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  • Writer's pictureKristina David

4 Reasons Why a Low Nickel Diet is Difficult to Navigate

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Nickel is everywhere in our environment and it is estimated that 10% of the global population is allergic to this metal. Not everyone who is allergic to nickel will be sensitive to dietary forms of nickel. Only about 20% of people who are allergic to nickel will react to nickel in food.

If you've performed a simple search on a low nickel diet you have probably seen a handful of lists and resources that contradict each other. My personal favorite are the NICKEL FREE LISTS (FYI - it's impossible to eat a nickel free diet). Keep reading if you want to know the top 4 reasons why a low nickel diet is difficult to navigate.

Variation of Nickel in Soil 

Some foods are naturally rich in nickel and others absorb nickel from the soil. The amount of nickel in soil can change depending on the growing region. For instance there is more nickel in the soil in California versus Florida. Also, the amount of time a vegetable has been in the soil will affect how much nickel is present. Baby lettuces, for example, will absorb less nickel than mature, dark leafy greens. Get used to the idea that there is a range of nickel in foods and you want to familiarize yourself with the average amount nickel in a single serving of food. Download the nickel navigator app to learn more about the average amount of nickel in foods.

Foods high in nickel include nuts, seeds, beans, peas, chocolate, dark leafy greens, certain whole grains (especially oats) and some root vegetables. 

Potential for Contaminates 

Some foods or supplements are contaminated with nickel because of contact with heavy machinery. The high heat, grinding, and pounding mechanisms during processing of things like supplements, flour, and powders, can inadvertently contaminate products with nickel and other metals. For instance, chocolate and cocoa powder are extremely high in nickel. This is in part due to the prolonged contact it has with metal. Also, tap water can be contaminated with nickel due to contact with certain pipes. Consider running your water for a few seconds before using or installing a water filter to limit the amount of nickel in your water supply.

Foods that can be contaminated with nickel include tap water, baking powder, supplements, concentrated herbs, chocolate and cocoa powder

Cooking Methods & Packaging

Preparing or storing foods in stainless steel can leach nickel into food, especially if the food is acidic. It’s important to consider your cookware, containers, and kettles. You want to avoid stainless steel 18/10. Stainless steel items labeled 18/0 do not contain nickel. Glassware, cast iron and ceramic pots and pans are also safe. 

Avoid canned foods or acidic foods prepared or held in stainless steel such as citrus juices, tomatoes, beer, soda, tuna, sardines and beans.

Tolerance levels

More and more people are blogging about their personal experience with systemic metal allergies. This is great because we are raising awareness and sharing knowledge with others who need it. However, it can also be confusing because we all have different levels of tolerance. Some people will need to stay below 75 mcg/nickel per day while others may be able to tolerate more than the recommended 150 mcg/nickel per day. 

Most people are in a very reactive state when they first start a low nickel diet. During this initial phase you will most likely need to be very strict. Unfortunately, a lot of people with systemic nickel allergy syndrome or systemic contact dermatitis have additional food sensitivities during this reactive phase. Personally, I was sensitive to foods high in histamine as well as high nickel/cobalt foods. Other food sensitivities linked to this allergy are FODMAP, gluten and dairy intolerances. After you give your immune system a break and heal, you may be able to reintroduce higher nickel foods in rotation and other foods you were once sensitive to. 

Everyone’s tolerance level is different. Just because one person can or cannot tolerate a certain food doesn’t mean that it will affect you in the same way. 

If you are wondering if you could have a nickel allergy, visit the allergic contact dermatitis page on my website. If you need help navigating a nickel or cobalt allergy click >>here<< to download my free getting started guide and visit my services page. You can also follow me on Instagram @kristinadavidwellness for daily insights. 

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