After I recovered from two parasites, and herniated disk pressing on my spinal cord and nerve, kidney pain/congestion and toxic beryllium levels (just to name a few of my 2012 health obstacles), my itchy and painful rash that has plagued my life for about four years returned. Why did it disappear in the first place? Because when under the treatment of neurosurgeon number two, I tried taking steroids for four days to see if “the steroids would reduce the swelling and alleviate the debilitating spasms” in my right shoulder, right bicep and right forearm as well as my neck and back pain. They didn’t work (neurosurgeon number three – my hero – explained why they don’t work for back injuries). However, that steroid sure did clear up my nasty eczema, but after approximately two months, it came back for a long stay yet again. At this time, I was under the care of different doctors, and my holistic doctor was the one who first discovered the cause of my eczema of which also allowed it to go away on its own and without toxic topical creams.
Yes, I am atopic (as are both of my girls) but that doesn’t mean that we are not able to find relief from asthma, allergies, and/or eczema. I’ve been told that I have to live with rash for the rest of my life and that there is not “cure.” Not True.
Now knowing that both of my girls also have a nickel allergy (they both have never had their ears pierced – one theory of how people develop the allergy) and that Ainsley too experiences of eczema around her eyes, I am determined to learn all that I can about nickel it food, products, etc.
The following picture is what I constantly experienced before learning about my nickel allergy. This occurred on both eyes and on my arm (still does, just much worse and in larger areas but only when I consume a food containing nickel).
I admit that for that last 4 plus years and before my doctor discovered the trigger of my eczema flareups, I have occasionally been using topical cream that I recently learned from both my holistic doctor and my eye doctor that Mometasone Furoate Cream can cause glaucoma and cataract when used near the eyes (great!! what damage have I done while seeking relief and while being so vein??). Yes, the prescribing doctor told mw to use it sparingly and that it shouldn’t be used on my face, but if I only used it when needed, I’d be okay. It was ultimately my decision to fill the prescription and to use the cream and that’s what I did while desperately searching for relief from my symptoms. Nevertheless, the cream helped to stop my raw skin from peeling off in thick layers day after day and it stopped the constant itching while also relieving my pain, so ultimately, I used the cream to find relief and to feel pretty again.
In addition to the Mometasone cream, I was also prescribed Ketoconazole of which my holistic doctor has okayed for further use. He also told me to throw away the Mometasone, and instead, he provided me with HyperOxy.
Please note that the only products I use on my skin are coconut oil (moisturizer), occasionally jojoba oil and RMS Beauty’s coconut-based makeup (I wear makeup 2-6 times a month). Coconut oil is great for so many things and I am sure it helps, but it has not prevented my flareups during the last 2.5 years of use.
Now, when I have a flareup, I wash those areas (around my eyes my right cheek by my mouth and on my left bicep) with Ketoconazole, and I then apply a healthy layer of HyperOxy before going to bed. The shampoo helps remove the dead skin while the oil helps provide me with some relief. HyperOxy does not provide the magical qualities that my former glaucoma- and cataract-causing cream did, but I greatly welcome any relief possible during a painful flareup.
After a flareup, it takes a couple of weeks for my symptoms to fade, and my symptoms go beyond my eczema (e.g. headaches, fatigue, irritability, etc.). I have found that just like with gluten and Celiac Disease, the longer I am nickel free, the more intense my symptoms during my next exposure.
The flareup in the two above pictures were taken the past two nights (20 and 21 March 2013) after drinking a small amount of juice that contained a small amount of kale – YES, KALE!!! Oh, I am still grieving… No kale and no cashews!! Cashews are in so many raw vegan creamy/cheese-like recipes.
Nevertheless, during these past four months since being nickel free (my doctor assisted with my nickel/heavy metal detox), I have been conducting tests to see how much nickel my body can tolerate. My findings: one cashew, one scoop of Rockin’ Wellness (I was given a sample last summer and I longed to try it), a kale chip, several sips of juice containing kale all triggered a flareup in less than 30 minutes.
Update: Spinach, dandelion, cilantro, swiss chard, pistachios, pecans, almonds… are also off limits, but I can have beets, beet greens, collards, romaine, bok choy, cabbage, chlorella, broccoli, asparagus, walnuts, macadamia nuts, all seeds… The list is longer than I expected and totally doable (26 November 2013).
Kale, Soy (no biggie), and cashews are definitely off limits. However, I’ve also cut out most greens and still have to reintroduce many back into my diet. I know that broccoli or asparagus don’t trigger my eczema. I eat tons of avocado (a fruit, but still green) as well as bell peppers, cucumbers…
Pineapple is on Mayo Clinic’s list (my doctor provided me with two lists – neither I have found online but I do have my hard copies), and pineapple was in the juice that also contained kale, so I guess the jury is still out on pineapple since I haven’t consumed it on its own. Update: I can consume pineapple, apples, pears, tomatoes, carrots, yams, coconut, dates, and more (26 November 2013).
