Solanaceae allergy: why does it occur?

Solanaceae allergy is a rare situation that occurs when consuming plants of this type. This is a family of vegetables that includes staples in the diet of many cultures.

For example, this includes potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. Although it is a rare reaction, it can be very serious.

It is associated with an aggravation of certain pre-existing pathologies, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, in this article we explain everything you need to know about a nightshade allergy and why it occurs.

What is a nightshade allergy?

Before explaining what a nightshade allergy is, you have to understand what they are. Nightshade plants they constitute a family that contains around 2000 species.

As a study published in the Allergy Magazine of Mexico explains, the most important gender of this family is the Solanum. To this genus belong, for example, the potato and tomato (Solanum tuberosum Y Solanum lycopersicum, respectively). Not all plants of this species are edible, although most of them do.

Allergic reactions are considered rare, but they can happen. So much so, that cases of oral allergy (that is, when eating them), food intolerance, contact dermatitis and anaphylaxis have been described.

Substances that are often implicated in nightshade allergy are solanine, nicotine, and capsaicin. They are alkaloid substances, which are usually inside the stems, leaves or tubers.

What is the cause of the allergy?

Solanaceae allergy is an altered response of the immune system. What happens is that it detects some of the plant components as something strange or dangerous.

That is why a response of protection against that allergen. The allergen is usually one of the alkaloids that we have mentioned, such as solanine. This in particular is a substance that helps plants defend themselves against insects and other animals.

The triggered response consists of the release of numerous substances that promote an inflammatory process. In this way, there is dilation of blood vessels, migration of cells to that point and constriction of the airways.

It is important to distinguish solanine allergy from food intolerance. The second only affects the digestive system. What happens is that there are no enzymes necessary to degrade any of the components of the plant.

Intolerance does not cause this activation of the immune system. The only thing that happens is that, by not being able to digest this food, there are alterations in intestinal transit and discomfort.

Tomatoes are consumed throughout the world on a frequent basis. An allergy to its components complicates the diet of people who suffer from it.

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Why can solanine be harmful?

Solanine is an alkaloid present in this family of plants. It seems that the substance exerts different actions in the body. The first is that it inhibits an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase.

This enzyme has a fundamental role in the nervous system. It is responsible for degrading acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. In this way, high levels of solanine would cause the concentration of acetylcholine to increase considerably.

This could lead to confusion, muscle incoordination, and even seizures.. In addition, it is also associated with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints.

However, we must understand that this occurs when solanine levels are very high in the body. That is, these reactions do not occur in people who have balanced and varied diets, but in poisonings.

Symptoms of nightshade allergy

The symptoms of a nightshade allergy are similar to those that occur in any other allergic process. Most often, there are skin rashes, hives, and severe itching. Similarly, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and joint and muscle pain may occur.

A nightshade allergy is also often accompanied by excessive mucus production. This results in frequent sneezing, tearing, and shortness of breath.

As we noted earlier, it is important to distinguish allergy from food intolerance. This is limited to the digestive system and is usually less serious. Therefore, the most common signs are nausea, diarrhea, bloating and flatulence.

When to see a doctor?

Any allergic reaction, whether due to an allergy to nightshades or another element, can cause serious complications. The severe allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis.

It is a situation in which the response to the allergen is very strong and symptoms that can be life threatening begin to occur. This is why it is considered an emergency that must be treated quickly.

Anaphylaxis causes shortness of breath, since the airways become inflamed and their caliber is reduced. This leads to a feeling of anxiety and fear that further increases the difficulty of getting air in.

The dilation of the blood vessels makes the face and mouth also swollen. The risk of anaphylaxis lies in reaching a state of shock.

When treating a state of shock due to anaphylaxis, it is not only intended to stop the allergic reaction, but also to stabilize the patient in his vital parameters.

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Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose nightshade allergy or intolerance, the main thing is for the patient to try to identify which foods are causing symptoms. So, Keeping a food diary and a symptom log is recommended.

However, this should be done with caution. If at any time any sign of anaphylaxis appears directly, the suspected food should be completely avoided for at least 4 weeks.

Then they can be reintroduced little by little. In this way, if symptoms reappear after ingesting a specific product, the suspicions are further substantiated.

However, for the accurate diagnosis of allergy to nightshades, a series of complementary tests are usually carried out. The first is the blood test. If there is an allergic process, it is common for IgE antibodies to be elevated.

Another test used to diagnose allergies is skin tests. They consist of inoculating certain allergens in a controlled way on the skin, thus observing if a specific reaction appears.

Foods to avoid

If a person has an allergy to nightshades, treatment is based on avoiding all foods that belong to this species. Tomatoes and potatoes are two that should be restricted.

The same goes for the aubergine and peppers (both habaneros, jalapeƱos and bell peppers). Goji berries, paprika or cayenne should not be consumed either.

Solanaceae allergy is rare

Solanaceae are plants that belong to the same species. It includes foods such as potatoes and tomatoes. The truth is that it is a rare disorder, but it can occur.

It is important that we try to remember the difference between intolerance and allergy. Intolerance occurs at the gastrointestinal level, due to the absence of enzymes. However, allergy to nightshades produces manifestations throughout the body.

Therefore, whenever abnormal symptoms or discomfort are detected when eating certain products, it is important to consult a doctor. It must be determined if there is an allergy or not to avoid a serious reaction in the future.

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