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Fruit infused water allows additional flavors and nutrients to be added to your water without adding sugar, like smoothies, juices and sodas. Our bodies rely on adequate hydration to function properly, including healing and preventing eczema flare ups. Dehydration is serious and the majority of people don’t drink more than 2-3 cups of water daily. If someone tells me they’re not feeling well, especially when they indicate they have a headache or are fatigued, my impulse is to ask them about their water intake.

As I’ve noted before, drinking water can help our bodies purge harmful toxins, like nickel. John D. Kirschmann author of the Nutrition Almanac affirms this concept noting how “absorbed nickel is rapidly and efficiently excreted via the kidneys” (pg. 74). Infusing your water with strawberries, kiwi, papaya or oranges also naturally adds vitamin c to your diet, which has been shown to help reduce the absorption of nickel

Filtering my tap water, my Pur Classic 18 Cup Water Dispenser became unwittingly too tall last fall when I purchased a my new bottom freezer refrigerator. Determined to make it work, I removed one of the three shelves, which enabled the water dispenser to fit, until I needed additional shelf space when l hosted Thanksgiving dinner. Noticing my own reduction in water intake after we no longer had readily available cold water, I requested the 8 inch tall nickel free, BPA free Prodyne Big Fruit Infusion Pitcher for Christmas. I wanted a pitcher with a water infuser canister or rod that could both contain the fruit and easily be removed.

Sliced blueberries and strawberries.

Unaware of specific techniques to infuse my water, I checked out Britt Brandon’s book Infused Water: 100 Easy Delicious Recipes for Detox, Weight Loss, Healthy Skin, Better Immunity and More from my library. Filled with fantastic ideas, her recipes offer various combinations of fruit, herbs and teas to easily infuse your water. She organizes the recipes for detox, improved immunity, boosting energy, stress relief and reduced inflammation. Brandon recommends infusing the water for 4-24 hours and drinking the water within 1-2 days. Personally I like to infuse longer, for 12-24 hours, but through experience I quickly learned that infusing the water for too long can cause the water to become bitter or ferment, making it not drinkable.

I’ve also learned, it’s best to peel fruits like apples and pears for added benefit. My favorite combinations include strawberries with crushed blueberries, cucumber and orange slices with muddled mint and slices of apples and pears with lemon.

Do you infuse your water? If so, have you found it helps you drink more water daily? Are there fruit and herb combinations you enjoy? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!

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As a young child, often I would personify the florets of broccoli and cauliflower and tell them “good-bye” before dunking them in ranch dressing and eating them. I crave broccoli and love its fresh crunchy raw taste. Fortunate to live in Hong Kong for a month in 1997, I relished the opportunity to eat Chinese broccoli nearly every day. Most often cooked in oyster sauce with garlic, I could not get enough of its flavorful taste.

Low in nickel, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and Chinese broccoli is more related to the kale family. I am able to eat broccoli without issue, however when I occasionally enjoy Chinese broccoli, it does cause my eczema to react.

High in fiber and loaded with various vitamins and minerals, broccoli is considered high in both vitamin C and vitamin K. Broccoli also contains vitamin A, Thiamaine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Folate (B9), calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Research studies in 2010 identified how the sulforaphane found in broccoli has been shown to treat and kill certain breast cancer cells.   

I try to eat raw broccoli as often as I can while at work. With my restrictive diet, there’s only one food my spouse cannot tolerate: broccoli. Unsure if it’s broccoli or if she’s sensitive to it’s salicylate, I’ll use frozen broccoli florets to make myself this creamy low nickel broccoli cheese soup when she’s craving something I can’t eat. This recipe makes about 3-4 large servings and requires attention to the timing.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ of an onion or 1 shallot, chopped

4-5 whole carrots, chopped

¼ cup all-purpose white flour

½ teaspoon ground pepper

2 cups organic broccoli or 10 oz of frozen broccoli

¾ of a cup whole milk

¾ of a cup water

¾ of a cup chicken broth

2 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese

The Recipe:

Rinse and steam the broccoli in a microwaveable bowl with 2 Tablespoons water for 3-5 minutes and set aside. Coat the base of a deep ceramic Dutch oven with the olive oil and sauté the onion or shallot and carrots in the oil on medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Next stir in the flour and ground pepper and mix continually until the flour is thoroughly blended. Using a Pyrex measuring cup, combine the ¾ cups water with ¾ cups whole milk and slowly add the watered down milk mixture to the Dutch oven stirring regularly and watching closely. Bring the contents to a boil until the sauce begins to thicken, approximately 2-5 minutes, at which you’ll add the steamed broccoli. Once everything is thoroughly combined, remove the Dutch oven from heat and immediately stir in the shredded cheddar jack cheese, which surprisingly melts quickly!

