Should You Try the Low Nickel Diet?

Many of you ask me whether or not you should try the low nickel diet? The low nickel diet involves limiting your intake of foods high in nickel. I will always suggest you seek medical advice. My personal nickel food allergy journey may not be anything like yours, even if we can relate. Eczema and food allergies are both very individual conditions and only you and your doctor truly know what’s best for you.

Last fall an article published in the Allergy and Asthma Proceedings Journal analyzed existing data from 2010, 2006 and 2001 to argue an increase in adults self-diagnosing themselves with food allergies in the United States. Using primary source data that included less than 4,000 participants, I found the statistics low compared to the overall American population. However, the authors Verrill, Bruns, and Luccioli make several critical statements about the potential adverse “consequences” of restricting one’s food intake unnecessarily. They write:

“Because living with [food allergies] has nutritional, psychosocial, and other consequences that can negatively impact health and quality of life,2427 a proper diagnosis is essential….Analysis of our results indicates that a persistent and potentially increasing number of adults may be needlessly avoiding nutritious foods without seeking medical advice, which highlights a public health need for better education and communication to the public about seeking proper diagnosis as per established guidelines.24[1]

My personal story involved living with terrible eczema all over my face, eyelids, neck and inner elbow for over 9 months. My eyes itched and were so pink, you would have probably wondered if I had pink eye. I don’t want to discount anyone’s symptoms. Living with unusual symptoms that are painful and embarrassing is very challenging and emotionally draining. Our bodies are trying to tell us something is not right, but we struggle to determine what’s really happening. These reasons are why I sought medical care.

I visited my primary care physician who referred me to a dermatologist who conducted a skin patch test. The test showed I was allergic to nickel. Since I don’t wear any jewelry or experience contact dermatitis when I touch things high in nickel, my dermatologist suggested I try the low nickel diet for one month. After a month I met with him to discuss the outcomes of trying the low nickel diet. My eczema symptoms had nearly disappeared. It actually felt like a mini miracle and I’m not religious.

There are moments when I still challenge myself to see whether or not I continue to be allergic to foods high in nickel. I may eat a salad; enjoy a bowl of potato leek soup or a piece of triple berry pie. Time and time again, I experience severe eczema that only lasts a couple days. Yet it affirms my nickel food allergy. Since my nickel food allergy doesn’t cause me anaphylaxis, I can safely experiment with my diet in this way. If you try experiementing with your diet, it might help to keep a food journal.

I only restrict my diet by eating the low nickel diet as method to treating and preventing severe eczema or atopic dermatitis flare ups. I wouldn’t eat the low nickel diet if I didn’t have to, but I’ve found it very effective for me.

[1] Verrill, L., Bruns, R., & Luccioli, S. (2015). Prevalence of self-reported food allergy in U.S. adults: 2001, 2006, and 2010. Allergy and Asthma Proceedings,36(6), 458–467. http://doi.org/10.2500/aap.2015.36.3895.