About Me

By day I am a thirtysomething technology professional. By night I am many things: nerd, metalhead, conservationist, smartass,  homeowner, revolutionary.

My main “hobby” these days is survival: I have a severe and sensitive allergy to corn, which is not only a food, but is used in food additives, preservatives, disinfectants, lotions, cosmetics, dyes, building materials, and more.

To stay safe, I’ve had to attempt self-education in many areas that I’ve never even had an interest in previously: food science, textiles, polymer science, microbiology, and chemistry, to name just a few.

While I have many interests that have nothing to do with my health, the corn allergy is mostly what I write about, at least in public forums. Close behind would be chronic illness, invisible disabilities, and chemical sensitivity.

battelbecca_medium

The Corn Allergy Girl

“Hey there, this is B. We talked the other day about the source of the citric acid in your products? I wanted to ask you about your–“

“–Oh, the corn allergy girl. Yes, I remember you.”

It’s not that I really WANT the title. I just get it anyway. Might as well embrace it. And I’m most certainly not the only corn allergy girl. In fact, if you have a corn allergy, and likely to be called a “girl” rather than a  “dude,” a “lady,” or perhaps something less polite, then you probably already share the title.

An Amateur Scientist

Unlike more well-known allergens such as peanuts and shellfish, corn is not a “top 8” allergen in the United States, and therefore is not required to be labeled in food or personal care products as a source for an ingredient or if the facilities or equipment may be contaminated with traces.  To further complicate things, corn is not only a food, but is used in food additives, preservatives, disinfectants, lotions, cosmetics, dyes, building materials, and more. Since corn is cheap, if a product can be made out of any vegetable, it is usually made out of corn.

Most products you can buy from the store, including whole foods like grass-fed meat and organic vegetables, have enough traces of corn to cause a reaction in me, and the only way to find out whether trying a product is safe is to either guinea pig it and hope for the best (not ideal since allergic reactions can be life-threatening) or to contact the supplier/manufacturer ahead of time and ask them detailed questions they aren’t accustomed to answering and don’t  always know the answer to.

Given the complex nature of food and supplement manufacturing these days, asking, “Is there any corn in this?” rarely gets a useful or correct answer. People think you are asking if there are whole kernels of corn, or corn starch, and for a very sensitive allergy, that just isn’t a deep enough treatment of the subject.

In order to even know what questions to ask to judge potential safety of a product, I’ve had to attempt self-education in many areas that I’ve never even had an interest in previously: food science, textiles, meat processing, commercial fishing, polymer science, microbiology, and chemistry, to name just a few. Given my total lack of background and limited time to devote to research, my understanding in these areas is imperfect, yet still more in-depth than many. I try to share what I’ve learned and welcome correction when I’ve got it wrong.

An Unwilling Hippie

I’ve also needed to get in touch with my inner hippie. I already had some of these tendencies before, but it was mostly in the vein of general kitchen-witchery: home-baked bread, high quality spices, home ferments, small knitting projects, handmaking cosmetics and soaps occasionally, and candles from melt-and-pour kits. You know, hobbies that could reasonably be researched in a few hours and executed in a day. I never had any particular interest in getting extreme, or actually, like, growing all my own food, grinding my own flour,  hand-cracking my own nuts if I wanted to make nut butter or nut milk,  or only using personal care products I made myself, ever.  In fact, I was pretty vehemently opposed to doing that kind of thing on a regular basis. That is why we have such a thing as trade and economy- because people want things that they can’t or don’t want to make themselves.

I also had little interest in going *too* far to sacrifice convenience or thrift for sustainability. I recycled, sure, and even composted when there was someone who took care of the actual compost pile. I got reusable glass containers and used them *most* of the time, though if they were dirty, I did have a backup supply of disposable plastic tupperware. I loved going to the farmers’ market once in a while, but going *every* week? What a pain!

Unfortunately, when you start reacting to just about everything disposable and premade, you are faced with three choices: skip it, get the reusable version if it exists, or make your own. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can spend a fortune on a premium brand for something that may be safe, but as time goes on and your wallet gets thinner, you start opting to make your own more and more often.

And forget grocery stores. If you’re unable to eat anything that’s ever been processed, packaged, or sprayed,  you end up needing to eat seasonally and locally. This means that other than a few select organic farms in other states with practices that work for me that direct ship, I really can’t eat food out of season.

