Do Tomatoes Cause Arthritis?

“If nightshades can be eaten or used sparingly, arthritis can be slowed in developing.” The Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation

Summer gardens are bringing forth an abundance of nightshade foods destined for your dinner plate, your fresh tomato salad, or scattered across a slice of hot cheesy pizza with peppers. Nightshades or the Solanaceae family, cover some 2,800 species of plants, herbs, shrubs and trees, but the nightshade foods you most often consume include:

  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers (hot and sweet)
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Pimentos

These nightshade foods are suspected of causing arthritic type symptoms in people already prone to the ailment, but you will probably still love them anyway. Although there is no solid evidence that the alkaloids in nightshade plants negatively affect joint and nerve-muscle function in humans and animals, there are individuals who experience symptomatic relief when nightshade foods are eliminated from their diet.

Next: Nicotine in nightshades

One type of alkaloid, found in eggplant and tomato, is nicotine, although in much less quantity than the tobacco leaf and considered safe for most people to eat. Another type are steroid alkaloids found in the potato, which research reveals has the ability to block activity of an enzyme in nerve cells causing nervous system disruptions and joint inflammation. Researchers continue to investigate the possibility that steroid alkaloids affect our ability of metabolize calcium by removing the calcium from the bones and depositing it in our soft tissue.

Some dietary health programs, such as Macrobiotics, eliminate the use of nightshade vegetables in their healing programs and cautions the consumption of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and potatoes even for healthy invidividuals. For those suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, gout or joint issues, flare-ups have been shown to occur in 1-2% of patients who consume a diet high in nightshade vegetables. Therefore, it is suggested by medical researchers, to eliminate this family of foods to help relieve symptoms.

If you are thinking of boiling the alkaloids out of your vegetables cooking only lowers the amount by 40-50% and for sensitive individuals this just won’t be enough. Instead, try eliminating them for 6 weeks to determine if they are having an impact on your health. Then if you cannot live without them, add one vegetable at a time back into your diet, over the course of a week or two, while keeping a journal as to what you experience. This is a far better way to determine how a food is affecting you and places responsibility for optimal health in your own capable hands.

12 Easy Steps to Alleviate Arthritis


Diane L.
Diane L2 years ago

Daisy, thank you for the medical "lecture", but I assure you, I do know about OA, as I explained, and a few months back was having issues in my right hand that resulted in a "possible" diagnosis of RA, and tomatoes were amongst the foods I was advised against consuming, along with any other in the nightshade family. Turned out I do not have RA, but what is called CPPD. Again, not sure what your point is. As I said, I understand how some foods may aggravate a condition and can be completely unsafe for those with other issues, but to say that eating tomatoes CAUSES arthritis is simply not true. That was my point.........what is yours?

Daisy K.
Daisy K3 years ago

Diane L. there are many more than two types of Arthritis. I suffer from three of them, being OA/RA/PA (Psoriasis related. Given RA is affecting tissue/tendons/muscles, including the lining of one lung, avoidance of many, otherwise healthy, foods is necessary.

Certainly nightshade and acidic foods (GERD) are avoided...add requiring a low oxalate diet to the mix and careful selection of ALL food products are checked very carefully. My personal downfall is dark chocolate as do know it brings on the pain.

Certainly, everyone's system being different, it's a trial by error to eliminate those foods which MAY be the cause. It's having a list of researched 'possible' foods and reading labels as often it's a very small ingredient that would cause a flareup.

Consider it a 'puzzle' to be solved and not a dreaded chore...don't get stuck on what you shouldn't eat but rather try new products that you might enjoy more than you think...and let's not forget to consider the pending weather forecast that day and not what you ate !

Cosmic Sky
Sky P3 years ago

Thx. I definitely think this is true. Felt much worse after eating potatoes last nite, like it released something weird into my bloodstream or something. N I've read that solanine levels build up in people. I took ashwaghanda root yesterday, n that may have worsened the potato's negative effect.

Loretta Pienaar
Loretta P3 years ago

Personally I will cut them out. There are many ways to eat a healthy and complete diet.

Diane L.
Diane L3 years ago

Rose, I'm glad that simply eliminating tomatoes from your diet eliminated all symptoms of arthritis for you. However, there are two varieties of arthritis, and I have OA, the most common one, as do probably every living human being over the age of 20, to some extent. OA is simply the wearing down of joint tissue and it's not because of what one eats. The more active one is, the more likely one is to developing symptoms of OA in time. There are nutritional supplements that specifically address this and help replace joint fluid, or help maintain or even rebuild cartilage lost to "use", but tomatoes do not CAUSE arthritis, in either form. Rheumatoid arthritis is very different. It's an auto-immune disease and yes, in that case, tomatoes and other veggies in the "nightshade" family are known to contribute to the inflammation in the joints. Eliminating them can help, but will not reverse it once it sets in.

Sandy M.
sandy mason M3 years ago

Sorry it was 11/2 cups of vegetable broth. to the No tomato Sauce recipe.

Sandy M.
sandy mason M3 years ago

My husband has psoriasis and when he eats tomatoes or any of the night shade vegetables, he breaks out in itching and scratching flare ups worse than normal. Since he loves spaghetti and pizza, I found this recipe for Non Tomato Sauce. I made, it and I was amazed, it tasted and looked just like tomato sauce, delicious here is the recipe.

No Tomato Sauce

Original recipe makes 8 servings Change Servings
What I added to give it more flavor.
I added 1 /2 cups vegetable broth to the sauce, it made it delicious, a pinch of sugar and salt.
and a squeeze of lemon.

2 (15 ounce) cans sliced carrots, drained
1 (15 ounce) can sliced beets, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar

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Place carrots and beets, one can at a time, into a blender and blend until smooth. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir garlic and onions until onions are translucent. Stir in pureed carrots and beets then add the bay leaf, Italian seasoning, and vinegar. Cover and cook until the sauce begins to boil. Remove lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer for up to 4 hours, or at least 30 minutes.

Rose White
Rose White3 years ago

I was crppled with knee, hip and back pains and swollen ankles and toes so wlaking and sleeping ws a nightmare for at least two year sbefore I cut tomatoes out of my diet and in seven days all the pains had gone.
Try it to see if you have th same miractulous cure

Rose White
Rose White3 years ago

I was crppled with knee, hip and back pains and swollen ankles and toes so wlaking and sleeping ws a nightmare for at least two year sbefore I cut tomatoes out of my diet and in seven days all the pains had gone.
Try it to see if you have th same miractulous cure

Sarah Bennett
Sarah B5 years ago

Interesting, but this article doesn't give enough evidence for me to stop eating them. In fact, the article almost goes against itself in a few statements. For all we know the little percentage of people having flare ups could be allergic to them or a preservative in the vegetables.