Friday, June 17, 2011

Corn Crazies

I can have chocolate.  But not Hershey.  (Or Dove, or Palmer, or Nestle)
I can have eggs.  But only certain, specific eggs.  Not generic grocery store eggs.
I can eat apples.  If they are unwaxed and peeled.  But that doesn't mean I can have any old applesauce.
I can eat rice.  But only if it's un-enriched, and only from certain farms that don't grow corn. 

The restrictions sound crazy.  Laughable, even.
I can remember being relieved that I was "just" allergic to corn.  Just corn.  It sounded so easy.  But things got harder, I sought help.  I started reading and found a community of corn-allergic individuals.  My eyes widened, I shook my head, I congratulated myself on not going overboard.  And then, slowly, I learned that I needed to be just as fanatical as others seemed to be.  There are times I wonder if I've gone crazy.  But I've spent too much time recovering from unplanned, unexpected, hindsight revealed 'oopses' to believe that it could possibly be just in my head.
Every so often it gets to be too much.  I step outside myself and look at the restrictions through a stranger's eyes and think I'm going too far.  And although I try to rationalize it out, and even talk myself into taking chances,  I find others in a similar situation voicing their own shaken faith in their bodies' reactions to normal, healthy, should-be-safe food.  More often than not, the culprit is quickly and easily identified in the form of an added enrichment, or a new preservative.  Sometimes it requires a little a cross contaminated batch of almonds (perhaps shipped in the same loading truck as corn?)  How can you dispute unintentional blind trials that end in proof?  Especially when there are multiple people reporting the same experience.  Maybe our methods aren't scientific, but they aren't easy to dismiss either. 
That's what makes social events so hard.  Even water is softened with corn derived citric acid, or the taste is improved by corny minerals, or it's bottled in a corn-based environmentally 'friendly' polymer.  People might overlook the fact that you abstain from cookies.  But if you can't even accept the water they hand you due to allergies...well, the looks are enough to make even the least self conscious of us blush.
Whispers of eating disorders aren't uncommon, or surprising.  Especially now that Orthorexia is the diagnosis du jour.  
For me, as I suspect it is for others, the truth is much more complicated.  There is no self-loathing involved.  I'm tempted to give in, and hang the consequences.  Regardless of caloric content, I'd love to eat that cookie.  Taste the pasta salad, or at least have a few pieces of the fruit plate.  (I'd settle for drinking some of that new-branded water in the cooler)  But in reality, the consequences aren't worth it.  I want to share the meal, but I want to function tomorrow. Whether it's hives, boils or GI malfunction...the reactions are not fun, comfortable, or something to be shared in public.  They also aren't mediated by any part of the brain other than the immune system.  IgE, IgG...the body is attempting to protect itself.  
It's unfortunate that without demonstrating those reactions, it's difficult at best to convince others that they are nonetheless real and valid reasons for food avoidance. 

The trouble with corn is that even when I'm avoiding everything as I should be, there are little, subtle exposures that slip in.  These exposures seem to keep me from fully recovering or ever being 100% reliable.  And the years of damage have affected my daily stamina.  I don't have the energy I should, and it isn't's malnutrition.  Even if/when I'm eating healthfully, the long term damages are still there.  

With a corn allergy, sometimes it feels like I'm sitting in a box seat.  I'm not entirely alone, thanks to the internet, but I don't exactly fit in with most of the other groups.  Whether it's the food allergy advocates, the Celiac sufferers or the tree-huggers; I have 3/4 of the values in common...but there's still a wall between us made of that eco-friendly kernel, insidious yellow seed, corn. 


Frank said...

I was wondering if you had ever had any type test done? I have seen more articles lately that talk about the genetic cross overs for associative disorders and co-maladies. This one is about the specific genes in woman that have been linked to migraines.
Having a food sensitivity and the subsequent restrictions lists of course gets me researching any thing and everything associated with this “intolerance”. I was wondering if you had seen any research that might have pointed out a link tween migraines and allergies, of course food specifics?

Violets said...

Hi Frank,
Good question. Migraines and food are linked; most neurologists already include elimination diets in their recommendations. However, as an "intolerance" rather than an official epi-pen requiring allergy, there hasn't been an awful lot of further research that I've found. This study
shows that IgG allergies can definitively be associated with migraine. However, IgG testing is STILL controversial with many doctors. Various individuals will have reactions to any number of a variety of foods, there is no one food that is linked specifically to migraines. And, any food can cause different symptoms in different people. Migraines in one, hives in another, an upset stomach in a third.
We haven't had any genetic testing done, beyond the gene test for Celiac Disease. It hasn't come up in doctor appointments (yet, anyway) I hope to see more research in the area soon.