Solanine Poisoning: The Danger That Lurks Behind Green Potatoes

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Certain types of vegetables and fruits are toxic to human health. For instance, green potatoes are considered toxic because they contain high levels of solanine. Solanine is a glycoalkaloid toxin found in species of the nightshade family Solanaceae. Common fruits and vegetables that belong to this species of nightshade include green potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants.

Solanine acts as a natural pesticide produced by plants as a defense mechanism. The compound protects the plants from fungi, insects, and other pests. In green potatoes, solanine becomes even more potent when the produce is exposed to warm temperatures and light. This makes green potatoes particularly dangerous.

In addition, the green tint of the potatoes is caused by chlorophyll and solanine. Both compounds are produced at the same time. Usually, vegetables with high chlorophyll content tend to have high level of solanine too.

When ingested, solanine produces various gastrointestinal and neurological problems. Also, those who are sensitive to this toxin will experience arthritic pain after ingesting it. This is why those who suffer from inflammatory diseases – like gout, arthritis or chronic joint pain – eliminate fruits and vegetables from the nightshade family.

Signs and Symptoms of Solanine Poisoning

The most common signs and symptoms of solanine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and a burning sensation in the throat. Other symptoms include hallucination, dizziness, and headaches. Though symptoms are minor, ingesting large quantities of solanine will result in slow, agonizing death.

It takes a while for symptoms to manifest. Usually, the patient will feel the symptoms 12 hours after ingestion. But those who are sensitive or who ingested a large amount of solanine will feel the symptoms within a few minutes.

Treatment

If you suspect that you are suffering from solanine poisoning, call 911. The health care provider will check your vital signs. First aid treatment includes ingestion of activated charcoal and hooking you to breathing support apparatus. Also, your doctor will conduct blood and urine tests. Drugs will be administered intravenously. Sometimes, laxatives are also given to flush out the toxins quickly. Your stomach might also be pumped to remove the poison.

Because symptoms of solanine poisoning last for three to four days, hospitalization is required. As long as you are given immediate treatments, you will recover from solanine poisoning fairly fast.

Preventing Solanine Poisoning

Just 16 ounces of fully green potato (about the size of an average large potato) can cause solanine poisoning to an individual weighing 100 pounds. Although potatoes are screened for solanine, improperly storing or exposing potatoes in warm temperature will trigger the production of this toxin. So to prevent solanine-poisoning, store your produce properly.

Always trim away the green patches of potatoes. If a potato has been left unconsumed for too long, do not eat it. If a potato tastes bitter on first bite, do not consume it. Bitterness is a sign of high solanine content.

While other nightshade varieties of vegetables and fruits contain this toxin, potatoes build up solanine very fast. The solanine in tomatoes, eggplants, and chili peppers are so low in volume that it’s not a health concern at all.


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