My doctor, from experience, asserts that not all the foods listed as high nickel foods trigger his nickel allergy and that I will experience the same. Together we are working on determining which foods are safe and which are not.
Below I will share the information that my doctor provided for me, but before I get to that, I just did a google search and found that Elizabeth Tehrani over at eHow.com states that raspberries, pineapple, figs (of course I just added three fruitful fig trees to my garden last year and how already reaped a bountiful harvest, so let’s hope that figs aren’t an issue!), dates, and prunes should be avoided. Apples, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are low in nickel content but can exacerbate allergy symptoms (another explanation of why I look so hideous after drinking Greg’s green juice – it also contained citrus).
In addition to the painful itchy rash that now resides around both eyes and parts of my cheeks and neck, I am battling headaches, fatigue and irritability.
Do you suffer from a topical nickel allergy while still knowing that you can feel better? If so, get tested, conduct a heavy metal detox, experiment with the elimination diet while avoiding foods that contain nickel in addition to avoiding nickel throughout everyday life. Frequent hand washing also minimizes exposures.
As you can see, unlike living a 100% gluten-free lifestyle, my journey of living a nickel allergy has just begun and I have much to learn. It figures! I get to a place where living GF became second nature as our gluten exposures have become a rarity. Now, I have a new issue to adjust to and to learn about. Wish me luck! This has been a daunting ride so far as, like the medical industry, I still know very little about where nickel is hiding. The great thing is that I am figuring this new lifestyle out more and more everyday and this too will become second nature with rare exposures.
While texting my celiac sister this morning while sharing the above pictures, along with my feelings, she just so happened to flip to this article:
My Feelings Regarding My Nickel Allergy and Current Eczema Flareup
As for my feelings, here’s what I shared with my sister: “At times, I feel ripped off. First gluten and now this… I though that I found a safe/healthy lifestyle where I wasn’t restricted… (high-raw/raw vegan depending on the season) I could eat any fruit, veggie, nut or seed I wanted, but now my two favorites are off limits. I’m adjusting, and even though I’ve thought many times that I’ll just load up on kale and cashews again and get my body back to the point where my symptoms are less severe just constant, I know what it feels like to feel great and symptom free and I can’t go back. I also don’t know the longterm damage caused by ignoring this allergy. I know what gluten can do to my health but not nickel, and unfortunately, it’s an area with little research.”
Does a nickel allergy suck for a grain-free vegan? Absolutely! It sucks for anyone! Am I upset? Sometimes. I grieve when I come across one of my favorite recipes, walking past kale in my natural food store, seeing a new yummy recipe one of my favorite blogger’s page, but regardless of those moments, I know that I’ll figure this one out just like I figured out how to maintain a 100% GF home from food to non-toxic cleaning supplies and health and beauty products (and that is with sticking with products manufactured in a gluten-free facilities – better safe than sorry). I admit that this will take some time, but I will get better at protecting me and my girls from a nickel exposure.
Now, for nickel in food…
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
“The MFMER provides the following list of foods to avoid if you suffer from a nickel allergy.” (Since I am a gluten-free vegan, I am omitting all animal and wheat products.)
Please note per MFMER: “There are limited data on nickel content of foods. The (below) information is based on known values, and reports from scientific literature.”
Foods to Avoid
- all canned vegetables and fruits
- beans (green, brown, white)
- peas (including split peas)
- spinach – I appear to be okay with spinach
- fresh and dried figs
- chocolate and cocoa drinks
- teas from dispensers
- nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts – I react immediately to a single roasted cashew but nut to 1/4 cup of raw almonds
- sunflower seeds
- baking powder
- soy powder
- vitamin/mineral supplements containing nickel
- brussel sprouts
- all berries minus raspberries
- rice cereals
- coffee and tea (not strong and in moderation)
Low Nickel Foods that Aggravate Nickel Allergy
- wine (especially red wine)
- raw tomatoes, onions and carrots
- apples and citrus fruits and their juices
It is interesting to compare the above list with the list provided by The New Zealand Dermatological Society:
Foods to Avoid
- baked beans
- green beans
- peas including split peas
- canned fruits and vegetables
- dried fruit
- drinking chocolate
- hot water from the tap
- anything acidic (like tomatoes) cooked in a stainless steel pan
- leafy green vegetables
- lots of wheat products – that list is uber depressing!
- fruit – raw and stewed
- tea and coffee
- beer wine
As you can see, the lists contradict one another, and to make the determination of which foods contain high levels of nickel even more daunting, one of my Facebook followers shared this list here (click here) that she has been using (you’ll find even more contradictions to this very large puzzle) when she commented on the picture below.
Do you have known nickel allergy and have advice to share? Or do you have a suspicion that a possible nickel allergy is preventing you from feeling your best? If so, share you story, thoughts and/or experiences in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!
Much Love! Priscilla