Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Emergency Guide to Avoiding Corn

By Rose

This crash course guide is for any one who has to or is considering avoiding corn and corn products. After typing the same information in countless bboard posts I figured I should put it all in one place. :) Please remember to review anything posted here with your doctor.

Should I Be Avoiding Corn?

Here are some good reasons to avoid corn:
  • Positive reaction in an allergy test
  • Positive reaction in a food challenge
  • Symptoms of food allergy but having trouble narrowing a cause. (Everything seems to make you sick.)
  • Symptoms of food allergy and you have a suspicion it's corn. (Never under estimate your gut intuition. That's what helped me figure out my daughters corn allergy.)
Here are some things to consider when deciding:
  • Can you figure this out with a food log instead of avoiding? If your symptoms are sporadic and not life threatening try logging everything you put in or on your body (including any scents you might breath, anything the mom eats for nursing baby) and symptoms.
  • Allergy tests are not 100% accurate. Do some research in how accurate yours are and talk to your doctor. They should be a guide and not the law. My daughter never tested positive but I guarantee it will be a long night if she eats any.

What's the Big Deal?

At this point the world can be divided into two groups of people, those who think corn is easy to avoid and those who realize it is everywhere! I don't want to scare you but corn is very hard to avoid. If you want the details I recommend reading The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. It explains how the entire US food system is based on cheap, subsidized corn. The hard part is US allergy labeling laws only require labeling for the top 8 allergens. Depending on who you ask corn is 9th or 10th. (Or there's the study by the corn refiners association which claims it's very infrequent... bias anyone :) ) Basically corn does not have to be clearly labeled. In fact if it's use can be described as "part of the manufacturing process" it doesn't have to be labeled at all. For example pick up a baguette at your local supermarket and look at the bottom. See those nice grains of corn meal it was cooked on and are now embedded in it? They probably aren't on the ingredients label.

What Do I Avoid?

Let me start this list with a warning. By the time you are done reading it you may feel a bit overwhelmed. In the words of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Don't Panic". You can do this. At first it will take some work but once you get used to it avoiding corn is doable and there are lots of helpful resources listed in the next section. Here is a general overview:
  • The obvious (corn, corn starch, corn meal, corn syrup, etc)
  • Corn Derivatives (Here's a great corn allergen list by Jenny Connors. I recommend printing it out, reading it a lot and carrying it everywhere. It's especially useful when explaining to airport security why your food is a medical necessity... that and a doctors note. :) )
  • Basically any ingredient that doesn't specify it's food source. (For example malt can be from corn or barley. Vinegar... guess what the cheapest source is.)
  • Scented things like perfume, candles, air freshener, etc
  • Cleaning supplies including laundry soap
  • Fruits and vegetables (Many are coated with corn wax or oil or washed with water and citric acid. This includes many organic.)
  • Peaches (Corn and peach have a similar shaped protein. Often the two allergies go hand in hand.)
  • Iodized salt (Corn is the glue that makes the iodine stick)
  • Dairy products (Any milk with vitamins use a corn derivative to help them "stick". Plus most US milk is fed corn and it does pass through with the protein intact.)
  • Meat (Most wrappers are dusted with corn to prevent them from sticking. Also any added colors or flavor solutions often contain corn.)
  • Eggs (Corn oil rubbed on the shells, which are porous)
  • Bread (Besides the obvious they can be cooked on corn meal so it sticks to the crust... and not labeled as containing corn)
  • Medicine
  • Gasoline (A lot is now 10% or more ethanol.)

How Do I Eat?

Ok, this is the good news part. There are some awesome resources out there for those avoiding corn.
  • Delphi Forums Avoiding Corn BBoard - These are the experts! (Not to mention incredibly nice and friendly.) If you have a corn related question or just need a corn free shoulder to cry on here's the place to go.
  • Facebook Corn Allergy/Intolerance Group - Another very friendly support group. Members range from those who are highly sensitive to those who can handle very trace amount.
  • Corn Free Food Blog - A list of what even the ultra sensitive corn allergic are safely eating. When I made this post the gluten free/corn free list was 6 months old and the corn free list a year old... but still very, very useful for find safe food.
  • Jenny Connors Corn Allergy Site - Think of my article as the cliff notes. Her site gives lots of great details for the ultra sensitive.
  • Vishniac's Corn Allergy Site - This site is for people who are not sensitive to all derivatives. I recommend starting out assuming you are sensitive to everything. Once you have gotten rid of all corn this site might help you find things you can try adding back to your diet.
  • Local Harvest - Your best source for safe fruit, vegis, meat, dairy and eggs my be just around the corner at your local organic farm. Get to know your local farmers and start asking questions.
Ok, any questions or comments? If you have experience with corn allergy and you see I'm missing something from the guide please leave a comment. If you are new and confused ask any questions about things that are unclear. Good luck!

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