When people think of food allergies, they often think of peanuts. Or possibly lactose intolerance (take a pill). Some of the more well-educated individuals are aware of the top 8 allergens; Peanuts, Tree nuts, Shell fish, fin fish, Soy, Wheat, Dairy and Eggs. Few realize that any food can be an allergen.
The normally thought of as 'hypoallergenic', corn is actually an increasingly common culprit of food allergy complaints.
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has this to say about corn allergy: Allergic reactions to corn are rare and a relatively small number of case reports can be found in medical literature. However, the reports do indicate that reactions to corn can be severe. Reactions to corn can occur from both raw and cooked corn. Individuals who are indeed allergic to corn may also react to corn and grass pollens. Cornstarch may also need to be avoided.
To those of us with reactions, the story is much deeper. While there may be individuals who react just to the raw and cooked forms of whole corn and cornmeal, but can ingest cornstarch and undefined derivatives, we began this blog for the individuals who have worked hard to fit the jigsaw pieces of their reactions together in order to finally discover the cause of consistent reactions and come up with...corn.
Like Jenny Connors, we were on our own but not alone. The definitions and mechanics of corn mediated reactions are still blurry. There are some who have a definitive diagnosis of corn allergy (blood work or scratch test positive); and many who have only been diagnosed through the less-comfortable elimination and blind introduction method. Or self diagnosed based on food diaries and symptoms; and deliberate elimination diets and exposures.
A common thread among our medical and popular information sources seems to be that corn derivatives such as microcrystalline cellulose and xanthan gum should not cause any reaction, but these actually cause reactions that are very uncomfortable. And it isn't that people with corn allergies react to just cellulose, or dextrose. There seems to be a consistent low level reaction to just about every derivative.
The new Food Allergy Guidelines state that a Food Allergy is any adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food. (and food is defined as a substance intended to be ingested; whether in it's pure form or a processed one) For the purpose of this blog and the associated ones, the term "corn allergy" will refer to the consistent adverse reactions experienced on exposure to any corn derivative, regardless of the presence of corn protein via food lab tests and/or measurable antibodies in the corn allergic person. (The guidelines themselves say that diet challenge is the only definitive way to diagnose a food allergy.)
We are not doctors or medical professionals. Just part of a small group of individuals with a common medical condition, learning from experience. Our intent is to pool our experiences and research to protect one another, and help those just entering the world of corn-mediated reactions have a smoother transition.
I encourage our readers to find their own level of sensitivity and tolerance.
Companies who make great strides in protecting their food allergic customers have very little to go on when it comes to corn allergies. When we make recommendations or suggest using caution, it is because multiple people (who already have reproducible reactions to confirmed corn derivatives) trace their reactions to a single product. It doesn't mean every corn allergic individual is going to react to it, but it sure does help to know that product A has failed being safe for multiple corn allergic individuals and placed on a suspect list when you're planning a pre-graduation dinner or looking for a bite to eat before a job interview. Hives don't make a good impression, and neither do GI reactions.
If a product is on a suspect list but looks safe...contact the company to verify it's safety for your own tolerance level and then try it out when you don't have big plans in an hour, or the next day. If you can enjoy it, celebrate. And if not, at least you had a "heads up" and don't have to add humiliation to discomfort.
We may not be able to cure this condition, but we can manage it.