Sharing stories, knowledge, and rants about living with metal allergies.

I Hate Nickel


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Is Organic Worth It?

Is it beneficial to buy organic food when you have a nickel allergy?  My humble opinion is YES.  Yes, yes yes!  Before I developed a nickel allergy, I don’t recall ever purchasing anything organic unless it was on a very good sale.  I never concerned myself with where my food came from or what chemicals might have touched it.  Here’s what changed my mind…

100% Organic

I suffer from Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome – a condition in which my whole body (“systemic”) has a reaction to an exposure to nickel.  This exposure to nickel can come in any form - touch, ingestion, inhalation.  The reaction is an immune response and includes abdominal pain, digestion problems, rash, chronic fatigue, and so on...  I suffered undiagnosed for two years from an exposure to nickel in orthodontics.  During this time my body had such a strong reaction to the nickel in the braces that eating certain foods would instantly put me in the ER.  We didn’t know WHY this was happening, but it happened often enough that I began to see patterns.  One of these obvious patterns was eating non-organic meat.  Non-organic meat made my symptoms worse.

On a whim one day, we picked up organic chicken breasts to cook for dinner.  I was having a hard time eating anything at all during this time.  Typically I would take a pain pill with dinner, so that I could have a decent meal without instantly being doubled over in pain.  However, when we cooked the organic chicken, I was able to make it through the whole meal without taking any pain meds!  This was surprising!  I began experimenting with dinners by cooking regular chicken and organic chicken on different nights and recording my pain/symptom levels each time.  There was indeed an improvement with the organic chicken!  When I ate organic, my symptoms were reduced!

From there on out, my grocery shopping habits changed drastically.  Organic isn’t cheap, and I was feeding a family of four, but the pain reduction was significant enough that it was worth it.  I learned which stores had the better organic food selections, we started going to the farmers market every weekend, and I started paying attention to my food.   My condition improved ever so slightly –the braces were still slowly poisoning me, but the organic food meant that I could eat with less pain and discomfort. 

Now, are non-organic foods higher in nickel than organic?  I have no idea!  Chemicals, cleaners, fertilizers, etc., often contain nickel, so it’s possible that non-organic foods are higher in nickel than their organic counterparts, but that is just speculation (as far as I know).  Another possible scenario is that the chemicals in the non-organic food were simply too much for my compromised immune system to handle.  My body was already under attack by the nickel in my braces; having to also deal with a pesticide or hormone in the food may have simply been too hard on it.

Either way, it left a lasting impression on me.  If I couldn’t digest this stuff while I was sick, why would I eat it when I’m healthy??  My nickel allergy is here to stay, and although I am no longer as sick as I was when I was wearing braces, I’d rather not force my immune system to work any harder than necessary!  I buy organic.  I shop for locally grown produce.  I buy organic dairy.  I buy organic, soy-free eggs.  I buy organic, hormone-free meat.  Having a nickel allergy is hard enough; I like knowing that I’m not adding to my problem with unnecessary pesticides, chemicals, or extra nickel!