Why do I only sometimes have a bad reaction to potatoes?
July 22, 2013 12:10 AM   Subscribe

For at least the past year, I've been having a bad reaction to potatoes--but only sometimes. It's very inconsistent, and despite carefully tracking it for months, I still can't find a pattern. I can eat the same type of potato with the exact same accompaniments, and one time is fine and the other time I have near-immediate gastric distress. What could be causing the issues, and why is it so inconsistent? I don't have issues with any other nightshades, or any other food intolerances. I've already considered that it might be something else I eat with the potatoes, but tracking my diet has not borne that out.

I'm not kidding about the careful tracking. One day I will have a baked potato and be fine, and another day I will have a baked russet potato with the exact same butter, sour cream, and cheese and be very much not fine. Sometimes I can have a Yukon Gold gratin with my steak with no issues, other times the very same recipe with the very same meal will have very unpleasant consequences. The only common factor I've noticed is potatoes. What gives?
posted by rhiannonstone to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Could some potatoes be green/more light exposed and thus neurotoxic? Probably a long shot esp. since that usually manifests as mental lethargy not gastric distress, and your IDing potatoes as nightshades indicates you're probably already aware of the green thing, but just throwing it out there. Or perhaps some get scrubbed/cleaned better than others?
posted by ifjuly at 12:24 AM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: In opposition to ifjuly's comment above, this website states that: "Green potatoes may cause food poisoning and since some of the symptoms are similar to gastroenteritis it is possible that some undiagnosed cases of gastroenteritis have been caused by eating green potatoes."
posted by Quilford at 2:33 AM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: Moreover, since the greening is usually most pronounced near the surface but under the skin of the potato, it would be easy to miss during the preparation of both of the dishes you mention above.
posted by Quilford at 2:38 AM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: Any trace of green in potato causes the symptoms you describe in me.
posted by BenPens at 3:05 AM on July 22, 2013

Have you been eating the potatoes with cheese, butter and sour cream every time? Because it sounds like you are slightly lactose intolerant. Milk products affect me only sometimes - drinking milkshakes is like russian roulette for my stomach.
posted by littlesq at 4:49 AM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My first thought even before clicking through with the comments was to ask how you're storing your potatoes.
posted by Sequence at 5:28 AM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: Are you eating the skin? I recently developed an allergy to just the potato skin, it triggers allergies. The inside stuff is fine. I'm thinking pesticides but I don't know.

Food intolerances vary with exposure to allergen and your stress level. You may be mildly intolerant of potatoes and only react when your system is already stressed.
posted by myselfasme at 5:44 AM on July 22, 2013

What are you eating the days that you eat the potatoes? If one day, you're eating the potato, and it's your first meal of the day, and another day you've eaten, you know, a salad and some meat and then you're having a potato, you could sort of be buffering your reaction--I have several food allergies, and find that all of them are diminished in severity when I've eaten a relatively substantial amount of [basically anything else] before eating the allergen.
posted by MeghanC at 7:54 AM on July 22, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far! I was wondering if it might have something to do with the age/greenness of the potatoes. I don't store mine in the dark--in fact they're in a hanging basket next to a window--so maybe I'll give that a try and see if it helps.

I eat enough dairy in other contexts (OK, almost all contexts) without a bad reaction, and the bad reaction sometimes happens when I eat potatoes without dairy, so I don't think it's the butter/cheese/sour cream. And whether or not the potatoes are part of a meal doesn't seem to be a factor.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2013

I just did an elimination diet for my IBS and it's my understanding that what upsets your stomach isn't what you've just eaten but what you ate six to eight hours ago, sometimes 12 hours ago. It might not be the potatoes at all. It might be something you had for breakfast, or last night's midnight snack. I'd go back over your food log and see what you've been eating before your potatoes and see if there's a pattern there. Just a thought.
posted by patheral at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: Have you tried tracking this relative your menstrual cycle?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:37 PM on July 22, 2013

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