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

I Hate Nickel


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Entries in dermatitis (3)


Low-Nickel Diet - Month Two, Success!

The low-nickel diet seems to be a success!  After disappointing results the first month, in month two I’ve seen a significant difference! 

I'm gauging success by flare-ups of dermatitis, or lack thereof.  The other symptoms – chronic fatigue, digestive issues, and pain - are a lot harder to track and monitor.  Luckily, with no braces giving me a steady 24-hour dose of nickel, those symptoms are rare these days anyway.

I started this experiment by increasing my intake of nickel foods.  That did indeed cause a larger flare-up of dermatitis.  Whereas before the dermatitis was mostly centralized to my forearms and calves (the most common area for any food allergy dermatitis to occur), once I started eating only foods high in nickel, the dermatitis spread.  I compared it to rolling in fresh cut grass –I itched everywhere!  I even developed spots on my forehead.  That’s when I knew I HAD to get this under control.  Call me vain, but bright red itchy sores on my forehead are NOT ACCEPTABLE!

I started the low-nickel diet.  It was annoying, and it was hard.  At first I failed.  I couldn’t remember what I could eat or could not eat.  Many nights I made dinner, only to realize that one or more items in dinner were on the do-not-eat list.  We dined out often, and I ordered what I normally would, ignoring the diet list.  I discovered that convenience was the largest obstacle.  The groceries in my house were not all good for me, but until I could replace all that food with better options, I was stuck either eating them or starving.

So the problem was not so much an issue of will power, but one of availability and commitment.  If I had low-nickel items to eat, I knew I would choose those first, but how do I find those without carrying flash cards in my pocket at all times for reference?  I needed to commit fully to this diet, but how?  The solution was simple - create a menu.  If I planned out the week’s menu ahead of time, I could ensure that all the items on the list were good for me, AND I could do the grocery shopping based on my menu for the week.  Eureka! 

That first week’s menu took me almost four hours to prepare.  I made a simple chart in Excel – breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, late night snack.  I sat at my computer, with my low-nickel diet list, and planned out every meal I would eat that week.  Each meal used only low-nickel items.  I gave myself two options for the snacks – one healthy, one junk food.  The worst saboteur to any diet is the junk food craving.  I wanted to make sure that if I wanted greasy potato chips instead of carrot sticks, I would have that option available.  Then I went shopping.  With menu in hand, shopping was a breeze.   Along the way, I browsed the grocery aisles for ideas for next week’s menu. 

The one road block in my pre-planned menu idea was that in order to pull it off, someone (me) would be spending a lot of time in the kitchen.  All home cooked meals, all day, every day.  I’m no stranger to the kitchen, but I also work full time, and sometimes it’s just impossible to get home and get a full dinner prepared before midnight.   That’s why our culture loves packaged foods!  It’s quick, it’s easy, and dinner can be ready in minutes!  However, packaged foods almost always contain soy, so those aren’t available to me anymore.  I needed options. 

I began scouring restaurant websites to find those that avoided soy and had low-nickel items (soy is very high in nickel, but it’s also a common allergen in itself, so most restaurants provide an allergen list detailing soy-containing items).  I started with just two restaurants, and I added those as a foot note to my menu.  Now I had a backup plan.  If no one (me) had time to cook one night, we could always fall back on take-out from one of those places, without compromising my nickel intake.

This was a lot of work!  However, the following week it was easier, and the week after that easier still.  Now I can throw together a menu on my lunch break, and do most of the shopping from memory.  Plus let’s not forget the good news, IT WORKED!  Totally, 100% worth it!  When following my menu perfectly, I had absolutely no dermatitis flare-ups, and the dermatitis that was there started healing.  The newer spots (forehead!) completely healed and disappeared.   YAY!

How happy am I?  Okay, it’s really, really, really annoying to have to follow such a random diet.  People look at you funny when you say things like, “no, I can’t have salad, it’s bad for me”, but it’s worth it to be healthy!  My body is happy, so I am happy.   I count this experiment as a success. 

Anyone else out there have any success or failure stories when following a low-nickel diet?  I want to hear them!