Serve yourself up a bowl and enjoy!

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Nickel Food Allergy by Christy Cushing - 1M ago

Feeling hungry is terrible. Enjoying nutritious or high protein snacks can prevent you from feeling famished and maintain your blood sugar. In addition, low nickel snacks can fill the gap between meals or allow you safer options than eating at a restaurant. 

Finding processed snacks without foods higher in nickel can be challenging. Many traditional prepackaged snacks can contain whole wheat, nuts, oats, chocolate, soy all of which are high in nickel. Cautious to purchase and eat processed foods at all, there are some I have found. It’s always important to check the ingredients every time, even it it’s been okay prior, as food labels regularly change without notice.

Focus on the foods you enjoy and can eat. Prior to my systemic nickel allergy diagnosis, I loved to spread peanut better over celery, apples or a slice of bread. Now I substitute the peanut butter with spreadable brie cheese. Packing a lunch nearly every day, comprised of dinner leftovers, an egg salad sandwich or turkey sandwich gives me peace of mind. I make homemade white bread for my sandwiches or I buy a loaf of bread from a local bakery that does not use soy as an ingredient. My lunch will also contain a piece of fruit, carrot and celery sticks, yogurt, a cheese stick or a hard boiled egg. I’ll usually eat the various parts of my lunch over several hours throughout the day.

Fruits and vegetables are fantastic on-the go snacks that don’t necessarily need to be kept in a refrigerator. I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables weekly, depending on the season. Some lists identify raw carrots as higher in nickel than cooked carrots. It’s easy to steam carrots (or any vegetable) in a microwaveable bowl with a couple Tablespoons of water in the microwave for 3-5 minutes. I also like to make zucchini and sweet potato fries or chips in the oven with a little seasoning or brown sugar and olive oil. You can also dehydrate fruits using your oven

Here’s a list of some low nickel snacks or finger foods that are easy to take with you wherever you go:

  • Fresh fruits: apples, oranges, pears, grapes, peaches, nectarines, bananas, mango, strawberries, blueberries, cut up watermelon, pomegranate seeds, grapefruit, papaya and more 
  • Vegetables: carrots, celery sticks, cucumber, zucchini, bell peppers, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower and more
  • Dried, freeze dried and/or dehydrated fruits. My favorites include raisins, apples, strawberries, peaches and mango. I avoid purchasing dried fruits with sulfur dioxide
  • Smoothies using water or orange juice, yogurt, and fresh or  frozen fruit
  • Cheese sticks

    Both the graham crackers and pop tarts contain whole wheat flour as an ingredient, which is higher in nickel. I don’t eat them all the time, but they’re a nice alternative snack.

  • Rice Chex and Kix cereals
  • Cottage cheese with fresh or frozen fruit
  • Applesauce or Dole fruit packs, pre-packaged in small plastic containers
  • Popcorn. I’ve cooked it both over the stove and recently found Simply Popped as Kroger grocery stores.
  • Yogurt mixed with fresh or frozen fruit
  • Deviled or hard boiled eggs
  • Juice, personally I like to mix orange juice with cranberry juice!
  • Processed foods I enjoy – crackers, Walker’s shortbread cookies, Good Thins Rice Crackers, hard candy, turkey or beef jerky- without soy sauce-however many contain natural flavors. Again, I recommend reading the label each time you purchase processed foods.

Let me know what types of snacks you like to eat, by commenting below. All and any snack ideas you have used are appreciated! 

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Whether you’ve already celebrated your fall harvest or you’re planning on getting together with the people you cherish today, I wish you a delicious  low nickel feast! My spouse is cooking our 14 lb turkey, funeral potatoes (it’s a Utah favorite) baked brussel sprouts and homemade rolls. I plan to make orange cranberry sauce, honey glazed carrots and another pumpkin pie from scratch by roasting a small baking pumpkin for the puree. I add 2-2.5 cups of pumpkin puree and follow Libby’s recipe, but I prefer using condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. You can make your own condensed milk, sometimes find it in plastic bottles at an Hispanic supermarket or use canned.

