Updated: Jul 23
What does having a potato intolerance mean?
It may seem odd that you or someone you know has a potato intolerance. Potato is such a common food, and one that seems so benign, how could it be bad for you?
Well, it turns out that many people can’t digest potatoes well. Having a potato intolerance means that not only can you not digest potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, you should also avoid everything that is derived from potatoes.
We are sometimes asked if having a potato intolerance means that you have an intolerance to nightshades?
No. In regards to the intolerance evaluation, you can still eat tomato, eggplant, and peppers. This intolerance is more due to an enzymatic inability to digest the starchy root vegetable, than having anything to do with it containing solanine, which is what most people who avoid nightshades want to stay away from.
Other starchy root vegetables can also be a problem for potato intolerant people. That includes tapioca, arrowroot, jicama, yucca, and cassava. Even celery root can bother some people. Tapioca and cassava have become very popular lately in food products that are grain free or gluten free. These might be fine for you. Some people who are intolerant to potato can eat them and not feel any disturbance. It just depends on your body.
So, what things do we need to look out for that are derived from potato?
Dextrose is a common additive in food products, derived from starch. Dextrose can be made from corn, wheat, rice, potato, cassava and arrowroot. It is often used as a preservative to extend product shelf life, and as a component of artificial sweeteners. It also is high on the glycemic index at 96.
A product that contains dextrose might not have potato. It may only be from corn. But, if you are trying to eat cleanly, avoiding products that have dextrose is a good idea anyway.
Iodized salt should also be considered potato. That seems weird, right? How could salt be potato? Well, iodine is added to some table salt in order to help prevent iodine deficiencies that impact the thyroid - this is an active problem in third-world countries.
Iodine is most commonly sourced from potassium iodide, which is sprayed onto the salt. But, potassium iodide easily loses potency from oxidation. To stabilize the potassium iodide and keep it potent, they add Dextrose.
Vitamin A Palmitate is another item to avoid. It is most often found in low fat dairy products, used to replace the Vitamin A that is removed as a byproduct of fat removal. Vitamin A (also called retinol) is a fat soluble vitamin found most abundantly in foods such as liver, fish liver oil, butter, and egg yolk. Being fat soluble means that it won’t dissolve in water.
Palmitate (palmitic acid) is a major fatty acid, which is attached to the retinol form of Vitamin A in order to make it stable in milk that has had the fat removed. Palmitic acid is one of the major fatty acids in potatoes. If the palmitic acid used to make Vitamin A Palmitate is sourced from potato, it will cause digestive disturbance for potato intolerant people.
Our naturopaths have determined that Vitamin A Palmitate should be considered potato. It is best to choose full-fat dairy products in order to avoid this. As a bonus, you get better nutritional value from the dairy that way.
Vitamin B can be a problem as well. There are eight B vitamins that are essential to our health. Potatoes are a good source of them and have thiamine, niacin, and pyridoxine. If a Vitamin B supplement has sourced the vitamin from potatoes, it will bother a potato intolerant person. Dr. Zeff says that he has not found any Vitamin B supplements that do not contain potato, however, there are many foods that are rich in Vitamin Bs.
Some good sources of Vitamin Bs are:
Leafy greens (ideally organic)
Liver and organ meats (ideally free range/grass fed)
Eggs (ideally free range)
Milk (ideally grass-fed)
Beef (ideally grass-fed)
Oysters, clams, and mussels
Chicken and turkey (ideally free range)
Yogurt (whole milk - read ingredients)
Brewer’s yeast (not nutritional yeast, which is fortified and can contain potato)
Baking powder is usually made of three things: sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a. baking soda, which is a base), an acid (like tartaric acid, which is sourced from fruit), and a filler like cornstarch. Sodium bicarbonate is sodium chloride (salt) that has been converted into sodium carbonate.
Why do some baking powders bother potato intolerant people, while other brands don’t? The best guess is that the salt used could be iodized. Iodized salt can contain potato, due to the addition of dextrose (as explained above).
Yeast can contain potato too. Whether it does depends on how the yeast was made. According to a MasterClass article, “Commercial active dry yeast is made by introducing wild yeasts to molasses and starch, cultivating and continuously sterilizing the resulting yeast sludge, which is then dried and granulated. This process halts the active yeast cells midway through fermentation.” If the starch used for this is potato, then the resulting active yeast could be a problem for potato intolerant people. Some yeasts are a problem and some are not. Currently, we know that the Red Star brand yeast is ok for potato people.
MSG (monosodium glutamate) should be avoided by potato intolerant people. It is made by fermenting “starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses”, according to the FDA. This means that MSG could be sourced from grain, sugar, or potatoes.
What this list boils down to is that potato can be contained in a lot of foods unexpectedly, in derivative forms or as similarly-reacting starchy root vegetables. Between the salt and yeast choices used by a bakery or other food production company, bread and other processed foods are often a problem for potato intolerant people. Also, a lot of foods are fortified with vitamins derived from potato.
The best way to avoid potato is to eat simply. Proteins, fruits, veggies, whole dairy, and homemade baked goods. Choose food products that use sea salt; and that don’t have MSG, Dextrose, Nutritional Yeast, or Vitamin A Palmitate. Use whole dairy products. Be wary of baking powder.
This is a lot to keep track of, I know. Don’t be overwhelmed, just do your best!
For more help with this intolerance, you can book a counseling session with me, or get my new downloadable resource below: