Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living Corn Free

my refrigerator
I am often asked how a beginner can learn to avoid corn. It's hard to get someone started. I think that avoiding corn is something that comes with practice and no one gets it right the first time out of the gate. It took me over a year before I felt that I was avoiding all corn in my purchases (at least as much as humanly possible in America), but there are still corny things in my life that I can't replace with uncorny ones. I am resigned to life with certain plastics, memory foam, envelopes, cheap pressboard furniture, tape and packaging, fuel for my car, batteries, and craft supplies. I do go out of my way to avoid buying any new products made with/from corn, but sometimes there is no feasible alternative.

My daughter remarked yesterday that even the inside of our refrigerator looks different from the average American's. There are no brightly colored labels and no plastic squeeze bottles and no cardboard packages. Instead, our fridge is filled with mason jars, glass pitchers, glass bowls and whole vegetables. The only cardboard that ever enters our fridge is the packaging for organic butter and organic pastured eggs. In the picture you can clearly see the Santa Cruz Organic Lemon Juice, Bragg's Organic apple cider vinegar, Daisy sour cream, Kroger brand sparkling water (we made cream soda for company) and our Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil. There are very few brand names or marketing dollars represented in our lives and the brand names we do buy are not the huge food corporations so popular with other Americans. These labels never enter my house: Kraft, General Mills, Bryan, Tyson, Kellog's, Quaker, Nabisco, Vlasic, Folger's, Smucker's, Sara Lee or Wesson. Most of those are subsidiaries of larger corporations but I don't buy from the "healthy" subsidiaries of those large corporations, either. You know the ones I mean, the ones that started as a small healthy alternative and were bought out by large corporations wanting to cash in on the "natural and organic" reputation. Labels like Hain, Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine and Kashi started as small companies selling healthy products but now have been bought out by corporations known for unhealthy additives.

This is our strategy for avoiding corn and soy:

We never buy anything enriched or fortified or diet or low fat or nonfat. Enriched wheat and iodized salt and even organic vitamin D milk all contain GMO corn derivatives which are endocrine disruptors. They adversely effect blood sugar, appetite, weight regulation and hormone levels. We make all wheat products from unenriched organic all-purpose flour using a corn-free baking powder (homemade) and sea salt (uniodized). We only drink raw goat milk from pastured goats that we buy from our local farmers market. If raw is unavailable, there may be pasturized local milk that is unfortified. If we want yogurt or kefir, we make it at home.

We avoid meat from the grocery store. We buy half a cow from a local grassfed farmer and have it custom butchered to avoid citric and lactic acid sprays (both corn derivatives) and cryovac packaging (GMO cornstarch). We haven't found a safe source of chicken or fish (both are fed corn and soy and are treated with citric acid during processing) so we haven't had any in quite some time. (Some corn allergic are able to tolerate corn-fed meat, but we can't.)

I buy all my produce from the farmers market. The produce (especially the fruit) in the grocery store is usually coated with corn derivative wax to preserve it for shipping. Bagged salads are washed with citric acid - also prewashed carrots and berries. Most fruits are corntaminated in some way. We only eat fruit if we find safe local fruit in season. Grocery store tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and avocados are gassed with ethylene gas (corn derivative again). Apples, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, rutabagas and citrus fruits are waxed with a corn derived wax as a preservative.

We eat a diet consisting of mainly meat and vegetables with healthy fats. We don't cook with processed oils, instead choosing to use rendered fat from grassfed cows, organic butter with no "natural flavor" (corn), virgin organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. The more fat we eat, the longer we are satiated. I know this is contrary to modern thinking, but it really works! I try to avoid grains and refined sugar though we are not always successful and are not fanatical about it. If finances permitted it, we would be grain-free, though. This is not to be confused with a low-carb diet which uses carbohydrate count only to determine which foods to eat. I don't believe 100 grams of carbohydrate from refined flour is equal to 100 grams of carbohydrate from fresh green beans so vegetables always take precedence over grains in this house.

