Corn allergies can be very difficult to work with since corn (maize) and it’s products are found in many everyday items. Even though corn allergy is not yet considered one of the top eight allergies it does appear to be on the rise. This could be due to more consumption of processed foods containing it by young children. This early dietary exposure could be bringing on more allergic responses.
The Reaction to Corn
An allergy to corn will bring on the production of antibodies in a person’s system. When that person eats these grains or related products the body recognizes it as an invader and reacts against it. The release of histamines and the production of more antibodies helps to create the symptoms experienced.
Symptoms can range from skin problems like eczema, headaches and digestive problems to anaphylaxis where the person develops difficulty breathing and low blood pressure. Some people experience atypical symptoms like joint pain, night sweats, fatigue, depression, or difficulty concentrating.
Children could become hyperactive. Symptoms can change over time in infants, and could become more severe.
Making the Diagnosis
If you believe that you, or your child, could be experiencing a corn food allergy consult your doctor. They will be able to help you arrange for testing and may refer you to an allergist.
Testing can include the skin prick test or a blood test for antibodies. If either of these tests is positive the doctor may then do a food challenge or a food elimination test. If there is a reaction to a corn allergy test or the problems disappear when avoiding it for at least 2 weeks the allergy to maize may be confirmed.
Many times, a combination of testing is needed to confirm the allergy (or intolerance/sensitivity). Do not attempt to test without a physician involved.
Daily antihistamines can help to decrease the reaction to any exposure, but they will not completely stop a reaction from occurring in most people. A severe reaction to corn exposure requires medical attention and stronger medications such as steroids or epinephrine. Treatment of eczema may require prescription medications if it becomes bad enough.
Exposure to Corn
Avoiding exposure to corn, its products, and pollen is the only way to attempt to prevent a reaction. This can be very difficult because of the many items that contain this grain crop, some of which you might never think of. Consider how maize is being used to make fuels, something relatively unheard of 20 years ago.
One of the main difficulties is medications. Most medications contain maize products in the non-drug part. People with these allergies must work to find a medication they can take or have some specially compounded for them. Patients who have corn allergies may not tolerate standard IV solutions that include dextrose.
It can be difficult to detect on food labels while trying to stick to a corn free diet. Look out for its other name, maize, also on labels. Remember that corn syrup can cause as bad of a reaction. Maize kernels are used in many common foods in our diet such as cereals, sauces and soups. Maize may be used in make baking powder, caramel coloring, or powdered sugar. Dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, mannitol and sorbitol are made from maize. The list of foods to avoid is very long.
Learning to make substitutions when cooking will help you to avoid it. Oils other than corn oil will usually work fine, some like to use canola oil. Corn-free baking powder is available for various recipes you may have. A combination of 1 cup granulated sugar mixed into ¼ cup water can substitute for 1 cup of corn syrup. All natural foods such as natural peanut butter are safe but off-the-grocery-shelf peanut butter will likely contain the syrup.
Living with a corn allergy can be challenging. With patience and perseverance you can still eat satisfying foods and be healthy.