The Truth about Magnesium & Nickel Allergies

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash.

Many of us learn of our systemic nickel allergies because we eat or ate an abundance of oatmeal, leafy greens, beans, nuts or other foods high in nickel. It’s unfortunate that so many foods higher in nickel are also considered healthy, super foods and contain key nutrients and minerals that we can’t regularly eat. It’s even more challenging to ensure our diet is as balanced as possible when eating a restricted diet. 

Well known as the “invisible deficiency” the majority of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. Some of the reasons why magnesium deficiencies are so common involve modern farming techniques depleting the amount of magnesium, zinc and other essential minerals from our soil. Additionally nearly all our municipal water contains fluoride which binds to magnesium making it harder for our bodies to absorb the magnesium we may ingest. The amount of iron and fiber can aid our retention of magnesium, whereas eating a diet high in refined sugars and being stressed can make us more prone to being magnesium deficient.

When the majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium, what does that mean for those of us eating a low nickel diet?

Magnesium is “a mineral the body needs for normal muscles, nerves, and bones. It also helps keep a steady heart rhythm, a healthy immune system, normal blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and is involved in making energy and protein for the body. Magnesium is found in some foods, including green vegetables, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and whole grains” [1].

It’s frightening when my legs or feet go numb, to the point that I might suddenly lose my balance. When I experience numbness in my hands or feet, I typically assume it’s related to having raynaud’s or low blood sugar. However numbness can also be related to being deficient in magnesium. Other signs of a magnesium deficiency can include leg cramps, nerve issues, muscle pain, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, memory issues and craving chocolate.

Many foods higher in magnesium, like spinach, nuts, figs, legumes and chocolate, are also higher in nickel. Supplements can help with deficiencies. I caution relying on supplements because they’re not regulated in the US, they can contain heavy metals and manufacturers aren’t required to disclose ingredients used. Lastly, taking supplements long term can cause other unintended consequences and it’s advised to consult your physician.

So what’s the alternative to regularly eating magnesium rich foods that are higher in nickel or taking magnesium supplements?

Some foods lower in nickel but  higher in magnesium include swiss chard, eggs, bananas, kiwi, papaya, blackberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, tuna, halibut and quinoa. In addition, vitamin D can increase your body’s absorption of magnesium.

Our skin can also absorb magnesium. Bathing in an Epsom salt bath is not only great for atopic dermatitis, but is a fantastic form of stress relief. Wellness Mama Katie Wells writes extensively about magnesium. She shares a do it yourself magnesium oil spray recipe you can use as a simple cheap alternative.

What about you? Have you experienced signs of having a magnesium deficiency? Perhaps after you’ve started to eat the low nickel diet? Or do you have tips on ways you get more magnesium in your diet? I’d love to hear your story in the comment section below!

[1]National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash.

  1. This article really gave me some insight that I have been looking for. I recently asked a dietitian about taking supplements. He had never treated or knew anyone with nickel allergy.
    As of late I have experienced headaches, anxiety, muscle weakness, and higher blood pressure. I eat bananas, eggs, broccoli. But I feel like it is not enough. Still wondering if I should take a magnesium supplement. I’d appreciate any replies about a brand of magnesium supplements that people have used.

    1. Hi June,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the post gave you some insight into perhaps what’s going on with the symptoms you’re experiencing. I’ve taken a Nature Made magnesium supplement that also includes zinc, calcium and vitamin d. It can work great in the short term. Our kidneys can excrete the magnesium our bodies intake, which is why the Epsom salt spray on our skin is a more effective way for our bodies to get the essential mineral.
      Warm regards,

      1. This is the first time I hear about the Low Nickel Diet. I really didn’t know about foods that contain nickel. Interesting that most of them make me feel bad when I eat them, like spinach, for example. Last year I decided to try having green juices daily in the morning. And one of the vegetables I put in was spinach (raw). After two weeks, I almost ended up in the emergency room. In my research, I thought the explanation would be given to the oxalates present in spinach. Knowing more of this information (nickel), it makes sense too, because I am allergic to nickel.

  2. Having a low nickel diet makes it difficult to eat out (mostly because of soy cooking oil) but I have adapted to eating in. I have found a hydroponic source for lettuce and tomato. I make my own salad dressing. I use light Alfredo sauce instead of marinara sauce.
    Most women should be taking a 2 calcium citrate to 1 magnesium supplement to avoid osteoporosis. This article shows another reason to take that supplement.

    1. Sheila,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, eating out is a constant challenge as you state soy if often the culprit. That’s fantastic you grow your own tomatoes and lettuce hydroponically to reduce the amount of nickel in both. I love to eat arugula salads, but they always cause me to react. Many take calcium supplements. My magnesium is a complex of zinc, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. I don’t take it daily, but a couple times a week.
      Warm regards,

  3. I was so excited when I found Magnesium helped my anxiety, my insomnia, and memory/confusion issues. And then deflated when I realized taking the Mg was giving me itchy hives all over my scalp and neck. It seems I’m allergic to everything — Nickel, chemicals, laundry detergents, chocolate, Mg, foods, you name it. So frustrating.

