Nickel and Silver Allergies and How to Cope: a Joanna Rubini Perspective

Posted by Joanna Rubini on

Full Disclosure: I am not a doctor or a scientist, but I have experience with metal allergies, and how to safely wear nickel containing & silver jewelry. I remember wearing pink telephone earrings as a kid...who knows what they were made of- the phones were probably lead (they certainly felt heavy enough) painted pink on some rusty old misc. metal French wires.  I wore them without incident. I had excellent digestion.  I ate the entire rainbow of food-from oatmeal to hamburger. As a teen during the fat free craze, I parted ways with animal flesh and began eating as a vegetarian, my love affair with sweets.  Not fat-containing sweets, just straight up sugar & chemicals. My pink telephone wearing days came to an end and I blossomed into a high class female unable to wear costume jewelry.  I could still wear sterling silver without any extreme incidence of oxidation, unless I was sweating a lot (like on a 90 degree day at an athletic event.) But I avoided costume jewelry, white gold jewelry (it has nickle), and jewelry with holes underneath (like rings) where moisture could become trapped and result in those telltale bumps. Let's summarize and say I was very sensitive during my teen and college days, and I was also very very into eating candy.

Through my 20's into my 30's, I ceased my vegetarian ways and felt much stronger in my body. I continued my habit of avoiding costume jewelry out of habit but was able to wear white gold and copper occasionally. In my mid 30's I decided to really do some experimentation with my health and wellness and digestion (to naturally be able to learn and pass on the info), and suddenly, I could no longer wear silver comfortably.  Sterling silver chains would blacken very quickly, even in the dead of winter when I was not sweaty.  Costume jewelry was not only a problem, just putting it on my wrist for a moment started the itching and burning.  Even copper that I had previously utilized for its supposed joint healing properties resulted in a nice band of itchy bumps around the wrist.  And I really wanted to be able to wear the copper because suddenly, I was an old lady with the achiest joints imaginable.  It got even worse: I could no longer tolerate any earrings (14k, 18K or even platinum)- they all made my ears itch. My neck developed claustrophobia and the 16" chains I preferred previously were choking me to death.  Beads felt oppressive.  WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO ME?

I actually didn't equate digestive disharmony with my jewelry woes until I put on a copper & brass bracelet recently and wore it for a few days before I realized I still had it on.  Without itching or burning or bumps.  I can wear sterling silver no problem.  It does not darken to steel grey instantly, not even when I'm sweating on a hot and humid day. I still choose not to wear the lowest grade costume jewelry, as I know it has traces of lead, which is poisonous.  Google it. But I can.  Knot Necklace with Petite Rowing Blade Sterling SilverAnd my youth is back with my 16" necklace tolerance.  Woohoo! All along, it wasn't the metal, and it wasn't me, it was what I was feeding myself and how healthy my gut was.  In my teens-20's when my system was extremely acidic due to very high sugar intake and my digestion was (ahem) a bit inflated, I couldn't tolerate nickel. And later, when I really got to work breaking down the Joanna Digestive temple, I could barely tolerate any metal on my person (that's tough working at a jewelry store!) So the solution to wearing whatever jewelry you want is a happy gut.  Happy guts are made with happy good bacteria fed whatever the good bacteria crave.  I emphasize good bacteria because you can also feed the bad guys and then the S***T hits the fan.  When you overfeed the bad guys (candida) and either neglect or kill off the good guys, you become acidic, achy, and intolerant to wearing most kinds of jewelry.

If you really don't care to address your digestive health (with fermented food, pro and pre biotics and healing foods-whatever they may be for you) and want to continue being ruled by the yeasts that crave sugar that are living in your system, that is ok.  You just have to work a little bit harder... Ear cysts that occur can be managed with Hydrogen Peroxide so that your ears are less fibrous and more tolerant of metal invasion.  Avoid base metal in your ears unless you experiment with coating the posts with a clear enamel (like nail polish-watch for chemicals!) and if you really want to wear silver, just know that you are going to turn it black and that the more you clean your skin and the metal with baking soda, the longer you will delay the oxidation that occurs, 14Kt White Gold Antique Style Old European Cut Diamond Ringand it is best to avoid wearing it during hot humid occasions unless you accept the blackening effect. Nickel in white gold can be managed with a little help from your local friendly jeweler by maintaining rhodium plating on the sides of metal that are making contact with your skin.  The rhodium is a hypoallergenic metal that forms a barrier between you and the nickel containing white gold. Alternatively, the clear enamel coating inside rings can also form the needed barrier.

The last culprit is the yeast culture effect.  When you wear a ring that has stones or is a tad tight, and moisture gets trapped between the metal and develop a little petri dish on your skin. Image result for toothbrush So clean the underside of your jewelry well.  This is not rocket science...just use hot water and a normal sized toothbrush.  Do it over a bowl in case you dislodge a stone.  But really soak and scrub out the soap/lotion/crud that builds up behind the stones.  And if the issue is that the jewelry is too tight...your favorite jeweler can resize your ring for you like magic.  And if you are worried about whether your jewelry will tolerate a water scrubbing, call us and ask! 703-548-5509.  Costume jewelry typically does not fare well to a water scrubbing but sometimes a dry scrubbing will help "clean out the basement" so to speak.

I've surely left some topics out, but there's a taste of what I've learned about allergies and digestive well being. And BTW, the secret to my downfall was a magical elixir of high insoluble fiber and high stevia (the candida albicans yeast loves stevia nearly as much as it loves sugar, and the insoluble fiber cleared away all the pesky good bacteria to make more room for the bad guys)...genius!

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