We eat lots of homemade probiotic foods. I found that my gut flora was badly out of balance (as it is for most people that have eaten processed foods) and I needed probiotics to repopulate my gut. They not only boost the health of the beneficial bacteria in the gut, they stimulate digestive juices for better digestion. I make lacto-fermented vegetables (process used to make traditional sauerkraut) from safe veggies and sea salt and eat them daily. I also drink beet kvass and fermented cabbage juice tonic (delicious, I swear!) for natural probiotics. Really easy to make, the varieties are limited only by imagination and no special equipment is required.

We don't buy spice blends or sauce mixes or bottled dressings or condiments. We buy single organic spices (in seed or pod form when possible) and grow fresh herbs. We also don't eat anything that contains white or distilled vinegar since that is fermented completely from GMO corn. I make my own cucumber pickles and salsa using the method above and use the fermented veggie juice in place of vinegar or buy organic apple cider vinegar. I make salad dressing, marinade, hot sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard if we want them.

We don't drink any bottled beverages including water or juice. Bottled water contains GMO corn derivatives as does most filtered water. We drink tap water run through a Brita water pitcher and carry our own glass or stainless steel water bottle with us. If we want juice, we make it from fresh veggies or fruit. I never did this before I got a chicken (for corn-free eggs) since the pulp was wasted. Now, the chicken gets the pulp and gives me eggs in return so it isn't a waste anymore. Still, we don't drink juice every day because I question the wisdom of ingesting the juice without the fiber it came with. We do buy organic lemon juice for adding to recipes since organic lemons can be hard to find here.

We have ibuprofen compounded without corn and take no other OTC or Rx meds. More and more we are discovering natural ways to combat little health problems we all encounter from time to time. It helps that we are a lot healthier these days needing fewer remedies. If we did require medications, I would get them compounded as well. I am also extremely careful of any supplements since most contain some GMO corn derivative. Here is a list of corn derivative names.

That pretty much sums up a year of careful research and success with respect to avoiding corn in the kitchen. I have been shocked so many times in the last year at the amount of GMO crops that the average American ingests daily without even knowing it. Even though I was cooking our meals from scratch, I was still feeding them to my family in the form of canned veggies, soup mixes and spice combos and milk, meat, cheese and eggs  (we buy only Kerrygold cheese now since it is corn-free and only organic pastured eggs when we need more than my chicken can produce).

Maybe my next post should be about avoiding corn in the rest of the house. The average American not only ingests GMO corn with every meal or dietary supplement, but absorbs it in the form of deodorant, moisturizer, perfume, shaving cream, hand soap, antibacterial products, air fresheners and shampoo.

Corn-free resources that we find helpful:

36 comments:

  1. Just an FYI.. you don't have to avoid all bottled water.. just some.

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  2. That's true, but the non-corny ones are pretty rare around here. It seems as soon as the "added minerals for flavor" water came onto the market, the ones without became harder to find. I also hate contributing more plastics to landfills so my environmental philosophy actually dovetails nicely with my corn allergy.

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  3. I am curious about your ibuprofen. My husband has a corn allergy as well and his sensitivity is rising such that we have had to eliminate all plastics in the kitchen. I typically did all the baking from scratch prior to the corn allergy discovery but now it's a necessity not just a simple pleasure. Great blog, thanks for the info.
    Rebecca
    (http://cornpeanutsandsoy.blogspot.com/)

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  4. My dentist wrote the Rx and we got the compound pharmacist to fill it. It took a lot of research and discussion to get the formula right. The pharmacist called the dentist and had him revise the Rx to work for corn-free. It took longer than a regular prescription and costs a lot more than OTC ibuprofen, but it's worth it. We hardly ever need a pain reliever anyway now that we have gone corn-free.

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  5. I think your title doesn't fully convey the issue - it seems that GMO corn is everywhere. That is problematic even for those who don't have a corn allergy.

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  6. Michael, you're right. When I get in a discussion with a stranger and bring up the subject of hidden corn, they are always shocked. I need to write a post detailing the lengths we go to trying to avoid corn in the rest of the house. There is no avoiding it in public.

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  7. Very good.....
    It can be very depressing living with allergies. Mine started with tomatoes, peanuts, and sunflowers. The corn issue was discovered 5 years ago. We recently moved cross county. Stayed in motels for 2 months. I get so scared that I will get into corn I sometimes just don't eat, otherwise I just might end up in the ER like I did July 2.

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  8. Anonymous, So sorry to hear about your trip to the ER. I am thankful every day that we don't have anaphylaxis as part of our reactions. I do worry that it will progress, though.

    We have a basic diet of trusted staples that we always revert to when trying to track down a new corn reaction. I worked on this "safety diet" for a couple of months before we were completely satisfied that it is corn-free. I try to cook in bulk and freeze extras for later. I would like to have a dehydrator - they are very popular with the corn allergic people that I know. What could be better than pouring something in a pot and just adding water for a meal?

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  9. Do you know of an antacid that does not contain corn or gluten? Been really sick and have had to have fluids twice in one week. Going to a gastro doc Thursday but in a lot of pain. Extreme indigestion, nausea and diarrhea. I am scared and i don't know what to do. I can't take Immodium or anything!!

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  10. Anonymous, When looking for a corn-free product or remedy, the Delphi Avoiding Corn Forum is my first stop: http://forums.delphiforums.com/AvoidingCorn/

    I have broken down and taken baking soda in water for heartburn before. This works if the problem is caused by too much stomach acid but will make it worse if the heartburn is caused by too little acid production. If your indigestion, nausea and diarrhea are reactions to corn allergy then corn-free benadryl will give you some relief. I don't know if there is a brand available that is corn-free but I do know it can be compounded. Please go to the Avoiding Corn forum above and search the archives and post your question. There are lots of really helpful people and you will have answers quickly.

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  11. Thanks, i will check it out. I am thinking i have an ulcer or colitis but not sure. I am still eating chicken and i had no clue about the plastics. I would love to talk to you and ask you some questions. This is really hard and i do not know anyone personally who has food allergies. If i give you my number would you mind talking to me?

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    Replies
    1. Corn makes me have horrible gallbladder reactions. Those are painful! Especially on your upper right side.

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  12. Why don't you contact me through my profile and you can give me your number in an email instead of posting it here. Just click on my name by any of my comments.

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  13. Thank you for this blog. I just learned this week that at least one of the reasons for my health issues the past many years is due to corn. At the moment I'm trying to rid my kitchen of corn and am a taken back that my almost all whole foods kitchen still has so much corn.

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  14. I remember how shocking it was for me, too. It was really horrifying to realize just how much corn was in every meal I had been cooking. I need to do a post about the rest of the house because I went through the same shock with that chore, too. Chapstick, deodorant, shampoo, air freshener, laundry detergent, cleaners, toothpaste, lotion, all full of corn. I still run across things from time to time like envelopes, bandaids and markers that never got thrown out.

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  15. To anonymous: I have read that honey stops heartburn in its tracks, and apple cider vinegar in water also. And aloe vera tablets or cabbage juice for ulcers. Maybe you could try those corn free things. Good luck!

    sunnygirl

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  16. Hey sunnygirl, good suggestions! I usually drink homemade fermented veggie juice and it works great, too.

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  17. Thank you for the blog and website. I moved from England to Canada in August 2007 and six months later fell ill, out of the blue, overnight with many, many symptoms including vertigo, fullness in the back of the head, low blood pressure, hot flashes and the list goes on! I have been ill for nearly three years and was informed last week that I am allergic to corn and soy after blood tests (skin tests did not really show). The allergy doctor said my corn level of 11.96 was the highest she had seen. I am now trying to get my head around everything and am like a lost sheep in the health food stores. I would love to make some bread alternative but am confused about flour? Is normal organic unbleached all-purpose bread flour safe (there are no ingredients on the plain brown packaging) or do I need to be more specific? I did not show an allergy to wheat or gluten by the way. Aaarrhhhhhh..... mind grind!

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  18. Hi Anita,

    It is a lot to get your head around, but if you stick with the avoiding corn forum and rely on fresh produce and grassfed meats, you'll soon get it all squared away. About flour: I believe a lot of bread flour may contain malted barley which can mean corn so I stick with just organic plain unbleached flour by King Arthur or Naturally Preferred (Kroger brand). Whatever kind you decide on, it should list only one ingredient. You might enjoy my post about making bread mix for the freezer.

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  19. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to type up this post and share all of that information -- I found your post via a google search for "corn-free diet". The information you've given is a HUGE help for me in figuring out what might be a better choice of things to eat and what might be best avoided. Honestly, the words "thank you" seem inadequate!

    I hadn't come across the Avoiding Corn forum yet; gonna go see if that's still an active forum.

    Glenda

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  20. Hi Glenda, I'm so glad you found helpful information in my post. It is so difficult to go corn-free that I felt like I was learning the essentials in dribs and drabs. This post was my attempt to "simplify" it as much as possible.

    The avoiding corn forum has kept us sane and corn-free for the last three years and it is very active. We get new members every week and there are plenty of veterans on the list to help the newbies out. Everyone who is struggling with corn allergy should stop by and read some threads.

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  21. I'm looking for instructions to make corn-free cake flour.

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  22. Hi Anonymous,

    To make one cup of cake flour, you need to add 2 tbsp. starch of some kind to each 3/4 cup of all purpose flour. I would use tapioca starch, but I think that arrowroot powder or potato starch would work just as well.

    Good luck in your baking projects.

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  23. Thank you so much for your site and the links you provided. My 4 month old breastfed daughter seems to have a corn intolerance. I cannot believe how much corn is in everything! I was already living dairy free due to an intolerance, but the corn is proving to be much more difficult to get rid of. I am not yet sure how sensitive my daughter is to corn. The challenge is compounded by the fact that I am learning how to do this at the same time as having a baby that doesn't like to nap. I counted on easy foods to get me through some of the tougher days, but now I can't do that. It's tricky to make sure I'm eating enough to keep my supply up. Your site is helping me on my way to becoming less corny. :)

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  24. Hi Monica, I'm so sorry to hear that you and your daughter are struggling. You really need to go to Corn Free Lifestyle because Erica is a wonderful source of info for breastfeeding mothers. Your daughter's unwillingness to nap is almost certainly linked to corn intolerance. In hindsight, my son suffered the exact same symptom, but we had no idea it was linked to corn derivatives until we started avoiding corn years later. (Accidental exposure still results in insomnia.) This means hope for your future! If you can successfully remove corn from your diet (and thus hers), perhaps she will start "sleeping like a baby" again. 8^)

    Be sure to visit the Avoiding Corn Forum linked in the sidebar. I learned almost everything I know about avoiding corn through that forum. I've gotten quite a lot of helpful hints and a boatload of inspiration from there, too.

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  25. thanks for this post! i found out two yesrs ago that i had a corn allergy and i'm still struggling with eliminating foods! i wanted to ask about the citric acid sprayed meatsand produce, does this happen to organic meats and produce, like the ones i buy at whole foods? i find it hard to believe that they could sell a product as pesticide/insecticide free when its washed with something, esp when the meat says its been minimally handled and nothing has been added. just trying to dot my i's! thanks!

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  26. Hi Anon, I'm afraid that most of us corn allergy sufferers do not do well with Whole Foods meat and veggies. I know there are some safe selections at some Whole Foods, but they are not the norm. You might do better with local produce since most of the corn is added to help produce maintain freshness when being shipped long distances. WF tends to carry organic produce from around the world, so the gassing and waxing are in heavy use.

    If you are looking for safe meat from WF, ask the butchers to give you the suppliers phone numbers so you can call and ask about citric and lactic acid (both plus distilled vinegar are legally permitted for use on organic meat) used in processing or cornstarch on the cryovac packages. Both are big problems for most of us. The butchers may know this information themselves, but usually they don't have a clue. Go to the Avoiding Corn Forum (link in sidebar) for more information about these issues.

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  27. Hi there! Two things I wanted to add - I cannot eat any meats at Whole Foods anymore, something I had to give up last week :( BUT we're lucky to live on the coast in NC, so we have local fisherman that don't use any sprays on their daily catches, other than purchasing seafood from them, I eat only beans that I cook at home. But, some of the produce at WF is safe - look for items that are locally grown, or grown maybe a state or two away. Also, our WF has a huge sign posted in the produce section stating that they only use petroleum by-products to wax their produce (I know I shouldn't be excited about that, it's so not good to eat those things either, but YAY it's not corn!). I asked them about corn dextrins and they said they didn't use any vegetable or food items to wax.