    1. Hi Athena,
      Thanks for your comment. That’s wonderful magnesium helped you so much! Many supplements do contain nickel and hives are the worst. The nice thing about magnesium is that it can be absorbed in your skin and supplements aren’t required. Have you tried Wellness Mama’s magnesium oil spray or an Epsom salt bath to see if that helps?
      Warm regards,

    2. Hello Christy I have been told I have osteoporosis…. I also have a bad reaction or allergy to many kinds of magnesium. Even magnesium stearate which of course is even used in many vitamins as a lubricant. I am ok with foods that have magnesium..I just can’t take a supplement… one time I tried soaking my feet in epsom salts and within minutes I could hardly breath and it took two hours before I could breath normally…do you have any thoughts on this that you could share with me

      1. Hi Sandra,
        Thanks for your comment. That sounds very scary. I am not a physician and don’t know why your body reacts to magnesium in the way you share. I would suggest talking with your medical provider about possible remedies when having a magnesium allergy and alternatives should you experience a magnesium deficiency.
        Warm regards,

  4. Your blog is very interesting. I was just thinking about nickel and stainless steel (cooking and welding) and totally found a new tangent on ta interwebs to follow… I will be considering the nickel problem for allergies and rashes that come and go now.
    As to the magnesium issue, one thing not mentioned is that most houses now have water softeners that take the magnesium out of water. This is probably the biggest factor in many people’s lives that they don’t even know about. I read somewhere that most of the Mg used naturally by the body comes through the water we drink and bathe in. It sure would explain a lot about how Europeans were so insane for so many centuries of not taking baths…

    1. Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting how you found my website. I didn’t know that water softeners actual remove magnesium from our water, which would definitely add to one of the reasons why so many Americans are magnesium deficient.
      Warm regards,

  5. This was very helpful to know. Because of this information, I began taking epsom salt baths or doing sn epsom foot soak as often as possible and began using a spray in my morning routine. When I first started, it made my skin sting something fierce. Fearing yet another allergy, I turned to Google. I read that a “stinging” or “itching” sensation can be normal when exposing pH of skin to ph of magnesium or that it might signal a deficiency. I believe the latter to be true because over the course of a couple weeks, the stinging sensation subsided. I think it has been a very beneficial addition. Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks for your comment and appreciation for my website. That’s wonderful you tried using epsom salts either in a bath or by soaking your feet to help with a magnesium deficiency. I prefer to soak my feet too, as I can do while watching a TV show or movie. I wasn’t aware that stinging could be an adverse reaction, but also highlight a deficiency. Thanks for sharing that information as probably there are others who’ve experienced it and perhaps not persisted with the soak.
      Warm regards,

  6. I’ve always supplemented magnesium and it wasn’t until last week that I realized my body does not absorb it because I have a magnesium allergy. I purchased magnesium spray to see if I sprayed it on my skin at the onset of a migraine if it would help me. It actually prevented me from having a migraine but burned my skin very intensely. I had to apply cromoloyn to my skin to calm the allergy down. It’s a real bummer having these allergies, and discovering I’m deficient because my body just won’t absorb things I’m allergic to.

    1. Hi Jennie,
      Thanks for your comment. Have an allergy to magnesium would create a challenge to ensuring you don’t experience a magnesium deficiency. Just this week I received a comment from another follower who stated: “I read that a “stinging” or “itching” sensation can be normal when exposing pH of skin to ph of magnesium or that it might signal a deficiency. I believe the latter to be true because over the course of a couple weeks, the stinging sensation subsided.”She mentioned that she either takes epsom baths or just soaks her feet. I took like to soak my feet in warm water with epsom salts instead of using the spray. With your allergy, I don’t know if this will be useful for you. Perhaps checking in with your physician for suggestions is best.
      Warm regards,

  7. Back up I’m not allergic to epsom salt or quinoa? I’ve got snas too so I’ve just started avoiding everything I can that may contain nickel or cobalt so far my rash has gone away from my arms, plus my ears occasionally have good days. Is Epsom salt really safe? I had a crushing injury at work today and wanted to soak a bit to help with the pain and hopefully leave me feeling tops for tomorrow. G

    1. Hi Ry,
      Thanks for your comment. Most with systemic nickel allergies can tolerate quinoa, especially if it’s thoroughly rinsed. I wouldn’t suggest eating epsom salts, but many find relief using the magnesium spray mentioned in this post, taking an epsom bath or soaking their feet in epsom salts. Magnesium has several magnificent benefits for muscle weakness and nerve issues.
      Warm regards,

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