Nickel Toxicity

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Nickel is a toxic metal that enters the body through diet, inhalation, and skin contact. Learn nickel’s sources, symptoms and how to detox it from your body.

How You Are Exposed to Nickel

Nickel is in our air, our water, our soil, our food, even our cosmetics (1, 2). It may be inhaled, ingested, or simply come into physical contact with the eyes or skin (3). Due to these many types of possible exposure, nickel affects the body in many ways.

In testing clients, I find that almost every client has some level of nickel toxicity.

Industrial practices play a large part in the dispensing of nickel into our environment. Consider our air: nickel is found in ambient air at very low levels. This being a result of releases from oil and coal combustion, metal refining, sewage sludge, incineration, and manufacturing facilities (1).

But it doesn’t stop there. One study focusing on the nickel content of cosmetics found that, “although the target hazard quotients and the hazard indices suggest a measure of safety, cosmetics may add to the body burden of potential toxic metals after chronic exposure” (2).

You need to know the widespread sources of nickel so that you can monitor how it may be entering your body. These sources include:

  • Air pollution from combustion of fossil fuels (1, 4)
  • Batteries (1, 4, 5)
  • Baking powder (4)
  • Coins (1, 5, 8, 9)
  • Cosmetics (2, 8, 10)
  • Cookware (makes stainless steel shiny) (8)
  • Dental restorations and orthodontics (8, 9, 24)
  • Electroplating (1)
  • Hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils (11)
  • Imitation whipped cream (11)
  • Industrial plumbing (1)
  • Jewelry (5, 9)
  • Machinery parts (1)
  • Magnets (9)
  • Margarine and imitation butter spreads (11)
  • Mercury amalgam fillings
  • Nickel-plated tools (4)
  • Occupational exposure, primarily refining, electroplating, and welding (4, 9)
  • Peanut butter, hydrogenated (11)
  • Prostheses and surgical implants (like hip, knee, cochlear and cardiac implants) (8)
  • Rooibos tea and any red tea (11)
  • Shellfish like mussels and oysters (8,11)
  • Stainless steel cookware and pots (5, 8, 9)
  • Stent nets (8)
  • Tobacco smoke (1, 8)
  • Vegetable shortening (11)
  • Water improperly filtered (1, 7)

Nickel can be found in plant-based food (1, 7). We need a small amount of nickel, so this is not a problematic source. Foods that contain nickel include legumes, nuts, grains, potatoes, grains, peas, and chocolate. It’s worth noting that while the major dietary source of nickel is plant foods, animal foods are actually quite low in nickel (8).

Knowing all of this, it’s not hard to see how we are exposed to nickel in our daily lives, often without realizing it! And while nickel is considered to be an essential nutrient needed for your body to run at its optimal level, you need to be aware of toxic forms and reduce toxic levels.

Symptoms of Nickel Toxicity

Too much exposure to this toxic metal places more pressure on our already over-burdened systems that are busy fighting off all the other toxins from our modern-day, industrial environment. Fortunately, nickel can be detoxed (7)! But if nickel is not cleansed from the body, it can lead to some pretty harmful results.

When researchers at Michigan State University conducted a study on nickel’s affect on the body, they found that it presented a multi-tiered toxic attack. First, nickel causes essential metal imbalances and severely disrupts enzyme action and regulation. Finally, it causes and contributes to a high amount of oxidative stress. (9)

Once it enters the body, nickel targets a number of organs, including the kidneys, lungs, and liver, and produces multiple toxic effects (9, 13). Some of these toxic symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain (6)
  • Asthma (1)
  • Blue color may appear on the skin (3)
  • Bronchitis (1)
  • Cancer – oral, lung, or intestinal (11)
  • Cyanosis (6)
  • Chronic Cough (6)
  • Chronic Inflammation (24)
  • Decreased lung function (1)
  • Depression (11)
  • Dizziness (3)
  • Diarrhea (1, 6)
  • Dyspnea, or difficulty breathing (6)
  • Eczema (1)
  • Fever (3)
  • Gastrointestinal distress (1)
  • Headache (3, 6)
  • Heart attack (11)
  • Heart palpitations (6)
  • Hemorrhages (11)
  • Insomnia (6)
  • Itching (1, 3, 7)
  • Irritability (6)
  • Kidney damage and dysfunction (1, 11)
  • Low blood pressure (11)
  • Lung damage (1)
  • Malaise (11)
  • Muscle pain and tremors (11)
  • Nausea (1, 6)
  • Paralysis (11)
  • Rash or nickel dermatitis consisting of an itching of the fingers, hands, and forearms  (3)
  • Respiratory distress or shortness of breath (3, 6, 9)
  • Suicidal thoughts (11)
  • Tachycardia (6)
  • Tetany (11)
  • Tightness in the chest (6)
  • Vertigo (6)
  • Visual disturbances (6)
  • Vomiting (1, 6)

