The Two Faces of Nickel

Photo Credit: Miranda Cook via Flickr, with permission.

Due to many debates that have been circling around and the controversial topic of the nickel allergy. I thought it would be best to play devil’s advocate for this Halloween season. If all of you know or don’t, well you will soon find out. I am Nickely Challenged or have a nickel allergy in simpler terms.  I am a blogger just like Christy and was honored to do a guest blog post for her. I have been struggling with the nickel allergy for nearly 5 years but had it since I was 12 and was undiagnosed. In my journey of trying to navigate my college life as nickel free as possible, I dedicated my research project to this allergy. I even did my capstone on nickel and why it is prevalent. So as I far ado, here are The Two Faces of Nickel. Have a seat and a cup of water, well, bottled water. It might be a crazy ride.

If you have a nickel allergy, you are far too familiar with the rashes and other random symptoms that make you well, feel like you’re living the itchy life. But you might have overlooked the benefits of nickel in your daily life. Well, trust me the FDA definitely overlooked it too. Can we petition that the nickel count needs to be added in food just like other metal nutrients (i.e. copper, iron or zinc)?  Who’s with me?

Got that bottle of water? Good!


Nickel in its silvery powdery silhouette is actually good for you. What? Yes! You heard it right.

Nickel is a trace mineral whose actual nutritional value to the human body wasn’t recognized until the 1970’s. This is most likely due to the fact that a person’s body requires very little of this mineral in order to reap the benefits it provides. (Food Pyramid

Think of nickel as your city’s bus driver. It helps other passengers (Vitamins, Other Trace Minerals, etc) get about and around and makes sure that everyone is going where they’re supposed to. (Bone Blast)

The nutritional value that is associated with nickel is quite expansive considering the small amounts of the mineral required on a daily basis. It is estimated that Americans consume approximately 170 mcg of nickel in every 24-hour period of time. (Food Pyramid)

Nutritional Value

Nickel plays a major role in helping the body absorb the iron it needs. Additionally, nickel helps prevent conditions such as anemia helps towards building strong skeletal frames by strengthening bones. (Food Pyramid)

Nickel is also present in DNA and RNA which means it is found in every cell of the human body. It assists in breaking down glucose, helps in creating energy for daily use and even contributes to the production of certain enzymes that initiate important chemical reactions such as the development of nucleic acids. (Food Pyramid)

Ladies, some studies have shown that nickel aids greatly in breast milk production. So that is something definitely that you should keep in mind especially if you are pregnant or planning to be. (Bone Blast) 

What happens when someone has a Nickel deficiency?

Nickel deficiencies are rare, but when they do occur, they can be extremely serious. Those with a higher risk of developing a nickel deficiency are people who are suffering from kidney problems, cirrhosis of the liver or have a vitamin B6 deficiency. Symptoms of a nickel deficiency can range from urinary tract infections to severe allergic reactions, most often seen in the form of skin rashes. In very severe cases, those that suffer from a nickel deficiency may experience paralysis alongside inflammation of the liver and lungs. (Food Pyramid)

Excessive supplements and symptoms

Nickel can play a very important role in nutrition, but too much nickel can have severe side effects. High nickel levels that become toxic often result in allergic reactions, digestion problems, high red blood cell counts, kidney failure and potentially, lung cancer. For these reasons, it’s very important to incorporate a healthy and balanced diet into a daily routine. High nickel levels can be avoided through the elimination of nickel-containing jewelry as well. Individuals who suffer from nickel allergies need to be particularly careful to avoid foods that are nickel-rich. (Food Pyramid)

According to Bone Blast, they said, “You might say that Nickel can be easily classified as an unsung hero and you know what, that’s just the way it likes it.” At this point nickel, is starting to act like an unwanted step child. For what reason do you need to be in me when I have a nickel allergy and then demand to be refilled or I might go deficient. Like what, where they do that at?


This brings me to the sad truth, we Nickely Challenged face, our nickel allergy.

