Healthbeat Report: Nickel Allergy
August 16, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Betsy Keller watches her diet. She's not only trying to stay fit but she is lactose intolerant so she avoids dairy. The 29-year-old was eating what she thought were all the right things.
"Soy, milk, nuts, peanut butter, oatmeal I would have almost daily," said Keller.
And then about six months ago itchy strange hives and rashes started showing up.
"I was breaking out on the palms of my hands, on my feet, on my stomach, on my legs," she said.
Enter Dr. Mary Martini, a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine. After a battery of tests revealed an allergy to nickel, Dr. Martini had another surprise for Keller.
"We've begun to look at dietary issues and certain foods are very high in nickel," Dr. Martini said.
So what she was eating was suspected of causing the skin reactions normally associated with metal objects that come into contact with skin.
Up to 15 percent of the population suffers from some from of nickel allergy. It can be found everywhere -- from coins to cell phones to cooking utensils and, of course, jewelry. But there are anecdotal reports of increasing reactions as more people are choosing healthier foods, many which happen to be high in nickel. There are a lot but here's a small taste:
- whole grains
- even tea and chocolate
"About 10 percent of what we ingest is used by the body. We are not sure what the body does with it but it does absorb it," said Dr. Martini.
Most people have no problem with nickel rich foods. And unlike food allergies that may cause immediate or life threatening symptoms doctors say nickel does not cause a fast reaction. Symptoms tend to build up over time.
Keller remembers having trouble with her pierced ears as a child, but it wasn't until she was eating large amounts of soy that her body had a strong reaction. Among other things, she's now avoiding nickel rich foods and says the dermatitis is gone.
"I would never have thought in a million years it was nickel," she said.
Skeptics are not so convinced reactions to nickel rich foods are increasing. They say more research is needed. But if you do have unexplained rashes and are considering a dietary change, you may want to consult an allergist or dermatologist.
Relationship between nickel allergy and diet:
Dietary Nickel as a Cause of Systemic Contact Dermatitis:
Nickel Allergy: Causes
- Chicago police officer shot on South Side 26 min ago
- Vietnam says it may have found missing jet's door
- Good Samaritans rescue driver from burning van
- ABC7 First Alert Weather Forecast 43 min ago
- Man fatally shot by police in domestic dispute
- Sheriff Dart facing opposition from own party 31 min ago
- Brown's Chicken killer wins federal lawsuit
- Mobile payment option for metered parking
- Farewell held for local deployed soldiers
- Gay wedding expo celebrates marriage equality
- Fundraiser held for teen injured at ski park
- Orr Academy basketball player among 6 shot at party
- Mexican culture celebrated at Navy Pier
- abcnews: Toddler with Rare Kidney Disease Beats Odds
- ABC7 First Alert Weather Forecast
43 min ago
- Chicago police officer shot on South Side
26 min ago
Most Viewed StoriesMost Viewed Photos