Wow, just when a girl thinks she has her health problems heading in the right direction, something new always seems to come up.
I wrote a few weeks back about being tested for new food allergies. I was having pretty frequent swelling of my lips, throat, and cheeks when I ate and I couldn't pin point what was causing these frequent and acute reactions. The test came back and (drum roll please) I am highly allergic to corn. I had never been before, but now my allergic level was off the charts. At first when my allergist told me, it didn't seem like anything that would be too hard to manage. I thought corn on the cob and high fructose corn syrup. But then as I began to understand the ingredients that I would have to stay away from it became a whole new ordeal. I haven't written about the allergy until now because it has been so difficult to manage and is taking up so much of my time. It is much harder than my other food allergies and I am overwhelmed.
One of the main challenges with having a corn allergy is that corn is not considered a top eight allergen so it is not required to be listed on the allergy warnng label for a product or even identified as corn in ingredient lists. This means that ingredients such as food starch, vanilla, vegetable oil, carmel and carmel color, maltodextrin, cellulose, vegtable glycerin, xanthum gum, and baking powder are often derived from corn, but corn is nowhere to be found on the label. The list of ingredients that can contain corn is much more extensive and can be found here if you want to take a look.
Ok, so you would think once I have a list of ingredients, I'd be all set....not so fast. I have found out this is only part of my problem. Who would of thought that eggs are often washed in corn starch and that the coating for paper plates are often derived from corn? A lot of the plant based environmentally friendly packaging for foods is often corn based as well and so is the wax coating on fruits and vegetables. These are being used more and more frequently and are hard to identify. I'm now in a place where I have allergic reactions to foods that I am not allergic to because of how it is packaged or if corn is somehow used in its processing. I had an allergic reaction to rice cakes and later learned that the rice cakes are made on the same exact equipment as corn cakes. Cynics would say the strength of the corn lobby has something to do with it not being a recognized allergy by the FDA, but all I know is that the world I inhabit is not designed for people with corn allergies.
On to medicines: They are a whole other area of difficulty since they also contain corn as binders and fillers. I had an allergic reaction to plaquenil (a medicine that I take for autoimmune diesease) and after looking at the indredients found it contained corn starch. The NIH Pill Box Site has been a great resource so I can look up all the drug manufacturors that make a particular drug and their ingredients. But then I still have to call each one individually to see if there is hidden corn in the ingredients because it is often listed as food startch and cellulose but does not identify it is dervived from corn or another source. Luckily, there is one brand of plaquenil made without any corn derivatives. For medicines that are not manufactured without corn like many antibiotics, I have had to go to a compounding pharmacy to have the drugs made. The suspension syrup used to make most drugs also contains corn so the pharmacist has been making some of my other medications with the chemical form of the medication and then distilled water.
I also forgot to mention everyday beauty products like lip balm and shampoo often contain corn listed as some other chemical compound too. I have been more focused right now on finding foods that I can eat and making sure that I can take my medicines. I am spending lots of time on the phone calling manufacturers to find out if there is corn in specific foods and medications. I am making use of my local farmer's market and hope that by talking to the individual farmer's I can find out directly if corn is used in making their food. I have been cooking all my own meals, though they are rather unexciting, and using websites created by other's with a corn allergies as a resources. But figuring out this whole corn allergy is extremely time consuming and I have not yet had a straight week since being diagnosed, where I have not had an allergic reaction to something.
I keep joking with my husband that we might have to move to another country where the corn industry and the use of corn products is less pervasive. If only, corn was listed as a top allergen, it would be a bit easier. I would love to hear any advice from others who also have a corn allergy.