What about Coconut and Nickel?

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash.

Often I’m asked what about coconut in relationship to nickel? In researching about coconut, surprisingly it tends to be outright omitted from nearly all the lists identifying foods high in nickel. Unfortunately there’s not much consistency when it comes to the research about whether or not coconut is high in nickel.
Some of us with systemic nickel allergy syndrome or SNAS can tolerate eating coconut, while others cannot or only eat it sparingly. Personally I don’t eat anything with coconut – including raw coconut, coconut flour, coconut butter, coconut water, coconut oil or coconut milk. I also don’t use cosmetic products on my skin that contain coconut. The tricky thing is many websites recommend using coconut oil as a natural remedy for treating eczema with the caveat to not to use it if you’re allergic.
The low nickel diet really is a diet of trial and error. To identify what my own body could tolerate, I eliminated everything high in nickel – including coconut – and then re-introduced coconut in my diet to see my own body’s reaction to it. Overwhelmingly my skin became inflamed when I re-introduced coconut. *However, I’m not a doctor. I write about my own experience, which is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a severe or anaphylactic nickel allergy, I recommend you only try this elimination diet technique under a physician’s care.
I’ve always known coconuts to be fruits, not nuts as its name infers. Technically a drupe, many organizations including the US Library of Congress identify coconuts as a fruit, seed and nut. However in the US the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires under the FALCPA that coconut be labeled on all processed foods as “tree nuts,” or one of the top 8 food allergens. Many individuals allergic to tree nuts can tolerate eating coconuts, but it’s always best to consult with your physician.
While researching coconut on low-nickel diet lists (particularly FDA & Penn State Dermatology), I reached out to Dr. Matthew Zirwas, a well known Dermatologist who specializes in atopic dermatitis and nickel allergies. I informed him of my difficulty finding any reliable information about the nickel content in coconut and how many of the low nickel diet lists exclude coconut. I asked him if he was aware of any research about the nickel content in coconut? Dr. Zirwas said that he too has “not been able to find any info on potential for nickel in coconut,” but did continue to say he “[does] not tell patients to avoid it.”
In the comment section below, it would be great to hear whether or not you can eat coconut.

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38 comments
  1. I get red itchy skin from coconut oil used as a skin moisturizer. I love the taste of coconut milk but never feel well after ingesting it.

    1. Nee,
      Thanks for your comment. I totally relate when I use any lotion or shampoo with coconut, my skin becomes so inflamed. As a kid, I loved to drink coconut milk from actual coconuts. However since my diagnosis I avoid drinking coconut milk all together.
      Christy

  2. Hi Christy,
    I was surprised to hear that you’re allergic to coconut, and it made me feel a sense of relief that I can tolerate coconut — because I’m VERY lactose-intolerant AND allergic to nickel — so coconut is one of the key parts of my diet.
    My allergist talked to me about the need to experiment and see what foods made me feel good versus triggered the reactions, and coconut was one of the major foods that consistently leaves me feeling good after I eat it. I kept food diary after food diary as I discovered what foods were making me sick, and it was a relief to be able to depend on coconut — I tend to eat a lot of coconut milk ice cream and I often bake with a combination of dairy butter and coconut milk in order to cut down on the lactose in my dessert intake.
    After a year on the low-nickel diet, I found my ability to tolerate dairy in moderation had increased HUGELY, which my allergist predicted — basically, when I was still eating all the nickel foods, my system was so irritated that the littlest bit of lactose was too much to hand. Once my digestive system had calmed down from not having to process huge amount of nickel, I was able to digest dairy as long as I don’t go too overboard.
    Did you have to keep a lot of food diaries before you figured out which foods were making you sick? I’m curious, do you have a blog post about how you discovered that you have a nickel foods allergy?
    ~Alison

    1. Hi Alison,
      I am glad you can tolerate coconut. I too have experimented with foods to see what my own bodies reaction is. You could say, there are times I still experiment. The food diary that also corresponds with my symptoms was the best thing for me to truly understand what I could/can tolerate. That’s great that now you can also tolerate lactose, once your immune system healed.
      I didn’t have to keep multiple food diaries and don’t really keep one, but try to still be mindful of what I eat, should I knowingly eat something high in nickel. Here’s a blog post about my diagnosis – http://nickelfoodallergy.com/my-nickel-food-allergy-diagnosis/ and my nickel food allergy – http://nickelfoodallergy.com/my-nickel-food-allergy/.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  3. I cannot eat coconut and definitely cannot have the milk. Within 20-30 minutes of gavung coconut milk I am running to the restroom. Coconut water isnt as bad as it takes about an hour to hour and a half to have the same effect as the milk.