On the one hand, it’s been really rewarding to get in touch with local farmers and support families who grow food that supports me. I actually love the weekend trips to the farmers markets. I love it so much that I work at them occasionally  now.  But I don’t love knowing that if I don’t preserve stuff while it’s in season, I can’t eat it for the rest of the year. Being allergic to all of the winter vegetables means that if I don’t preserve during the summer I will actually *go hungry* in the winter.  All in all being in touch with the seasons and being part of a community is pretty cool, but you know what? I hate being committed to going to the market and being set back if I want to take a trip on a weekend, and as someone with a more-than-full-time job on top of all my health needs, I really long for the days when I could just grab something from the store.

What it comes down to is that life choices are much easier when they are choices. Investing this much energy becomes a huge burden when it’s something you must do to survive. Overall I’m pretty positive and enjoy a lot of the things I have to do, but it most definitely isn’t an easy life.

Why the Blog

Well, I’ve spent so much time researching this stuff, I might as well share what I know. And honestly, I forget it myself if I don’t write it down. So I am going to start brain-dumping everything I know here. Also, this life is hard, and one of the things that keeps me going is having a sense of humor about it and helping others by giving them the information that I’ve learned the hard way.  That way I feel like at least if I’ve had to suffer, it wasn’t completely useless.

The corn allergy accounts for the most life-altering food and environmental restrictions I have, but I am also allergic to over 30 other foods, dozens of environmental allergens, and hypersensitive to a number of different chemicals. I try to keep the blog focused mostly on the corn allergy, as that is the area in which I am most able to nail down sources. Because I am sensitive to more than corn, I try to only report on contaminated items when I am sure that other corn allergics are reacting to that item. If I am making a guess or a warning based on my experience or on the experiences of others’ who also have multiple sensitivities, I try to make that clear.

Allergy Profile (in brief)

I discovered my corn allergy in 2006, simultaneously with gluten intolerance. I am a probable celiac given my family history and my symptoms, but have never sought a formal diagnosis. In 2012 my already-known corn allergy went from a more “normal” allergy to hypersensitive and extremely severe. I began having throat-closing and facial-swelling reactions to eating small traces of corn-based additives such as citric acid and xanthan gum, and began having severe systemic reactions (blood pressure drop, blurred vision, severe asthma, feeling of throat closing) from being near items such as popscorn or items fried in corn flour.

Within a year of becoming more sensitive to corn, I also began to have moderate to severe reactions to over 30 other foods when ingested (only corn causes severe airborne reactions so far), and now have severe sensitivities to dozens of chemicals. To explain the number of allergies and rapidity of onset, I am also accruing a number of other diagnoses including H-EDS and MCAS. You can read more about those on my more long-winded “Allergy History” page. Most recently I have discovered that my suspected dysautonomia was not that at all, but rather hemolytic anemia due to g6pd deficiency.

At the time of writing I am unable to eat any vegetables in the brassica, chenopod families, can’t eat any root vegetables unless I grow them myself  due to allergy issues with the fertilizer, and also haven’t been able to eat any squash that I’ve tried. So that’s most vegetables, basically. But hey, I can eat the hell out of some lettuce, and I have also been having good luck with many fruits.

Due to chemical sensitivities in combination with a sensitivity to cross-contamination in facilities with corn and corn products, I am also unable to eat any food that has ever been processed on equipment, or packaged in any way other than being placed into a box. When I say processed, I don’t mean highly processed, I mean things like threshing dry beans from pods and placing them in a burlap or plastic bag. Or shelling walnuts with a shelling machine rather than by hand.

What it boils down to is that I need to get all of my food fresh and local. Most things that have been pre-cooked, canned, frozen, or transported usually have something *done* to them that cornifies them: spraying, waxing, gassing, glazing, or disinfecting all usually involves something corn-based. Then in addition, the more times something is exposed to a new surface, the more likely it is that one of my other sensitivities will contaminate the time.

I’ve written up a longer version of my allergy story here. 

19 thoughts on “About Me

  1. My son has a corn allergy and where we live we don’t have much choice it’s not quite and allergy more like a sensitivity. I just want to get it out of his system. It’s shocking because he sensitive to a lot of other things. Life’s a constant battlefield. I just came accross your blog and was boggled by where corn is lurking it scared me 😦 thanks to gmos and everything else out there ugh.

    • Hi Cristina,

      It’s better to know than not know, but I agree that it’s overwhelming. In this country at least, there really is no such thing as completely avoiding corn. If nothing else I’m breathing it in every time a car drives by. I actually own a carbon-filter mask because I have allergic reactions in heavy traffic. You just have to do the absolute best you can. Be aware, and do what works for your family. It sounds like your son’s sensitivity is relatively mild: I hope it stays that way, but if his symptoms increase in severity or his sensitivity to traces increases, at least you won’t be blindsided.

  2. Christina,

    I understand what you are saying about foods. Several years ago I was diagnosed with allergies to corn, tomato and potato. I am sensitive to foods with the preservative in Aspirin. So for me I can eat Bananas, pears, diary, meat and some veggies nothing processed. I keep trying to eat different foods for nutrition, but it is not working. My corn allergy was mild compared to the others, but it is only getting worse, so I am trying to eliminate more corn from my diet. Thanks for the info.

    • I don’t think my mold exposure is the cause of most of my problems given the sequence of events, but it may have been responsible for some. I did get my first LDA shot yesterday, and that was a trip. Of the foods allowed on the diet, the only thing I could tolerate was lettuce. I negotiated with the doc as far as what protein sources I did have available and we arrived at oysters, so I’m on the end of 3 days of lettuce and oysters right now. Oysters are pretty low fat and I’m pretty much ready to eat my own arm. 🙂 But I’ve got a whole chicken roasted up (had my boyfriend cook it in the toaster oven in the basement so I wouldn’t have to smell it) and ready for tomorrow morning. I may very well eat the whole thing in one sitting.

  3. Hey, I can’t remember if I’ve ever written to you, but I have a Twitter site: Gluten & Corn Free@mlock571. I’ve come a long way in nearly 2 years of finally understanding what was going on with my corn allergy and Celiac diagnosis. Anyway, since our symptoms are so similar, wanted to be sure to share with you that my allergist had a hunch I’m allergic to the entire grass family, and she was right. Though I’ve fought this whole time to get my gastroenterologist to see that there must be a connection between the allergy and celiac, I’ve gotten no where. So I’ve been seeing different doctors for different problems. Corn is by far the worst offender, but slowly, all the other members of the grain family caused either celiac-like symptoms, allergy, or both. I now have inhalation anaphylaxis from wheat. It’s been crazy and I’m convinced that eventually I’m going to be a hermit! The other issue is that the allergist says I shouldn’t react to corn derivatives, but I do. I’ve never had a positive allergy test though. Obviously, something is happening that the medical industry doesn’t understand. Here’s to us.

    About how many people would you say have written to you with similar symptoms? I also started having symptoms as a child, but no one knew what was wrong.

  4. Is there a way to have your new articles delivered to my email? I didn’t see this option any where. Also, I haven’t read your whole blog so forgive me if this is redundant. Your allergic issues sound like a mast cell disorder that I’ve been diagnosed with. In researching this rare, but now becoming more common disorder I found ties to GMO foods. My personal believe is that GMO foods, stress & a mold toxicity created ripe conditions for this disorder to take hold. In recent years I’ve avoided GMO products but now I’m more like you where I feel compelled to avoid it at all cost. Thanks for your well researched, fact filled blog! It’s helping me tremendously! 🙂

    ~Lesly~

    • Hi there. I added a widget on the right hand sidebar to subscribe via email. I think it may just notify you t hat there is a post, though, rather than sending the whole text of the entry. Not sure.

      Thanks for the heads up… MCAS has been suggested once before, including by an immunologist, but I haven’t pursued a diagnosis. The immunologist (see the whole story in the “allergy history” section) didn’t propose to do any testing and was generally kind of a jerk. I’m interested in knowing whether that is my problem or not, but since the treatment is avoidance of triggers and taking antihistamines/mast cell stabilizers, I’m not in a big rush to get a diagnosis.

      Glad to be of some help! Best wishes on your journey!

  5. How do I contact you directly? I am a specialty food producer(rancher/farmer) who specializes in producing lamb, pork, and goose without corn or soy products. I am interested in building a mail order or pick up point business to serve larger groups of people with sensitivities to these crops!