Health Conditions Caused by Nickel

Nickel is the most common metal allergen. This toxic metal has been known to trigger more delayed type T cell hypersensitive (allergy) reactions than any other (20); up to 15% of the population suffers from some form of nickel allergy and women are those most commonly affected (8). One study even revealed that nickel allergy has a contact allergy rate “of 20-40% of female population and only 3-5% of male population” (21).
If you are allergic to nickel, your nickel toxic symptoms will likely be far more severe than someone that is not allergic to nickel. If you suffer from a nickel allergy, it’s important to be aware that nickel ingested from nickel-contaminated foods or beverages, or eating with stainless steel cookware or utensils, may cause a flare of dermatitis. (8)
Nickel is a harmful carcinogenic substance (5, 9, 6, 7). Studies conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that all nickel compounds (save one, metallic nickel) are human carcinogens (6). Researchers at the Dominican University of California have linked nickel exposure to breast cancer (9). That’s right, nickel toxicity can cause cancer!
As if cancer wasn’t enough, research put out by the New York University School of Medicine warned that chronic exposure to nickel has been connected with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, neurological deficits, developmental deficits in childhood, lung cancer, and high blood pressure (9).
Note that nickel also contributes to the development of autoimmune disease (18, 19, 23). In fact, environmental factors are increasingly being recognized as the silent perpetrators when it comes to allergic and autoimmune diseases. This includes the external pollutants of metals, as well as the metal ions released from dental restorations or from other body implants which can possibly might trigger inflammation (18).
But let’s dig deeper. A study on the immune effects of nickel conducted in Sweden had results indicating that nickel, “may contribute to the progression of target organ pathology in infection-induced diseases of an autoimmune and/or inflammatory character, such as diabetes and myocarditis” (22). Nickel causes autoimmune disease!
Perhaps the most comprehensive statement on the wide-reaching dangers of nickel came from scientists at the Environmental Health Research Unit of Al Ameen Medical College when referred to nickel as, “a known haematotoxic, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, genotoxic, reproductive toxic, pulmonary toxic, nephrotoxic, hepatotoxic, and carcinogenic agent” (6).
These are a few health conditions resulting from nickel toxicity:
  • Apoptosis, or cell death (13)
  • Autoimmune disease (18, 19, 24)
  • Birth defects (9)
  • Breast cancer (9)
  • Death (3)
  • Depression (11)
  • Chronic Fatigue (8, 24)
  • Fibrosis (9)
  • Infertility (9)
  • Lung cancer (1, 9)
  • Miscarriage (6, 9)
  • Nasal cancer (1)
  • Nervous system defects (9)
  • Pneumonitis (3)
  • Renal edema (1)
Like all toxic substances, the adverse health effects of nickel on the human body depend on the route of exposure. For example, studies in both humans and animals have shown that the respiratory system to be the primary target of nickel toxicity if the metal is inhaled (6). But don’t forget, nickel can also cause illness related to the multiple systems, including the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), immune system, respiratory system (from your nose to your lungs), and even the skin (5).

Antagonists of Nickel

An antagonist is an element that can help to push or detox a metal out of the body. The following elements work as antagonists of nickel:

In fact, numerous reports have shown the positive effect of vitamin C as an antioxidant and scavenger of free radicals (6), which can reduce the toxic of nickel in the body.

Detecting Nickel Toxicity

When investigating possible nickel toxicity, we first perform a hair mineral analysis. Another great method for detecting nickel is to perform a Metals Urine Metal Push Test. The reason a urine test is so useful and provides meaningful results is that urinary excretion is the major route for the elimination of absorbed nickel (16).

I have found that many people have low levels of nickel on a hair mineral analysis but then have toxic levels on a urine metals push test. That’s why  I always like to perform both tests to get a complete picture of one’s toxicity levels.

A few things to note when detoxing nickel:

  • Almost everyone has nickel in his or her body.
  • Nickel will be detoxed during the course of a Mineral Power program.

Mineral Power Can Help!

With proper care, you can detox nickel and reverse many of the negative health conditions caused by its toxicity! It takes time to remove the metal completely, that’s why I advocate strongly for rigorous, long-term detoxing done in a safe and healthy way.

When it comes to nickel, new research reveals that elimination of this toxic metal takes longer than previously reported and long-term retention of this toxic metal is not to be underestimated (17). This is why patience with detoxing is so important.

Of course, your recovery from toxic effects depends on such things as the severity of your symptoms, the levels of metal toxicity in your body, and how long you have been suffering from your adverse health conditions. At the very least, many experience a vast reduction in their symptoms with detoxification via mild chelating agents, mineral supplementation, and use of an infrared sauna, all of which are part of a comprehensive Mineral Power program.

Metals can often do the same jobs as minerals. So when we are mineral deficient, the human body is forced to accumulate metals to accomplish certain processes necessary to for us to survive. A Mineral Power program is one of the best programs to remove all heavy metals from the body, including nickel, so we can get back to better health. The program utilizes over 20 different methods at once to remove ALL toxic metals safely and deeply, while replenishing the minerals your body actually needs. Many nutrients are given on a Mineral Power to aid the body’s removal of excess nickel. Among these critical nutrients are Pectasol-C modified citrus pectinZeolite, and vitamin C (10).  

So what is Mineral Power? I’m glad you asked!

Mineral-Power-social-square-graphic-2

Mineral Power replenishes your minerals, helps you to restore balance to your body, and gives it energy so that it can push an overabundance of metals and other substances out when it no longer needs them to function.

Presently, humanity is exposed to the highest levels of toxic metals in recorded history, up to several thousand times higher than even several hundred years ago due to industrialization. The danger of toxic metals in our environment is greatly aggravated due to low mineral content of our food supply, as well as the contamination of our food supply. If one does not consume preferred minerals in the diet, the body will pick up whatever toxic metals it can from the food, air, and water as substitutes to perform various functions in the body. A key principle to remember is that an abundance of essential minerals in the diet and via supplementation protects the body against toxic metals.

It’s time to restore balance to your body with Mineral Power!

Mineral Power program is not about diagnosing or treating any particular disease. It utilizes a hair mineral analysis and other metals testing to design a customized diet, supplement, lifestyle and detox program to detox heavy metals, improve the entire body’s energy level, reduce stress, and improve the metabolic rate of the body. My program focuses on the wellness model of health care, which is a state of high resistance to all illness.

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Wendy Myers

Wendy Myers, FDN, CHHC, is a functional diagnostic nutritionist, certified holistic health coach and founder of Live to 110. Her passions include getting you healthy, Modern Paleo, retoxing and detoxing. Discover her Mineral Power Program and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with metal detox.