    1. Wendy,
      Thank you for your comment! I’ve read coconut is high in fiber, so your experience makes sense. However that also sounds annoying. I haven’t experienced that, but I’ve generally avoided coconut for the past 8 years.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  4. Thank you for your great information. I have been going through this nickle allergy ordeal. Some great ways to detox metals is hyperbaric oxygen treatments and also red light treatments. You know the ones at tanning places, that don’t harm your skin or tan you. People use them for healing the skin but the light penetrates deeper and has many wonderful health benefits.

    1. Hi Heather,
      Thanks for your comment, I’ve never heard about “hyperbaric oxygen treatments and also red light treatments.” I’ll have to read more about them!
      Warm regards,
      Christy

    1. Hi John,
      That’s great you can eat 3 coconuts a day, which does sound delicious! It seems the variation of what some can tolerate varies widely regarding coconut.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

    1. Christina,
      Thanks for your comment on my blog. I use cetaphil moisturizer cream, which I purchase at Costco for two containers. I also use their gentle cleansing soap bar.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  5. Hi Christy,
    I just found your blog because I was just diagnosed with allergic contact dermatitis, possible nickel related. I say possible because not even the doctors are sure about my diagnosis even after the biopsy of my lips tissue. Which is where my allergy has been manifesting. Out of nowhere, I’ve been having this awful burning/swelling/itching feeling for several months now.
    As I’m entering on try-and-error stage, so I’m really trying to find out what might be triggering this allergy symptoms and I’m also trying not to freak out with the extensive list of food to avoid and I’m kind of willing to give up on chocolate and peanuts but I was hoping to still be allowed to eat coconut products.
    I’m completely crazy about coconut and I hope it will not be an issue.
    Even though I still don’t know what really triggers this allergy, I’m already helpless thinking about all restrictions this will bring to my life.
    🙁

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for your comment! I hope you’re able to continue to eat coconut and that you’re trial and error phase helps determine the cause of your eczema.
      Yes, unfortunately there are many restrictions with the low nickel diet and I stick to them regularly. However, I will still indulge in a leafy green salad about once a month and I experience minimum reactions. If I eat a salad with nut and chocolate, my reactions will be terrible.
      I try to balance the nickel food allergy with my preference and eliminate the foods that cause me the worst reaction entirely. If at one meal I do over eat foods higher in nickel, I’ll usually take Benadryl that night at bed. My nickel food allergy isn’t anaphylactic, which I’m ever so grateful for.
      It does take time to adjust and really is a trial and error process that took me a couple months to determine.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

    2. In addition to my nickle allergy, I also tested positive to phenoxyethanol which is in a lot of lotions, potions, and cosmetics. Apparently my lipsticks, lip balms, etc. contained it and made my lips like wood at one point in time. So, in addition to internal triggers, I like to look at external. Even “healthy” lip balms or mint flavored triggered lip distress. Seems like good old petroleum jelly has been fine but doesn’t take the place of lipstick. 🙂

      1. Hi Amy,
        Thanks for your comment. I don’t know about phenoxyethanol allergies. So many cosmetics have various ingredients that are undecipherable! I don’t wear lipstick either. I typically use Aquaphor Healing Ointment, which is mostly petroleum jelly and Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol. One of their products contains shea butter, which I can’t use, so check out the label if you try it out.
        Warm regards,
        Christy

  6. Michelle,
    I am fairly new to this Systemic Nickel allergy thing. But I can tell you that my allergist, who practices in Eugene Oregon, said that if I seemed to be particularly crazy about a certain food, that is the first one to stop eating. He said that for some reason our bodies crave foods we are allergic to and that after 3 months of completely avoiding it you can try it again. If you should decide to avoid it and then reintroduce it into your diet, be careful how much you eat at first. He said that your body will react much stronger to it if you are indeed allergic to it. This is just one Doctor’s advice, please ask yours if it is also his/her advice.
    Bernie

    1. Yes Michelle, I have done the food sensitivity blood test by Immunolabs and was amazed that the foods I tested the highest for were foods I love. I believe the explanation was that the body sees these repeat foods as an invader and puts up defense; inflammation, etc. By letting there be 2-3 days in between repeating foods in your diet, the body doesn’t see it as an invader. Likewise, by eliminating sensitive foods for three months then reintroducing one food at a time, you can determine what is o.k. to eat.

  7. I am investigating a low nickel diet due to my inability to totally clear my skin despite avoiding my known allergens via patch testing. Most items I used to replace household and cosmetic products contained coconut derivatives. I have cut those items out and have cleared a bit more. However I identified as having a cobalt allergy which my allergist says can coincide (forget the term she used) with nickel. Also when I had my initial huge flare I was eating a vegan diet full of nickel laden foods!!!!!!!!!!!! We’ll see if this diet helps me. It’s kinda depressing to become so reliant on animal protein after enjoying soy, lentils, beans, nuts etc for so many years….