    • That sounds amazing Patrick! I work wih a group of people that will react to any animal product fed GMO anything. Mast Cell Disorders. I’ve managed to put mine in remission and now consult with others that have the condition. But these are very ill people that often can’t leave home. I would be interested in hearing more. Facebook message me? Lesly Rae owner of Younique Herbal Healing.

  6. I left this comment under ‘corn free probiotics’, but wasn’t sure if you’d see it! So I just copied and pasted to here… I was amazed at the amount of allergies I had that ‘appeared’, that promptly disappeared after doing the pyroluria thing, and not overloading my body with the nasty synthetic folic acid that they enrich stuff with… my liver doesn’t process it, and it gets toxic. They try awful hard to kill us while curing us, don’t they?

    Hiya!

    I haven’t read your other posts, so IDK, but I had multiple allergies and sensitivities UNTIL my doctor diagnosed me with pyroluria and mthfr gene mutation.
    I had reduction of allergies by 95% just doing the pyroluria supplements… some of my allergies, like celery, mould, and grass pollen, have completely disappeared. My asthma, (which kinda wasn’t), left me, never to return. Often what is referred to as asthma is a deficiency of zinc in the lung coating, which lets the nasties in… like leaky gut for lungs. One doesn’t always have that problem, though. Pyroluria gives you massive zinc and b6 deficiencies.

    Maybe worth getting checked if you haven’t already?
    I now soak everything in kefir whey, make kimchi and kraut etc, and use water kefir for drinks in the summer… never looked back!

    Also infrared saunas have helped me sweat… I never did much, because pesticide build-up prevents you from doing that, which means more build-up, which means more allergies and sensitivities! Infra red has helped lots… maybe good for you, as well, seeing as you have all this problem.

    Good luck with it!

    • My husband was diagnosed with MTHFR variants and upon changing both of our diets, it truly changed our health, asthma, allergies, and digestive issues.

    • Gloria, you left this comment 2 years ago, and I just had a doctor suggest pyroluria to me yesterday. If I don’t take at least 45mg of zinc a day, every day, I have cystic acne, and I am likely having other systemic effects from this deficiency that I don’t notice as much.

      I also have mthfr c677t. It’s heterozygous but because I also have several other methylation mutations (COMT, CBS, VDR TAQ, MTRR just to name a few), and I also have g6pd deficiency (you can read more about that on my newest post), my overall metabolism and detox is kind of broken. So I’m working with a naturopath on how to support my body in optimal function. And pyrolurea came up again when we discussed the fact that I have to take buttloads of zinc to feel normal. A bunch of other things I have going on are apparently indicative of b6 deficiency so we are going to carefully try supplementing it.

  7. We hugely appreciated all your good work and details (your dr bronner info explained my itchy hands)….. Much obliged if you would add a ‘buy me a coffee’ or similar link so we can send you coffee money since we are too far away for a real coffee!

  8. I have asthma and have recently experienced some severe flare ups, so finally I was tested for food allergies; blood tests revealed allergies to a milk protein (lactoglobulin) and corn…..so you are not alone…..

    It’s so frustrating, because everything seems to have corn, and it’s not like I can have a smidge of this or that and get away with it…..my lungs get irritated, and I experience asthma excerbation, bronchitis, then off to the ER for antibiotics, steroids……

    I have been experiencing a lot of gas and bloating since eliminating corn, is that normal? been trying to educate myself….

    Shalom, Rose

    • I haven’t found a commercial one, no. Your best bet (unfortunately) is a homemade recipe which will probably not give the kind of hold you want. Everything I’ve found for a hairspray uses ethanol from corn.

      Carina organics has a hair gel that looks like it could be corn free. I haven’t looked into it carefully.

      Full disclosure: I deleted a comment suggesting that you just try to google “corn free hairspray.” Googling for “corn free” anything is not particularly helpful because there is so much misinformation out there about what “containing corn” entails, and this entire blog is about how items can “contain corn” enough to cause us a reaction when the rest of the world would not consider them to be “containing corn”.

  9. I, too, am a corn allergy girl. It is a frustrating allergy to have and not understood by anyone- even many doctors. It is next to impossible to find pharmaceutical drugs that do not contain corn. I have the dubious honor of also being allergic to coconut and capsaicin…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s