Click to tweet *It’s all fun and games until you have a nickel allergy*

Because we ended up trying to figure out what low nickel diet to actually use. When there are too many discrepancies to even count. That’s why I emphasize the FDA start putting the nickel count in food so we know how much we get in a daily basis.
So nickel is good and bad for you? Yep, that is right! I said it! It’s all a contradiction. Even with a nickel allergy, we all need nickel. That is why vitamins are very important because with minimizing nickel, you end up not making your body work the way it needs too.
But for the bad, I will highlight that a nickel allergy isn’t a cosmetic allergy. It doesn’t only causes rashes, eczema, dermatitis, or little angry bumps. It’s more than that. Cause nickel is everywhere. It’s in everything even our earth’s core and that roach you battled last night. We cannot get away from it and we wouldn’t want to. It actually facilitates the U.S. economy but that is another topic for another day. If there was no Nickel in this world we would all be dead, well mostly likely.

Aside from the rashes you can also have Systematic Nickel Allergy Syndrome (SNAS).

The presence of nickel in the diet (mainly plant foods) in some nickel-sensitive subjects can provoke/aggravate eczema and systemic contact dermatitis as well as cause extra-cutaneous symptoms (respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological). (ncbi 2014) What? Neurological?

These symptoms, correlated to the ingestion of nickel-containing foods and beverages, in nickel patch test positive individuals, defines the so called Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome (SNAS), a condition successfully treated by oral desensitization.(ncbi 2014)

Symptoms – (ncbi 2011)

I appreciate NCBI for doing the research and getting data to affirm most nickel allergy sufferers. I have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches, recurrent infections, respiratory disorders and to top it off anaphylaxis.
In all, here is a Happy Halloween to my fellow nickel allergy victims and hope this was more informative than scary because knowledge is power. And what is more powerful than social media? Nothing! So share, comment let this be known because we cannot be mad at people who don’t know about this allergy.

So till next time, I will be blogging over at Nickely Challenged but it was nice introducing myself to Christy’s nickel allergy family.

  1. Thank you for the great article and links to more information. Nickel allergies are a challenge to say the least.

      1. Help I have a nickel allergy constantly got rashes on face and then turns into cellulitis, maybe because I itch, but do not know where to begin – makeup, food and just generally need help. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the article! I suffer from nickel allergy and B6 deficiency. Are B6 vitamins OK to take with a nickel allergy?
    Between lyme disease, nickel allergy, and B6 deficiency, I NEED to find a way to combat my fatigue!

    1. Hi Jillian,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve had no problem taking a B vitamin complex (with multiple types of b vitamins). I only take it once a week to a couple times a month. If you were to take it more often you might consider talking with your physician.

  3. I drink a lot of water and was diagnosed with nickel allergy last week. Since nickel is also in water and I’m sensitized to nickel what are you using to filter the water you drink or use for cooking?

    1. Hi Lorna,
      Thanks for your comment. All kinds of heavy metals exist in our water. I choose to use the the Pur Water Filter because it’s one of the best products to remove lead from tap water. There are recommendations to let your tap/shower water to run for 10-60 seconds in case there’s nickel released from the metal fixture itself, which is often stainless steel.
      You can often request the municipal water company/city quality report. Where I live, I receive this report with my bill once a year. The report lists contaminants ranging from microbiological, radioactive, inorganics, etc. Sometimes these reports are public relations campaigns for the public utility, but often they contain useful information and could help you identify what’s in your water.
      Reverse osmosis is really the only way to remove nickel from water. Many hardware stores have kits or there are YouTube videos showing how to make your own. I know others that purchase bottled water, but that can get really expensive!
      Good luck,

  4. Hello my name is J.D. and have had fluid in lungs weight loss over 30 pounds with blisters and bleeding in gastoral area. I just was diagnosed last week 3+++ by dermatologist during test. I know have to see a immunologist to see if I have syndrome. My question is potatoes and white bread can I have them? One of my lists says absolutely not and to avoid then online on nickel diets people are eating potatoes and tomatoes and bread im so confused. Can you help me? What do I do?

