Nickel Allergy: It’s Not Just In Your Jewlery


Growing up, I remember getting itchy, red bumps on my skin whenever I was exposed to to nickel-containing metals. I remember wearing a rhinestone-bedazzled leotard (okay, I’ll admit, I twirled the baton in parades as a child!) and completely breaking out in an awful rash. Every time I put on earrings my ears would begin to itch and burn. I even had to avoid the metal button on the inside of my jeans as it would cause this same reaction.

Soon enough, I found out I had a nickel allergy, one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis. Thereafter, I just did my best to avoid contact exposure to nickel. Case closed.

Well, not so fast! Come to find out nickel is also found in many of the foods we eat. It occurs naturally in certain foods and it may also be added during the processing of foods (i.e. metal containers, metal cooking utensils, or metal grinders). Some individuals who experience skin reactions to nickel may also experience a systemic reaction when nickel is ingested from their food. Chronic skin issues without obvious contact with nickel may be suggestive of a nickel food allergy.

An 100% nickel-free diet would be close to impossible to follow, but decreasing exposure is an important step in improving symptoms. Typically, nickel is most concentrated in nuts, dried peas and beans, whole grains, and chocolate. Additionally, those with iron-deficiencies may absorb more nickel from their foods as iron and nickel share the same transport system in the gut. Overall, the exact amount of nickel necessary to cause a flare-up is not completely understood and varies from person to person, but I’m here to share with you some of the biggest culprits contributing nickel to the diet.

Level of Nickel In Common Foods:

*levels may vary based upon plant species and content of the soil 

Food Serving Size Nickel, microgram/serving
Canned fruit 1 medium 86.25
Oatmeal ½ cup 205.92
Buckwheat ½ cup 123.2
Cocoa 1 tbsp 215.6
Walnuts 12 halves 108
Soy proteins 50g 215
Soy beans ½ cup 362.5
Fish 4oz 105
Green lentils ½ cup 375
Dried legumes ½ cup 212.5
Chickpeas ½ cup 212.5
Peanuts 1oz 78.4

If you suffer from skin rashes, this is certainly an area to review in more detail. Get tested for nickel allergies with your local Allergist. If you continue to suffer from skin rashes, consider following a low-nickel diet for a few weeks to figure out if this may be your trigger.

Need help figuring out your food sensitivities or would you like more information? Check out our Food Sensitivity Solutions programs and services to learn more!

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