    The second thing was actually a question - Last week our county added chlorine and flouride to our water supply, I can smell it and never could before. I called, and sure enough, they flushed a ton of lines and added those wonderful chemicals in (sarcasm). Around the same time I noticed that my allergy symptoms came back too. I have been corn free otherwise, my diet is simple - seafood (fresh), beans I cook at home, veggies from the farmers market or our garden, spices from a safe source and olive/coconut oils. Is there a correlation between the water and my allergy, or do I need to dig around some more? * A note about the water too, when I drank it (we filter through a standard Brita) my throat actually hurt, like pins and needles and I could feel my gut rolling around - thanks for the response!

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  28. Hi Anon,
    We struggled so much with water ourselves. Our city also adds fluoride and chlorine. We were using a Brita pitcher until recently, but it became impossible to tolerate. I crossed my fingers and bought a Berkey filtration system with ceramic chlorine filters and the PF-4 fluoride filters and it did the trick! I'm so pleased we made the purchase and now we could never go back.

    I'm so happy with our new safe water for cooking and drinking that I signed up to be an affiliate with GoBerkey.com (banner in the sidebar). I really need to write a post about our struggles to find safe water and how big a difference the Berkey has made in our lives. BTW, I think water companies actually use corn derivatives in addition to the chlorine and fluoride a lot of times, but it's hard to get a straight answer from them.

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  29. If not getting straight answers from companies here is a suggestion --- get a speaker phone and tell them their call is monitored. If they say they don't know that is one thing but if they say that it has no corn and DOES and if you have told them you have a corn allergy they could be sued. If they know you are taping them and if they lie to you they could be sued they will either hang up ( that says no you won't be using their product! ) or they might be honest and say yes it is in our product. I have been sick for over a year with wretched nausea and pains and it is corn.

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  30. Hi Anonymous, good suggestions. Sometimes you can get a better answer over the phone simply because companies are loathe to put anything in writing.

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  31. Very iformative article and I'll refer back to it Thanks! As a person that suffers from severe sciatica when I eat to much corn this will help me get corn free. Or like you said, aside from moving to europe, as much as an american can.

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  32. Hi Anonymous, We suffer from pinched nerve in the neck causing numbness in arms and neck pain. It does make you wonder why some people have the problem in their upper spine and others in lower spine, but pinched nerves are a recurring theme in corn allergy for sure. Glad you liked the post.

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  33. Amazing article....Thank you. I'm curious about the pinched nerve syndrome with the corn allergy - i have experienced both sciatic and numbness in the arm from a nerve in my neck, and never related it to a food allergy. Where can i find more info on this?
    I tried no corn for a month and saw great results, and then caved and popcorn last sunday! I've had a bloated feeling for days. Apart from Benadryl what other methods do you recommend to clear up the symptoms. I know the body heals its self, but if i can speed up the recovery, it would be great!! Thanks!!

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  34. Hi anonymous, I've never found a medical study that correlates pinched nerves with corn allergy, but I can name several people that have that as part of their reaction......my daughter and myself included. I believe that inflammation is the culprit so bringing it down helps, but it seems like nothing will save you completely from suffering once it strikes. Alternating cold and heat where the nerve splits from the spinal cord can help. I make a salve from coconut oil and eucalyptus essential oil for applying to neck and lower back, too.

    Our main home remedy is compounded diphenhydramine (benedryl), of course, but psyllium (with or without bentonite clay) is next on the list. Once you've ingested corn, the best you can hope for is to move it through your system as quickly as possible. (If one of your reactions is constipation, it can exacerbate sciatic pain.) We also drink lots of water and ginger tea...it seems to help by keeping the kidneys flushed and to reduce inflammation in general. ACV in water before eating or fermented vegetables with meals will help you to digest your food better(allergic reactions shut down the digestive process). Sleep is also important. I think the main thing is not to tax your system while suffering the aftermath of a reaction because everything is having to work so much harder already.

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  35. I forgot to mention that you should try popped sorghum as an alternative to popcorn. It is fantastic. I think Minipops popping sorghum is corn-free, but I wouldn't try any of the flavored, pre-popped ones.

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