    1. Hi JD,
      That sounds terrible and scary! I can eat both potatoes and white breads. Tomatoes are hit or miss, they are higher in histamines and can mimic eczema symptoms, but are generally lower in nickel. I’d suggest using a food journal, writing down what you eat and any corresponding health symptoms to identify if there might be a correlation. Sometimes things are correlated, but it takes 12-24 hours for symptoms to appear so it can be challenging to identify the exact culprit. Hopefully that helps.
      Warm regards,

  5. Hi Cindee,
    Whether or not bottled water contains nickel is a tricky question. I know Barbara only drinks bottled water as she’s unable to rely on tap water not causing her to react because of the nickel in the tap water.
    Generally water regulated by public utility companies is stronger than private companies. Bottled water isn’t a regulated product in the US. Many times there are chemicals leached into the water from the cheap plastic. That’s why some bottled water companies package their water in glass. Your best bet is to identify which bottled water you want to consume and contact the company who bottles the water to find out for sure. I hope that helped.
    Warm regards,

  6. I have been suffering with a rash for approximately a year and was diagnosed with quite a few infections before receiving an allergy test. Among many other things that could contribute to this rash, I was told I was highly allergic to nickel. When googling, I became overwhelmed and hopeless. I saw how many good (by good I mean tasty and healthy) foods were nickel rich. I also discovered that this allergy causes GI and respiratory issues. I’ve suffered from GERD symptoms and chronic bronchitis for years. Sadly, I relate to much of what I read.
    I wanted to try an anti-inflammatory diet, but so many “nickel rich” foods are not allowed. At the same time, I don’t know what food could contribute to this. How do I go from knowing I have an allergy (a very strong one at that) to knowing which foods I should definitely stay away from? Lists I’ve come across are so contradicting. I am trying to determine what to do to help my issue, but it seems so overwhelming and not as researched. I agree… there should be nickel listed on each item at the store!

    1. Hi Kayla,
      Thanks for your comment. I understand how overwhelming being diagnosed with a systemic nickel allergy can be. Many of my favorite foods, like peanut butter, arugula salad, whole wheat and more are high in nickel. My low nickel gardening posts identifies some of the reasons why there are various lists identifying what is or isn’t high in nickel. You could try an elimination diet and use a food journal to tract what foods cause your eczema. It’s a slow process, but could be enlightening.

  7. I am 63 years old. This past March I was diagnosed. I’ve known for years that I can only wear good jewelry. I have also known that I can’t seafood. Fish is fine. I was wearing a Fitbit when my symptoms appeared. Still trying to figure out what I can eat. What beverages should I stay away from. I haven’t seen a list. What about liquor?

    1. Hi June,
      Thanks for your comment. I too can’t wear cheap jewelry. Changing how you eat, can be very daunting.
      I don’t drink often, but prefer lemon drop martinis and hefeweizen beers. Sometimes my skin will react the next day and it’s hard to know if it’s because of the alcohol or the ingredients in the alcohol. My resources page has some information about hidden allergens in common alcohols.
      Warm regards,

  8. Thanks for sharing. It’s been hard to get people to understand that my anaphylaxis to nickel foods such as cocoa and date and chickpeas developed with my nickel allergy. The medical community is behind. You sharing makes me feel less crazy. Thank you.

  9. I found out I had a nickel allergy through some piercings. I had my helix and my lobes double pierced all at the same time. They used stainless steel jewelry so no one thought it could be an allergy. After a lot of digging on the internet I realized I was allergic to the steel. I had a red welt, the piercings weren’t healing and were itchy. I have to wear titanium earrings now. I was wondering if using a stainless steel water bottle isn’t a good idea? Also if there is nickel in my shower water, could that be contributing to my adult acne?

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your comment. I write about nickel in the kitchen and briefly discuss avoiding using stainless steel water bottles as they tend to contain nickel. I also write about nickel in our tap water and there’s a lot of great info in the comments from that post you might find useful. Not everyone with a systemic nickel allergy has a contact nickel allergy. I do, so I work to avoid all nickel contact, foods and cookware. Exposure to nickel can impact/cause some folks acne, so you may want to look into that more.
      Warm regards,

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