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thank you for your comments on my blog! I too understand there are many with nickel allergies that are also allergic to cobalt.When I was a teenager, I was a vegetarian for 4 years. It’s very hard to radically change your diet and change a multitude of things you come in contact with that are also high in heavy metals. I hope the low nickel diet does help your eczema to improve!
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  8. Michelle, just a note. my lips allergies improved quite a bit through these adjustments: started eating with plastic (nickel); using cloth napkins (formaldehyde in paper napkins); stopped vitaminB12 (cobalt); and had my partner change his toothpaste (sls). Maybe one or all of these could help. I use lard as a lip moisturizer, seems like one of the few things I don’t react to.
    Be well, Lisa

  9. I am lactose intolerant, so have been using almond milk. Being diagnosed with nickel allergy, I switched to coconut milk. Now I hear that it’s high in nickel? What to put in my coffee?

    1. Hi Laurie,
      The nickel content in coconut is unknown, whereas as a result of nuts being high in nickel, the coconut milk it probably a better alternative to almond milk. I drink Rice Dream rice milk in both my coffee and in my cereal.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

      1. Hi Christy,
        Most of the rice milk I have found has a metal liner inside of the carton. Are you finding it without this metal liner?
        Thank you so much for all you are sharing

        1. Hi Jody,
          Thanks for your comment and insight. I use Rice Dream rice milk and until I cut into the packaging yesterday, I didn’t realize it’s lined with a silver lining. You’re probably right that the other alternative milk brands use a similar lining in their packaging. Despite this reality, I am going to continue drinking this rice milk as it’s worked well for me. I also don’t heat up the milk in the container and keep it chilled, which I hope limits the transfer of any nickel from the silver lining to the rice milk.
          Warm regards,
          Christy

  10. I was recently diagnosed with a nickel allergy which caused me to stop using coconut oil on my face. I was also using a face wash which contained almond oil and coconut oil. I’ve already noticed a difference in my skin in the past couple of weeks. My skin isn’t as red anymore. Before my diagnosis I had no idea that nickel was in food, too. I’ve been having other symptoms besides eczema which I’m hoping will go away with switching to a low-nickel diet. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s nice to get tips from someone who’s going through the same thing!

    1. Hi Melanie,
      Thanks for your comment and appreciation for my website! I’m so happy to hear using products without coconut on your face has resulted in such a noticeable difference! Before this journey, I too never knew that nickel was in foods, let alone so many foods. I hope the low-nickel diet works for you as well.
      Cheers,
      Christy

  11. I know I’m late to the party, but your post came up when I just searched for the nickel content in coconut…I also have nickel sensitivity, topical & in foods/skin products. In the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve been having a few coconut milk iced lattes from Starbucks weekly, after realizing I was reacting to the nickel in their iced green tea I was drinking. Got the awful hand rash cleared up, waited a few weeks & tried the iced latte w coconut milk (I avoid dairy due to casein/whey sensitivity) & now the backs of my hands have the exact same itchy scaly burny patches that are ONLY from nickel. So very curious how some react to it & some don’t. I generally cannot use skin products containing coconut, but I generally can’t use any oil on my skin, so just presumed it was from that.
    Thank you for sharing your journey & experiences, every bit of info helps fill out the multiple-sensitivities puzzle. I also found this list, while searching; it shows the nickel content for coconut & coconut milk.

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment and link to a low nickel is that actually includes coconut! I understand how frustrating it can be to find low nickel milk alternatives. I like rice milk, but haven’t tried freezing it to use in iced coffee. Did you experience the same eczema reaction on your hands when you made your own iced coffee instead of getting it at Starbucks?
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  12. I’m so glad to have found your blog. I was recently diagnosed with a nickel allergy, unsure if it’s a general nickel allergy or food or both. I’ve been struggling a lot with eating. I’ve been miserable to be honest, especially since dark chocolate is what I live for. I’m learning so much from reading your blog and I thank you. I use so much coconut oil in my natural products and will now see if that is the culprit to why I can’t go a day without itching and/or a rash. I’m anxious to try your recipes and make the most out of this new life that I’m to live. Thanks again for all the information and reading comments from everyone helps too.

    1. Hi Dena,
      Thank you for your comment and appreciation for my blog! Chocolate and coconut are two of the worst nickel allergy offenders for me! They always cause me to react every time. When you try my low nickel recipes I’d love to hear what you think!
      Warm regards,
      Christy

    1. Hi Renee,
      I recently switched to Cleure’s fragrance free hypoallergenic shampoo that SLS free. It does include the ingredient Coco-Glucoside, which does contain coconut. However, I like you was having trouble finding anything that worked without causing me to itch and thought I’d give this a try. It works great without causing me any issues. It seemed like it took me about a week or so to adjust to it. I also like their conditioner, but only use it once a week.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

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