Reactions to Corn
I love family get togethers and Thanksgiving 2008 was fast approaching. I wanted to make the day a special one for my young son as well as my daughter, her husband and my grandson. I had been sick for the last year and nine months. I had to take two naps a day. I felt like I was missing out on life! I muddled my way through each day with my son, Darrell. I could barely play with my grandson, Gavin when he came to visit. I needed good family time! I wasn’t sure how to make it happen. I could barely manage regular meals; a big Thanksgiving was out of the question. The best idea I could come up with was chili. Easy to prepare. Quick. Few dishes so minimal clean up. Everybody likes it.
Everything went as planned until the meal. As soon as I ate I had one of the worst reactions in months! Immediate (within a few bites) I had a reaction: labored breath, extreme fatigue, racing heart rate that occasionally skips beats or doubles up and then my body just shuts down to survival mode and I sleep. I missed the whole day. The disappointment I felt was enormous. I didn’t think I would ever get better.
Afterwards, I pondered the food. There was a correlation. I knew it in my bones. But what? When I eat I get sick. But not always. It has to be just certain things. There are only four ingredients in my chili. Our grassfed beef (can’t be that), stewed tomatoes (seems unlikely but they were from a can), kidney beans (also from a can) and chili powder. I read the cans. There was nothing alarming in the tomatoes. But the kidney beans had corn syrup. Hmm. I must be sensitive to corn syrup.
Finally! An answer! Now I knew why I was sick. I hadn’t been looking for that. I determined to take corn syrup out of my diet.
The following holiday was Christmas. I was indeed feeling better (still not good but better). I was resolute. This holiday was going to be special! No way would I be sick. I had enough of that. I still wasn’t up for a big meal or a huge party but I could manage something simple. Lasagna! One dish. Easy clean up.
Again, everything seemed to go fine until we ate. Immediately, I was sick again. I stopped eating.
It is hard to describe missing out on life and just watching everyone enjoy themselves while I struggled to stay awake to enjoy their company and the conversation. I press on so I don’t miss out. Eventually, I run out of adrenaline, my body gives up and I sleep.
Again, I searched for answers in the ingredients. I found corn starch. Hmm. Last month I had a big reaction to corn syrup. This month to corn starch. I guess I am sensitive to corn derivatives.
Now I knew what to look for! Whoo hoo! I went on a search for corn derivatives. I found Corn Allergens, Live Corn Free and Corn Free Foods among others including the excellent and helpful forum Avoiding Corn. But, the search wasn’t easy. Corn was hidden everywhere. Everywhere. I really mean everywhere!
Naturally, I found it in all the boxed goods. But it was in many places you wouldn’t expect. It was on the wax on the apples, oranges and cucumbers so they last longer. It is sprayed as methylcelluose on frozen veggies so they don’t stick together. It is use to make citric acid which is used to make mozzarella cheese. It is in every supplement to help them bind. It is eaten by chickens and pigs to help them grow. Yes, you read that right. Chickens and pigs eat it and my body can detect the corn in the meat and eggs. Oh, the devastation of my husband when he realized I couldn’t eat our chicken and eggs! It really is everywhere.
I spent the next year finding foods with corn in them. I was sick every day. Mostly, I was confident since we knew what it was we would find the foods and get them out. But I continued to have reactions. There were so many hidden sources. Corn sources that are not mentioned anywhere on the label. Iodized table salt, for example, the iodine is stabilized with dextrose. Who knew?
One particularly discouraging find was my home grown beef, raised especially for me, born on my farm, raised by us, never exposed to corn, butchered locally especially for me knowing how sensitive I am. Well, for months I would have reactions and we could only attribute it to the beef. Why would I react every so often? It didn’t’ make any sense yet we could rule out the other foods in the meal. After six months of wondering, I stumbled across a blog of a lady ranting about a grassfed beef company not being grassfed. She called the company and they vehemently feeding corn. She replied her body could detect it. She did some sleuthing and found the standard practice in USDA (and many state) butchering facilities is to spray the carcass with lactic or citric acid. Both are derived from corn! We called our local butcher and yes, he did use it. That was the last straw for my husband. Since then I have only had home butchered meats. I’m not complaining. He takes good care of me.
Even so, I stayed sick. Many times I lost hope for recovering but Matthew stayed firm in his belief that if we can get the bad food out, the good food will help me heal.
I didn’t get all the corn out of my diet until May 2011. I continued to have reactions regularly but I became more familiar with them. The more often I was corn-free made me more aware when I had been contaminated. It turns out the reactions occur each time I eat for six full days after ingestion even if I only ate it one time. Multiple exposures mean I don’t stop reacting until six days from the last one. Reactions are dose dependent. One time (before I knew the it was corn) I had three M&Ms (I was very depressed). I had to wake up Matt to watch me breathe. Each breath had to be so intentional. I was sure I would stop once I fell asleep. He stayed up all night to watch me sleep.
One day a customer (a nurse) asked what I meant by “get sick”. I described my reaction. She was shocked I hadn’t realized it was an anaphylactic reaction. I wonder now why we didn’t take me to the hospital. We are not very alarmist, I guess. Perhaps just dense. I don’t know.
Corn as it turns out was just another piece in the puzzle. It was a big puzzle. We would continue to find more pieces as the years went on. Recovery didn’t really start until we found the healing powers of raw milk. But that is a story for another day.
If you are secretly wondering if you are sensitive to corn, call me. It is very difficult to navigate a corn free diet. I may be able to help save you time and speed up your recovery.