Last weekend I enjoyed friendsgiving making both a low nickel pumpkin and nickel free lemon meringue pie (click for the recipe)! After my meringue started to recede, I learned some cooks add cream of tartar or a couple drops of lemon juice to their egg whites beating them with the egg mixture on low for a couple minutes before slowly adding the white sugar, to prevent this. If you try it, good luck and let me know how it goes. Lemon meringue is my favorite pie, but for me it’s a timing game to get it all right!

As a thank you, I’m hosting my first giveaway. Between now and Friday December 8th I’m giving away a Skintifque Discovery Pack valued at $44.99.


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You’ll receive an additional drawing entry for each social media platform of mine you like or follow and for being a newsletter subscriber. For instance, if you create a Skintifique account using the link/VIP code, like my Facebook and follow my Instagram, plus subscribe to my newsletter you’ll be entered into the drawing 4 times! I appreciate and know many of you already follow or like me on some of my social media accounts, so you’ll already receive that entry, if you create the Skintifique account, no purchase required.
 
I plan to verify participants and draw the winner on Sat. Dec. 9. If you’re the lucky winner, the Discovery Pack will be ordered and shipped to you! If you have any questions, feel free to email me or comment below.


*When you create a Skintifique account you’ll receive a $15.00 credit on your first Skintifique order and I’ll also receive a $15.00 referral bonus. However, there’s absolutely no purchase required to participate in this giveaway.

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Now that you have the recipe to make your own pumpkin puree using baking pumpkins, here’s a delicious low nickel pumpkin bread recipe to try. This easy low nickel pumpkin bread recipe, adapted from Elise Bauer’s on Simply Recipes, takes about an hour to make, is very moist but not too sweet.

In my previous sweet nickel free zucchini bread recipe I discuss using stainless steel bread pans. I still use those stainless steel pans, however I’ve become skillful in using large pieces of parchment paper in between the bread mix and the pan. Using parchment paper in this way creates a barrier to avoid any of the nickel from leaching into the baked bread during the baking process. To do this, I’ve learned to error on the side of caution and to cut a large piece of parchment paper that’s double the size of your bread pan. I recommend pouring your bread mix into the lined bread pan slowly using a spatula, before cutting off any excess parchment paper. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to clean your bread pans afterwards!

The Ingredients:

1 ½ cups white flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon allspice

1 cup white sugar

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons molasses

½ cup water

½ cup olive oil

2 eggs, beaten

The Recipe:

First preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next toss all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stirring them together. Then add the pumpkin puree, molasses, water, and oil to the same bowl. In a separate small bowl, crack and beat the eggs using a fork before adding them to the main mixture.

Using a hand held mixture, beat all the ingredients together for about two minutes. Spray a little oil on the parchment paper and pour the bread mixture into your lined bread pan. Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes and when it looks done place a toothpick into a couple center points of the bread to identify if any of the bread sticks to the toothpick.  If the toothpick comes out clean, your bread is probably read to take out of the oven.

Allow the bread to cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing and enjoying! If you try the recipe, let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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The abundance of winter squashes in the fall, all of which are low in nickel, make them perfect for baking and cooking. Since most processed pumpkin purees are stored in stainless steel cans, I’ve started pureeing small baking pumpkins at home. Occasionally I’ll use canned pumpkin puree,  in the spring or summer when pumpkins aren’t in season. However I do notice when I use canned pumpkin it unfortunately causes my eczema to react.

I use my homemade pumpkin puree to make delicious pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and of course pumpkin pie! In addition to not wanting the pumpkin to contain nickel from being stored in a stainless steel can, it seems like every store bought pumpkin treat contains chocolate and/or soy, both of which are also high in nickel.  Instead why not make your own nickel free pumpkin treats using this pumpkin puree recipe!

Lightly salted pumpkin halves, before I turn them over flesh side down on the parchment paper.

When I make homemade pumpkin puree I store it in glass pyrex containers in the refrigerator. I’ve read you can freeze it, however I’ve never frozen my pumpkin puree, as I use it quickly after I make it.

It’s so easy and not too time consuming to make your own pumpkin puree so it’s available to bake delectable pumpkin treats that don’t contain any nickel, chocolate or soy!

Ingredients:

2 small baking pumpkins

Sea salt

The Recipe:

Golden brown baked pumpkin halves.

First preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside. Next wash the outside of the pumpkins. Then cut the pumpkins in half, with the stem and the base on opposite sides of the halves and cut off each pumpkin’s stem. Use a spoon or ice cream utensil to scoop out the seeds and the stringy flesh. Afterwards, lightly sprinkle the pumpkin pulp or insides with sea salt and place the pumpkins flesh down on the baking sheet, so the hard bottoms are up. Bake the pumpkins for 30-45 minutes or until the skin is soft enough to pierce using a fork.

Naked baked pumpkin pulp after the skin was carefully peeled once the pumpkins cooled.

Take the pumpkins out of the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 15-30 minutes. Once the pumpkins are cool enough to touch, peel the skin off using a fork or carefully using your fingers. Lastly place the soft pumpkin flesh in a large bowl and mash it with a potato masher or if you prefer use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree the pumpkin. Store your pumpkin puree in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator.

I do use a stainless steel hand held potato masher or a chrome immersion blender to mash or puree the pumpkin.

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Identifying what really is the culprit to anyone’s eczema is trial and error. Causes of eczema can range from genetics, environmental allergens, food allergens, stress, negative reactions to cosmetic ingredients and more or a combination of all the above. If you’ve tried the low nickel diet without positive results AND limited your physical contact with nickel, I’d suggest you read Karen Fischer’s book The Eczema Diet: Discover How to Stop and Prevent the Itch of Eczema Through Diet and Nutrition.

Author and nutritionist Karen Fischer created “the eczema diet” to address her own daughter’s severe eczema. Fischer writes how over time the eczema diet itself evolved using scientific evidence and client feedback. Though she doesn’t discuss systemic nickel allergy syndrome (SNAS), she provides all kinds of useful information for treating eczema.

First Fischer discusses a high level overview of eczema and atopic dermatitis, including leaky skin and provides hope for healing eczema. Next she provides a great explanation on how the diet works like an elimination diet, removing certain foods and then slowly reintroducing them back into your diet.

She sets anyone interested in trying the diet up for success by including a section on planning and tips to starting the eczema diet. In the back of the book, Fischer provide several of her recipes with “eczema healthy” food ingredients that reduces the body’s reaction. Some of the foods she recommends eating to naturally treat your eczema are unfortunately higher in nickel, such as leafy greens, beans, whole grains and seeds. That’s why I suggest if the low nickel diet hasn’t worked you (after at least a month), perhaps trying another diet in consultation with your physician could alleviate your eczema. If you do react to nickel in foods like me, many of Fischer’s recipes are still useful or can be modified so they are lower in nickel.

In addition Fischer writes extensively about nutrition and other “anti-eczema” solutions. For instance, I didn’t know anything about histamines or histamine intolerance until her section about histamines and how “allergy sufferers have increased levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), the antibody found in your blood and tissues that mediates allergy” (p. 34). Foods that can lower your bodies histamine levels Fischer writes include foods rich in vitamin C, B6 and quercetin. That’s one of the reasons why Fischer promotes those with eczema to eat papaya regularly, as it’s “a rich source of histamine-lowering vitamin C” (p. 159) and does so much more!

Fischer discusses liver detoxification and how “promoting proper liver detoxification can reverse or reduce multiple chemical sensitivities” (p. 49). Last year my annual blood tests showed I had elevated liver enzymes that mimicked nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. I wondered if eating the low-nickel diet of white grains and limited leafy greens could effect my blood test or if there was a legitimate issue with my liver. Concerned, I worked to reduce my stress load and detoxify my liver. Six months later my blood was re-tested and fortunately my liver enzymes were back in the normal range!

The book The Eczema Diet provides all kinds of practical health advice. If you’ve tried Fischer’s eczema diet or read the book and learned something insightful, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Often I’m asked what about coconut in relationship to nickel? In researching about coconut, surprisingly it tends to be outright omitted from nearly all the lists identifying foods high in nickel. Unfortunately there’s not much consistency when it comes to the research about whether or not coconut is high in nickel.

Some of us with systemic nickel allergy syndrome or SNAS can tolerate eating coconut, while others cannot or only eat it sparingly. Personally I don’t eat anything with coconut – including raw coconut, coconut flour, coconut butter, coconut water, coconut oil or coconut milk. I also don’t use cosmetic products on my skin that contain coconut. The tricky thing is many websites recommend using coconut oil as a natural remedy for treating eczema with the caveat to not to use it if you’re allergic.

