Nickel Allergy, Diet, and Hand Eczema

Nickel Allergy and Diet Provide Possible Link to Hand Eczema

Nickel allergy (allergic contact dermatits to nickel), has always been thought of as a rash that is isolated to the area where nickel makes contact with the skin. However, new evidence is showing that nickel which is ingested in the diet can cause systemic contact dermatitis (a rash other than where the nickel makes contact).

In an article published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Drs. Matthew Zirwas and Matthew Molenda, Ohio State University, examined three different cases where individuals with nickel allergy also had generalized itching especially on their hands and feet. When the individuals were placed on a low nickel diet, their nickel allergy and generalized itching cleared.

Factors other than the actual food that is eaten can affect the amount of nickel ingested:

• The amount of nickel in the soil and water used to grow the food.
• Processed and canned foods can add nickel via equipment used and leaching from the metallic can.
• Tap water may contain nickel. Hot water can leach nickel from faucets into the water sitting overnight in the fixtures.
• Cookware such as stainless steel can leach nickel into the food if cooking with acidic foods such as tomato, vinegar or lemon.

Nickel allergic individuals should consider a low nickel diet if they have either hand dermatitis or a nonspecific, pruritic dermatitis (rash that itches).

Additional recommendations to avoid nickel in your diet:
• Avoid or moderate canned foods
• Avoid or moderate vitamin supplements/drinks containing nickel
• Avoid stainless steel cookware and utensils when cooking with acidic foods
• Eat foods high in vitamin C and iron. Consider vitamin C and/or iron supplementation with meals

~Did you know?
Studies have found that eating foods high in vitamin C and iron can reduce the absorption of ingested nickel.

Zirwas, M, Molenda M. Dietary Nickel as a Cause of Systemic Contact Dermatitis June 2009 JCAD Online


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