This post is a little bit different than my normal blog posts but it does have to do with food and although it may not interest everyone, I wanted to bring awareness to something that I don't think many people are aware of just incase it's affecting anyone else.
I've long suffered from eczema and recently went for an allergy patch test to find out what I'm allergic to. The test was not fun...5 days without showering and 3 visits to the doctors office during that time. Anyone that knows me, knows how OCD I am about going to the doctor's office. Normally, when I get back from the doctors office, I refuse to touch anything in the house, I immediately undress, throw my clothes in the washer, go wash my hands, go back to the washer to turn it on, wipe down my phone with rubbing alcohol, wipe everything in my purse down with rubbing alcohol, shower, wipe down my phone again, and continue with washing my coat, my towel, etc...the list goes on. It's a multi-day process people!
That's why I'll admit I was beyond frustrated when the doctor told me I only had one strong allergic reaction...and it was to something I always knew I was allergic to: nickel! But then, the doctor said something that piqued my interest: that nickel is in a lot of foods. She said that most people allergic to nickel don't need to worry about it and that I shouldn't but she gave me a list of foods high in nickel and I immediately had an epiphany. Nickel has been my problem all along!!
One day last summer, I had a chickpea salad for lunch after eating it for the previous two nights. I had asked Drew to meet me for dinner after work at a sushi place. When I sat down, I started to get sharp, stabbing pains in my abdomen. We then ordered our sushi (which contained salmon) and as we started eating, the pain got a lot much worse. I couldn't even stand up I was in so much pain. I wanted to go to my doctor's office but I didn't even think I'd be able to walk to a cab. I wasn't about to have Drew call 911 and make a huge scene on Newbury street though, so I waited it out. I went to the doctors a few days later and got a CT Scan done of my abdomen. They couldn't find anything wrong. However, they did notice nodules on my lungs which I now need to go back and get scanned every now and then to make sure they don't grow.
I've also gotten those same sharp pains to a somewhat lesser extent numerous times after eating salad, soy milk, beans, red wine, salmon, cereal, pineapple and hot cocoa. Not to mention, I recently found out I can't have buckwheat because I get an allergic reaction in my throat and can't stop coughing. Oatmeal and some teas have always made me nauseous. I've always jokingly said that it's always the junk food that I never feel sick from. Ever since the extreme pain I experienced in Boston, I've been careful to limit the amount of chickpeas/beans I have and only have them while home incase I experience pain and just need to lie down. However, occasionally, I would eat the same foods and be okay. It felt like Russian Roulette.
Turns out, some of the foods highest in nickel are beans, lettuce, soy, whole wheat/whole grains, buckwheat, oatmeal/oats, cocoa/chocolate products, pineapple, and black tea, among others. Most of the websites I've looked at tend to agree with this list. However, nickel is in the earth's water, soil and air so there are some levels in almost everything that grows. A lot of sites seem to have conflicting information as to which foods are okay to eat with a systemic nickel allergy because it's all comparative. Sure, bananas may have less nickel than beans but it may have more nickel that broccoli (I really don't know if this example holds true because there's really no full list showing the nickel content in the most common foods). Nickel content can also vary by the area the food is grown in.
In terms of my other problems:
- I've learned that the reason for the eczema on my legs is because razors are typically made with stainless steel, which often contains nickel. I always thought it was because I was allergic to all shave gels. That being said, the doctor did provide me with list of nickel safe body washes, shampoos, lotions, toothpastes, cleaning products, etc. and my shave gel was on the safe list.
- I read that nickel can cause sinus and lung problems. Considering my doctors couldn't figure out why I was having either problem, I think it's safe to say, I've found my answer. My sinus problems started around the time we bought a new stainless steel tea kettle and I've been having 1-2 cups of tea per day. My travel coffee mug is also stainless steel.
- A lot of brand new, untouched eye shadow would give me bad pink eye. Come to find out, there are metals in many eyeshadows. It almost seems so obvious now.
- I wonder if it's also causing my fibromyalgia which I read was possible as well. I don't think anyone really knows what the cause of fibromyalgia is though so it's just a theory.
Anyways, I'm already failing in my low nickel diet. I had chickpea pasta the other night (don't ask why) and the eczema on my hand flared up not even 20 minutes later. I was up scratching my hand the whole night. But, hey....at least now I know why.
I went grocery shopping today and I felt so discouraged. I could barely find anything without soy. I'm also supposed to avoid canned food as cans contain nickel. For now, I think my plan will be to avoid the foods that I know bother me and not worry about trivial amounts of soy in this or that. Based off of my past experience, I know that it only really bothers me when I tend to have too much of the foods rich in nickel. There's no way I'm going to give up beans, shellfish, nuts, chocolate and red wine completely. I mean come on! I just have to limit it as best I can.
I felt compelled to share this because I know a lot of people that are allergic to nickel and I went 31 years without knowing why I was always sick...so maybe this will lead to someone else having an epiphany such as my own. I'm sure a lot of people don't realize nickel is in food. I sure didn't.