The Cold Penguin

expanding the box

A Nickel Free Diet

on August 11, 2014

Most people don’t think of foods when it comes to a nickel allergy.  And I never did either.  I knew I was allergic to nickel ever since I got my ears pierced at 11 years old.  I was so excited!!  And then, when I got my first pair of “cool” earrings from Claire’s, my ears immediately became red, itchy and swollen.  I always get a rash when I wear jewelry with nickel in it.  I can’t even wear most sunglasses or watches because of the nickel content in them.  It was devastating as an 11-year-old who wanted to wear colorful early 90s jewelry like all her friends.  But as an adult, it hasn’t been that big of a deal.

Until May.  One morning in May, I woke up and my lips were swollen twice their normal size and were itchy and burning.  They became very flaky as well.  I could just wipe away dry skin for hours.

A trip to the local pharmacist brought me home with Burt’s Bees (all natural) chap stick and antihistamines.  I also would apply ice to my lips to help with the swelling.  A few days later, and no improvement, I called my dermatologist.  I couldn’t get in to see her for a few weeks (she’s a busy lady), and luckily the swelling did go down and the pain improved.  She said it was most likely an allergy, and gave me a cortisone cream to apply for 2 weeks.  At 2 weeks, there was improvement and the pain all but went away, but there was still clearly rash remnants around  my lips.  And a couple days after I stopped the cortisone, they started to hurt again.  So another call to the dermatologist and I was set up with skin allergy testing.

Specifically, I got the TRUE TEST patch test.  The process was not fun.

Day 1: apply stickers to my back.  And I’m a small girl (5’1″) so my back was pretty much fully covered in stickers.  These stickers each contained a different allergen.  I noticed unpleasant sensations once they put the stickers on.  Uh oh.

Day 2: agony as the allergens were doing their thing.  I was not allowed to sweat, shower, etc. during this time.  By the end of the day, I had a visible rash on my back (according to my husband) that itched like crazy!!

Day 3: woo hoo!  Stickers come off!  I was so excited!  I got an initial reading from the nurse, who talked about the big swelling itchy rash on my back from nickel and a few other spots that I also had a reaction to (gold and carba mix).  It was a relief to get the stickers off my back, but I had to wait another 24 hours before being able to shower, medicate, etc.

Day 4: finally I saw the dermatologist who told me about my severe reaction to nickel and average reactions to gold and carba mix.  To my surprise, she mentioned that nickel was found in certain foods and eating these foods could cause a reaction.  She gave me a list of foods to take home and suggested I try an elimination diet to see if it helps.

So here I am, on day 8 of my elimination diet.

The foods I can not have, are the healthy foods that I gravitate towards for my daily diet, plus the cravings I often have.  Foods like spinach, kale, almonds, peanut butter, chickpeas and any soy products, chocolate, pineapple, oats, whole grains – all off limits.  And the foods low in nickel are not my favorites.  I’m not a big fan of corn, potatoes or white flour products.  They tend to make me feel bloated and fatigued.  But that’s what I’m allowed to have.  I can have broccoli, cauliflower, meats, eggs, yogurt, cheese and asparagus, which is making up the bulk of my diet right now.  But let’s face it.  Those foods in excess get boring – and I find myself reaching for the refined carbs my husband snacks on too often.  Not great.

Here is the list my dermatologist gave me.  I’ve seen so many different and conflicting lists, but of course I’m going by my dermatologist and not by random internet sights.

On day 8, I think there is a slight improvement in my lips.  There definitely is still a rash there and on occasion they itch or burn.  I’ve read on others blogs that the reactions can take a couple of weeks to clear up.  So I’m hoping this isn’t all in vain and that my rash will go away.  I also hope I can add my favorite foods back into my diet without any problems, but if this diet works, the odds of that happening are slim.

I miss random things like quinoa and flax seeds?  Who misses those?  But I look at recipes and say, “no, can’t have that” all the time, which is frustrating.

I just have to get through these next several weeks and see what happens.  I did weigh myself this morning and I don’t weigh as much as I thought I did, which is a relief.  But I still feel like I’m carrying around an extra 5 lbs because of my diet.  Where are my leafy greens and fiber-filled carbs??  Oh how I need you!!


2 responses to “A Nickel Free Diet

  1. Oh wow, I’ve never heard of nickel in foods…and so many good foods! I’m so sorry. I hope you get it all figured out.

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