The low nickel diet really is a diet of trial and error. To identify what my own body could tolerate, I eliminated everything high in nickel – including coconut – and then re-introduced coconut in my diet to see my own body’s reaction to it. Overwhelmingly my skin became inflamed when I re-introduced coconut. *However, I’m not a doctor. I write about my own experience, which is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a severe or anaphylactic nickel allergy, I recommend you only try this elimination diet technique under a physician’s care.

I’ve always known coconuts to be fruits, not nuts as its name infers. Technically a drupe, many organizations including the US Library of Congress identify coconuts as a fruit, seed and nut. However in the US the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires under the FALCPA that coconut be labeled on all processed foods as “tree nuts,” or one of the top 8 food allergens. Many individuals allergic to tree nuts can tolerate eating coconuts, but it’s always best to consult with your physician.

While researching coconut on low-nickel diet lists (particularly FDA & Penn State Dermatology), I reached out to Dr. Matthew Zirwas, a well known Dermatologist who specializes in atopic dermatitis and nickel allergies. I informed him of my difficulty finding any reliable information about the nickel content in coconut and how many of the low nickel diet lists exclude coconut. I asked him if he was aware of any research about the nickel content in coconut? Dr. Zirwas said that he too has “not been able to find any info on potential for nickel in coconut,” but did continue to say he “[does] not tell patients to avoid it.”

In the comment section below, it would be great to hear whether or not you can eat coconut.

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Nickel Food Allergy by Christy Cushing - 7M ago

Deviled eggs are a hit at any party or potluck. Loaded with protein, hard-boiled eggs are my go-to low nickel snack. Most deviled egg recipes include mayonnaise, which tends to be derived from soybean oil. Before my diagnosis, I preferred to eat vegenaise as a mayonnaise  substitute, but even vegenaise contains soy protein. Using plain yogurt to substitute for the mayonnaise, these deviled eggs are quick and easy to make.

The Ingredients:

10-12 eggs

2 Tablespoons of yellow mustard

¼ of a cup of plain yogurt

2-3 teaspoons of black pepper

1 large dill pickle

Paprika to season

The Cooking Steps:

Hard boil the eggs by placing them in a large saucepan on high heat with the lid on top. Once the water begins to boil, turn off the heat, but leave the lid on the saucepan and the saucepan on the stove allowing the water to cool down over time. Wait for the water to cool for about 20-30 minutes.

When the eggs have cooled, drain the water and peel the shells off the eggs. One by one, cut each egg in half lengthwise. Scoop out the hard yolk into a small bowl and place the remaining empty egg white on a serving plate. Repeat this step for each of the hard boiled eggs. Mash the harden yokes using a fork and spoon. Next finely dice the pickle. Combine the pickle, plain yogurt, mustard, and black pepper to the egg yolk mixture and thoroughly blend together the ingredients. Next scoop a teaspoon of the egg yolk mixture into each empty half of the hard-boiled egg whites. Lastly lightly sprinkle the paprika over filled deviled eggs and enjoy!

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Nickel Food Allergy by Christy Cushing - 7M ago

Finding balance with the low nickel diet is an ongoing journey. In the USA where I live, almost every fruit and vegetable – both organic or non-organic – is sprayed with some sort of pesticide. Most pesticides, even the “natural” ones, contain nickel.

I don’t stray from the low-nickel diet very often. About once a month I’ll eat an arugula salad and 1-2 times a year I’ll eat peanut butter and chocolate. Otherwise, I consistently try and do limit my intake of foods higher in nickel. 

Last month I enjoyed a fabulous five day vacation to an adults-only all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico. It was all I could eat, at any hour. I ordered room service for the first time. Incredibly nearly all the restaurant menus identified entree ingredients or  alternatively I created my own selection from the buffet.

Indulgence is an understatement. Eating everything I desired, I still avoided soy, nuts, chocolate, whole wheat, raspberries and pineapple. I also drank so much water and the Caribbean humidity caused me to sweat constantly. Surprisingly I didn’t experience any eczema while I was there or when I returned home. I have no idea how the food is treated in Mexico, especially raw food served at resorts, but part of me wants to believe that it might have less pesticides and therefore less nickel…but I’m not sure that’s accurate. Nonetheless, I felt refreshed, healthier and enjoyed celebrating life!

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