet while nightshades will continue to be avoided.For most folk tuber consumption might not present any issues but on my personal level avoidance appears to be the wise choice. At least I now know.

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