Living With Corn Allergy is a Pain in the Maize – Ingredients and Solutions
I wanted to reblog this, since it seemed to have gotten lost when I transferred everything from my other blog.
Most people don’t understand the impact that allergies can wreak on someone’s life. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a corn allergy. On one hand, knowing why I was having the health issues that were occurring was a huge relief because it gave me the choice and the power to change and control it, and I have adjusted well. On the other hand, it has made going out to eat and being a guest at places much more difficult for others because choices are limited. My biggest problem has been other people who don’t have food allergies or understand the effects they can have on a person.
How did I find out I was allergic to corn?
Everyday I brought my lunch to work – usually a turkey sandwich, carrots and dip, a snack, and Gatorade – and everyday after lunch I started to feel like I was coming down with the flu. Many other times I would eat or drink something and have an overall feeling of not feeling well. I was sick of being sick, and all of my blood tests had come back normal. There was no reason for me to be feeling so badly. I had a gut feeling that it was something I was consuming. I was given a series of allergy tests, and when the doctor said corn was a culprit, I was shocked.
Who is allergic to corn? I thought to myself. After much research, I found many others just like me.
Being aware of the allergy, I knew to avoid… well uh… corn, popcorn, corn starch, corn syrup… all of which seemed to be listed on every food and/or drink label in our kitchen. A change of diet was necessary, and the next shopping trip for groceries took about twice as long as usual due to having to read every label. But that didn’t seem to solve the problem.
There were those “other” ingredients that I’d never taken a second consideration to because, like most people, I was simply uninformed. I found out the turkey in my sandwiches contained corn, and the bread I was eating contained corn. Since I couldn’t continue drinking my beloved Gatorade, my husband purchased some Crystal Lite powered packets that I could add to my water bottle at work. I enjoyed about half of my first bottle, and all of a sudden I began to cough and choke and wheeze. I knew that it was something in the drink, but we didn’t see any ingredients labeled as “corn”. That’s when Google came to the rescue.
I began Googling every single ingredient listed on the packet, and there it was – maltodextrin. I had never even heard of it before. It was corn derived. Then I learned more – dextrose is corn derived and so is just about anything with “dex” in it. It wasn’t until I had a “sugar free” Coke Zero and about choked to death that I learned the caramel in the soda is made from corn. I started doing some heavy research and found some wonderfully informative websites about the lists of ingredients to avoid, which unfortunately, seem to be in almost everything made in America.
Not only did I learn what ingredients I had to avoid, I also learned quickly how each of them affected me. Not everything with corn caused me to choke or cough or wheeze – that was mainly the maltodextrin or “dex” based products. When I accidentally drank something containing corn syrup (including the high fructose version), I found a sudden change in my overall body – almost the same feeling people get when they’re coming down with the flu, but slightly different and with a rapid heartbeat. I also noticed a sudden change in my personality – irritable, withdrawn, and I was even told my entire face changed. Even after only three sips, my body tells me something is wrong. Regular corn and popcorn made my throat itch. And worst of all, most of the allergy meds I was taking contained… you guess it – corn. No wonder I was so miserable!
How has this affected my life?
Going out to eat is almost impossible. Basically, if it’s a chain restaurant, I have to avoid it. Other people do not understand and insist there isn’t corn in the food because steak and mashed potatoes don’t contain corn, right? At my own house they don’t – that is partly correct – but the preservatives that are used are usually corn based. And you aren’t getting the best meat at chain restaurants, so what do you think they are feeding the cows before they become steak. You got it: corn. Unless the food is made with basic scratch ingredients, most restaurant food contains some derivative of corn. You know that California roll in your favorite sushi restaurant? The krab (not real crab) contains corn.
Fast food is out of the question. At first I thought I was safe with eating at Panera, especially when I specifically asked someone if their bean soup contained corn and was told no. When I started the coughing/choking after a few bites, I asked to see the ingredients. Surprisingly, contained corn oil. Although I was never a big fan of it, I do sometimes miss a nice hot burger from BK or a Taco Bell taco… and I really, really miss Doritos and Coke. The only corn-free soda I can drink is soda water and Sprite Zero, which no restaurants bother to carry. With most breads, ketchup, and BBQ sauce containing corn syrup, eating at BBQ’s is a challenge. Since most people do not cook from scratch and are not aware of corn issues, eating at other homes is an issue for them. And don’t get me started about the movie theater – I am only safe drinking their water, as long as it’s not Dasani!
How do I handle all of this? Simple. I eat the way people used to eat 100 years ago. I eat fresh foods, and I eliminate products containing corn. I cook everything from scratch. There are very few packaged products that I enjoy AND can tolerate. Amy’s Lentil Soup is one of them. I found organic ketchup that tastes exactly the same as regular ketchup but without the corn, and I use it to make my own BBQ sauce – which I take with me to BBQ’s now.
At first, I didn’t think I could live without “regular” food, but once I became used to not having all of the junk ingredients in my body, I started to feel like a new person. I am now completely aware and sensitive to anything that seems foreign to my body.
Unfortunately, corn isn’t the only food allergy I have, but it has become the most problematic because of it’s many derivatives. Hopefully food manufacturers in the U.S. will take notice of the many corn allergy sufferers in this country and find new alternatives to use. One day I dream of safe fast food to eat!