“If you have nickel allergy, your body reacts to nickel and possibly to other metals, such as cobalt and palladium. In other words, it’s mistakenly identified nickel as something that could harm you. Once your body has developed a reaction to a particular agent (allergen) — in this case, nickel — your immune system will always be sensitive to it. That means anytime you come into contact with nickel, your immune system will respond and produce an allergic response. Your immune system’s sensitivity to nickel may develop after your first exposure or after repeated or prolonged exposure. The cause of nickel allergy is unknown, but sensitivity to nickel may, in part, be inherited (genetic)” ~Mayo Clinic
Both of my girls and I have a nickel allergy as well as Celiac Disease (good old genetics!).
Nickel is found in many foods and some reports assert that the rate of nickel allergies are on the raise as more and more people are eating healthier and more plant-based diets. Nevertheless, if you suffer from a nickel allergy, your doctor may prescribe a low-nickel diet if you are highly sensitive. I have been prescribed a low-nickel diet and my eczema fades and disappears as long as I stay away from my trigger foods. Here are the lists of foods to avoid as mention in my earlier post here.
“Relationship between nickel allergy and food” (abstract found below) by Ashimav Deb Sharma
Nickel is a ubiquitous trace element and it occurs in soil, water, air and of the biosphere. It is mostly used to manufacture stainless steel. Nickel is the commonest cause of metal allergy. Nickel allergy is a chronic and recurring skin problem; females are affected more commonly than males. Nickel allergy may develop at any age. Once developed, it tends to persist life-long. Nickel is present in most of the dietary items and food is considered to be a major source of nickel exposure for the general population. Nickel content in food may vary considerably from place to place due to the difference in nickel content of the soil. However, certain foods are routinely high in nickel content. Nickel in the diet of a nickel-sensitive person can provoke dermatitis. Careful selection of food with relatively low nickel concentration can bring a reduction in the total dietary intake of nickel per day. This can influence the outcome of the disease and can benefit the nickel sensitive patient.
Other sources of nickel to be aware of:
- Orthopedic joint replacements (I am grateful that I was able to heal my herniated disk without surgery [August to October 2012] because after my nickel allergy was discovered in November 2012, I read several cases where patients had to have their orthopedic devices removed because of abnormal and immense pain and inflammation – the source was a nickel allergy that was aggravated by the nickel content of their implanted device – most of those patients knew not of their nickel allergy prior to surgery)
- Prosthetic heart valve replacements
- Pacemaker casings and leads
- Dental appliances (braces, alloys including fillings, and prosthetic devices such as bridges, crowns, etc.)
- Jewelry: rings, necklaces, bracelets, jewelry clasps, etc. (“Hypoallergenic” solid gold [12 carat or more] and silver jewelry should be safe – nine carat gold and white gold both contain nickel)
- Body piecing jewelry and earrings
- Clothing fasteners, zippers, buttons, snaps, bra hooks, etc. (my jeans are my hurtle, but I can have my tailor swap out the buttons and rivets – I just made this discovery today!!)
- Hair clips/pins
- Belt buckles
- Metal eyewear/eyeglasses
- Metal tools
- Cellphones (Android and iPhones are nickel free)
- Keys (I love that our Prius is keyless!)
- Stainless steel pots and pan
- Stainless steel silverware (I use bamboo)
- Kitchen utensils (many of our utensils are bamboo too)
- Cabinet handles
- Metal Teapots
Consider using at-home nickel test kits (several are on the market) to detect potential sources of exposure. You can always take a test kit with you when shopping and test your jeans, etc. while in the dressing room.
Did I rid our home of all nickel? No, but awareness is key, and we wash our hands often. Like with many other things in life (e.g. non-toxic home improvements, greening our home, getting Greg and the girls to go completely vegan, etc.), we will continue to make changes along the way until our home is not a large threat. My biggest hurtle is wearing jeans (my girls never wear jeans). I am one who is in the habit of checking my zipper often. Now, I have to be extremely mindful of when I touch the metal on my jeans, and when I do, I must wash my hands immediately while also being mindful of not touching my face.
I know that I should already be out of that habit after being celiac since December 2009, but like my husband (also celiac) says, “The average person touches their face around 2,000 times a day. After going GF, I may touch my face about 500 times a day while you must touch your face at least 5,000 times a day. Please stop…” I’m a work in progress. This nickel allergy is definitely causing me much progress!
As my nickel journey continues, I have to admit that it was a hard pill to swallow a constant when reading many scholarly articles. Those studies reported that once one develops a nickel allergy, the allergy will remain present throughout the rest of that person’s life. Life-long anything stinks. I prefer constant change, especially changes that lead to a symptom-free life. 🙂
Much Love! Priscilla
- Individual variation in nickel patch test reactivity (this article is really interesting!)
- Mercury and nickel allergy: risk factors in fatigue and autoimmunity
- Epidemiology of nickel allergy