Nickel - toxicity and detoxing

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Nickel (Ni) is a nasty toxic metal and a known carcinogen. It is one of the metals we see most commonly in toxicity tests. It is often present in blood at high levels. Nickel is a problem because it "looks" like zinc. Zinc deficiency is very common in people eating Western diets, and so if the body needs zinc and it is not there, it will use look-alike Ni instead. But Ni does not do the job and, indeed, gets in the way of normal biochemistry. Zinc is an essential co-factor in 300 enzyme systems that we know of and maybe others we do not know of, so there is enormous potential for harm from Ni. Ni sensitivity is very common and often diagnosed from rashes from jewellery, zips, watches etc. What we know from people with chemical sensitivity is that they often have toxic loads of those things they are sensitive to. So Ni sensitivity often equates with Ni toxicity.

See Function and Mechanism of Zinc Metalloenzymes, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 5, May 2000, Pages 1437S–1446S, which states that:

Zinc is required for the activity of > 300 enzymes, covering all six classes of enzymes.

Where does it come from?

Ni is unavoidable if you live a Western lifestyle!

  • Stainless steel contains 14% nickel, and so it is in cookware and eating utensils;
  • Jewellery - used extensively because nickel is such a versatile, malleable metal.
  • Catalytic converters in cars release fine particulate Ni into the atmosphere - so fine that it cannot be filtered out by the lining of the bronchus, and so it is well absorbed by inhalation and easily gets into blood vessels. Here it triggers inflammation and arterial disease.
  • Margarine - Ni is the catalyst used to hydrogenate fat so it hardens from an oil to margarine consistency. Further good reason not to eat margarine!!

You can test for your nickel load here - Comprehensive Urine element Profile

What can be done to get rid of it?

  • Avoid the above as best as possible.
  • Detox - far infrared saunaing regimes (see Detoxing - Far Infrared Sauna (FIRS) ) work reliably well for pesticides and volatile organic compounds but I do not think they are as reliable as for heavy metals (although we know they are excreted in sweat). The picture is confusing because heavy metals do not distribute evenly through the body. They bioaccumulate in certain organs. Ni bio-accumulates in breast and ovary. This means they may be excreted unevenly and this may be confusing things. Ni binds to -SH groups (sulphur-hydrogen) as are found in sulphur containing amino acids such as glutathione and methionine. It is detoxified and excreted by glutathione conjugation in red blood cells by glutathione-S-transferase (this can be measured by glutathione-S-transferase studies).
  • John McLaren-Howard suggests the following regime:

Make sure your nutritional supplement regime includes zinc - up to a total of 30mgs daily.



  • Take L-methionine 500mgs 15-30 mins before breakfast
  • Take L-glutathione 500mgs after breakfast
  • Repeat at lunch time
  • Ensure daily zinc intake is 30mgs


  • Take L-methionine 500mgs 15-30 mins before breakfast
  • Take L-glutathione 500mgs after breakfast
  • Ensure daily zinc intake is 30mgs

Indeed, this is also a good regime for many heavy metals because they behave similarly to Ni! For mercury I would use the same regime but in addition to zinc also take selenium 500 mcgms daily.

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