Ask The Allergista: How do you know which foods actually contain nickel?

Q:

I just stumbled onto your website and have some things in common.  I just found out that I have a nickel allergy, they call mine strong (as opposed to slight or extreme).  I also have eczema on my hands.  I also found out that I have a slight allergy to Propylene Glycol and an even slighter allergy to mercaptobenzothiazole. I have started a low nickel diet to see if the eczema on my hands improves.  (I get small bubbles that can itch that then pop under my skin and then my skin peels.)

I find such conflicting information on which foods contain high nickel and which don't.  How do you decide what to eat and what not to eat? Some examples some websites say potatoes are ok, some say they aren't, same with lettuce.  And then my favorite is some low nickel foods may cause eczema to become worse (red wine, tomatoes etc.) I want to follow this diet as strict as I can for a few months but every time I think I am doing ok I find something that I thought was safe might not be! I thought I was being smart having sunbutter, but then saw that sunflower seeds are high in nickel.  My dr. said wheat bread was ok, but some places say it isn't.  I thought corn was ok, but again so places say it isn't.  Just curious what your thoughts are on this.  Thank you!!

A:

First of all, I'd like to say that I love finding new PG allergic friends! It's in SO many things and the general public has no idea about it... because they don't read the labels on their products. And hey, I get it - I used to be one of them. It's easier to trust that these companies have our best interests in mind instead of their budget. I hope everybody keeps speaking out against it because I believe we need to bring more awareness to the fact that we use too many chemicals in our products these days.

Regarding your question of how do I decide what to eat, I first started off with research and cross referencing - a lot of cross referencing. Try to stick with the more reputable sources that you come across. And remember to eat EVERYTHING in moderation. Obviously, this can be hard when you're on a restricted diet and don't feel like you have a lot of options in the first place, but you just have to make sure to keep looking for new food ideas/options and you'll turn those ideas into solutions and they'll build up over time. If you're going to slip up and "be bad" with your diet, only do it every once in a long while. Remember the pain and itching - that will help you stay away.

Did your doctor do an oral nickel provocation test? I haven't had one myself, but I know it's an option. It helps determine if avoiding nickel orally is going to help your skin. My allergy patch testing specialist / dermatologist told me that I should avoid touching nickel first and if it didn't stop my eczema, to come back about a reduced nickel diet. To be honest, my insurance ran out before I could get back to him and I'm still getting used to my new, crazy PPO insurance (I used to have HMO and loved it).From what I've read, nickel is administered orally in amounts around 2.5 miligrams and then the doctor assesses the results on your skin.

I avoid wheat, chocolate and most of the things on this list.

Nickel is a cumulative thing when it comes to food and your system reacting. A little bit here and there is probably ok, but if you don't make an effort to avoid it, the nickel level will rise in your body, causing you to react.

Also, I make sure to keep watch on my skin ALL the time. One day I noticed the little bumps were popping up when I was drinking coffee and the coffee was all I had in my system. No more coffee for me! Some people also try food diaries. They log in what they eat every day and rate their skin reaction on a scale of 1-5. This allows you to look back and see if there are any connections you didn't catch.

I hope this helps! Good luck in your journey and check back in! :-)

Sincerely,

The Allergista

Sources:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0536.1979.tb04885.x/abstract;jsessionid=0C7AEBDBFCFCB9E274D8216F4BCAF025.d04t02?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false
http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/1428867/reload=0;jsessionid=ZWZWOfwtrJwKraCjtOzA.18
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7613144
http://scheman.com/images/Brochures/nickel.pdf