Friday, March 20, 2009

Corn Allergy

Of all my allergies, Corn allergy has been by far the most difficult to avoid.

I wish my allergist had given me much more information than he did when he diagnosed me with corn allergy. Beyond the basic food families list I was given by the allergist, I had to find the rest of the information myself. Thank You, God, for the internet!

One might think in order to avoid corn, just keep away from cornbread, corn on the cob, cornflakes and popcorn. No problem, right?

Oh, wait. Then there's that pesky high fructose corn syrup that is in just about everything (even though "They" say it's ok in moderation, it's rather hard to eat something in moderation when it's in so many foods, isn't it?).

Ok, so that complicated things a bit. It made me wonder what else corn was in and I eventually came to find the Corn Allergen List . Take a peek there and you will be amazed at how much corn has infiltrated the American food supply. Since being diagnosed with my food allergies, I am floored by how much we have altered our foods.

Walk into a mainstream grocery store and try to find a loaf of bread without any corn derivatives. Try to find some chicken without any corn derivatives. The options are few and far between.

There is also a lot of hidden corn in our foods that a Corn Allergic person will quite likely need to avoid. The hardest thing is that producers and manufacturers don't have to declare it on the labeling since corn is not declared a "top 8" allergen. Also, if it is not an ingredient in the recipe (say, if they use corn starch to dust equipment or in the packaging to reduce product sticking ie. for cheese), they do not have to list it on the labeling.

Some things to be aware of:
~Most produce has been washed in/sprayed with a citric acid(read: corn) solution in order to maintain freshness.
~Waxes on produce are quite likely to contain corn.
~"Fruit and Vegetable Wash" products contain corn(I wasn't able to find one that was corn-free.)
~Meats, even those with "natural flavors" often contain corn and/or are 'washed' in water containing citric acid.
~Canola oil has undeclared Citric Acid in it that is not labeled as an ingredient since it is 'merely' a degumming agent
~ Iodized salt contains corn(dextrin or another derivative).
~Some frozen vegetables are coated in corn starch to prevent sticking. Read labels or contact the company and ask.
~ The fortifications in grains such as rice, and in milk are based in corn.
~Bleach contains corn, though at the moment I don't remember how it is involved in the bleach-making process. I do know that conventional dishwasher detergents, most of which contain bleach, would aggravate my allergies and effect my overall health. When I switched to alternative dishwasher detergent, it made a BIG difference in how I felt!
~Craft items--things such as Crayons and Tempera paints contain corn(I figured this one out when my kindergardener brought home his tempera paint artwork. I had great difficulty sleeping for 3 nights, a headache, stiff neck and was walking around in a fog before I made the connection and banished the painting. That night I slept fine and was feeling great by morning!).

Some people with corn allergy even react to meat if it was corn-fed, and to eggs if the the chickens were corn-fed(most are fed a mix of corn and soy with other nutrients added). I was spared from that extent of the allergy, as near as I could tell.

Corn allergy sufferers need to consider every aspect of their allergy, not simply the food.
Corn is in many household cleansers, laundry care, personal care products such as shampoo and conditioner, soaps/body washes, lotions, hair care items, toothpastes, etc. It is in most bread yeasts. If popcorn is being popped or if bread is being baked, and you have corn allergy and are in the vicinity, chances are your body will respond to that allergy in some way. (For me, it was instant brain fog, tunnel vision and inability to focus/concentrate. Getting through the grocery store and getting the items on the short list became a chore.)

There is one site that I have gone to nearly every day since I found it after being diagnosed with Corn Allergy. The Avoiding Corn Forum offers support, information, commiseration and encouragement to fellow allergy sufferers(not just corn--many have multiple food allergies like I have). Having that support and knowing you are not alone can make all the difference in the world. We often compare notes to determine which products are safe for corn-allergic people to use.

There is also a Corn-Free Foods (& Products) List that has been quite helpful for determining what I *could* eat. If it was on this list, it was likely to be corn-free (always read labels). I just had to then determine whether the items were also free of my other food allergens(no small feat!).

There is also blog that is updated ever so often on the latest places to watch out for corn: News For Corn Avoiders . It is helpful for understanding where and how corn is lurking about, and what new places 'they' are finding to use corn.

So, there's a glimpse into what a corn-allergic person has to watch out for.
Hope that helps!


hsw said...

My daughter is allergic to corn, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame, milk, egg, oats, grapes, and some melons. Corn is so hard to avoid...I found your site looking for info on finger paints. I don't want her to miss out. Was so shocked about canola oil and bleach! I am eager for her to talk since I know I am missing corn sources somehow. Hopefully she'll articulate how she feels soon. Thanks for this post!

Alisha Mathis said...

I have Celiac Disease, I am allergic to beef, pork, tomato, corn, cucumber(including zuccini and squash), shellfish, milk, whey, caesin, and egg yolk. Thank you for this post! It is very helpful. I have definitely found that Corn is the hardest allergy to avoid. Everything else is pretty open, but corn is literally EVERYWHERE! Being allergic to beef, pork and shellfish, I have eaten a lot of chicken, now that is going to be difficult! UGH!