Friday, 20 January 2012

Avoiding Corn

In July of 2011, just five days before our family set out to leave on a 6.5 month stay in northern England, I received test results confirming that I was allergic to corn. I had suspected a food allergy for some time due to many classic symptoms I was having and years of unexplained stomach issues. Despite seeing three allergists, no one seemed to be able to figure out this mystery. An appointment with a nurse practitioner at a wholistically oriented medical practice changed my life and answered some questions about my health that had plagued me for years.

After receiving my results, I did what any normal person with a new food allergy would do: Stop eating corn. Our family was already accustomed to reading packages to confirm gluten because my husband has Celiac Disease. I simply thought corn would be in the same category as any normal food allergy. It was already apparent that I would need to read labels very closely, as corn is not recognized as a top 8 allergy in the United States or the United Kingdom. “Oh well, I thought, it’s not THAT big of a deal. I don’t need to eat all of that pre-made/pre-packaged crap anyway.” Ahhhh, but this was only the very small tip of a very, very big iceberg. (That is a terribly overused analogy and pardon me for being lazy, but it’s SO ACCURATE.)

After about three months of attempting to eliminate corn and realizing that I was still having many of the same symptoms and still needed to take the same medications to off set them, I began to wonder if I had the full story on corn. One afternoon in early October, I stumbled across the “Avoiding Corn” group in the Delphi Forum community. This is a group of people, mostly Americans, who are allergic to corn. By this point, I already suspected there was much more to corn than simply looking for it as an ingredient in pre-made products, but I really wasn’t prepared for the information that soon followed.

Before my eyes lay an entire world of people who live each day attempting to not incur allergic reactions to corn. They have to go to some very extreme measures to do so. In fact, some of them are rarely even able to leave their homes, keep a job or send their corn allergic children to school. “My God!” I immediately thought. “Is this even real!? How did I not know this!? And why is it called ‘Avoiding Corn’ & not ‘Corn Free’?” My husband is gluten free. We manage that. But the puzzle pieces began to move quickly together, as this truly bizarre and quite unimaginable world that would soon become my own, began to unfold. After spending just a few days reading their posts, it all became so clear.

Simply stated: “You can’t live corn free.” Not in America, anyway. In the America we know today, those “amber waves of grain” could just as easily be yellow waves. In the Midwest where I live, those green stalks with yellow fluffy tops are absolutely EVERYWHERE. But corn, the crop you see just off of highways throughout the heartland and the juicy, buttery cob you bite into every summer, isn’t really the issue. The real crux of my dilemma is what can be DONE with this incredibly versatile grain. The answer: is everything.

To avoid corn and the horrible reactions that ensue, I must now look at life like a battlefield. There are grenades thrown in every direction, trip wires and land mines at every turn. Corn is WIDELY used in the formulation of: gasoline, plastic, paper, cardboard, packing peanuts, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements, arts and crafts products, crayons, balloons, fabric, textiles, perfumes, laundry soaps, household/industrial cleaning products, latex paint, white vinegar, hair color, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, shaving cream, hand soap, nail polish remover, iodized salt, FDA approved meat (so all grocery store meat), gassed/waxed produce (nearly all grocery store produce), vitamin enriched milk, yogurt, ice cream, yeast, coffee, coffee filters, tea bags, envelopes, sanitary products, toilet paper, paper towels, IV solution, latex gloves, condoms, band-aids, stickers, envelopes, etc. etc. etc.

I think you get the idea.

I haven’t worn my own makeup in three months because it all contains corn. My medications, both prescription and OTC, were also guilty and were actually exacerbating the problem. The ones I still need must now be compounded through an incredibly involved and expensive process. Some of them cannot be compounded because the patents haven’t expired or there is not enough demand. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant in over three months, nor will I ever again. (Stay tuned for the: “How we traveled Europe for 8 days w/out eating out” blog). I clean the house and my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. (I swear, I do NOT smell like vinegar!). I eat food from our local European market. The beef from there has been confirmed to be barley fed beef that is sprayed with only water during processing, instead of citric (corn) acid. (Citric (corn) acid is almost exclusively used in the US. This method is not used in the UK.) The fruits and vegetables are untreated as well. I avoid close contact with those who are heavily perfumed, as the airborne fumes makes me physically ill with throat tightening, migraines, nausea, itching, etc. The fumes are actually particulates from corn-derived compounds. The same can be said for cleaning products, perfumed detergents and fabric softeners. All of the foods, products, conveniences and even places I once depended on have become obsolete in my life and for some of my immediate family as well.

I’m re-learning to live, while avoiding corn.