Barbecue Season: Grilling Out Corn Free

It’s grilling season. Even if you don’t have safe meat or don’t eat meat, all *kinds* of other foods are delicious when cooked over charcoal.

Wait, I have to worry about corn when I grill out?  Even if I’m not cooking any food with corn in it?

But of course.

  • Propane: The gas itself is corn-free, but the distinctive rotten egg odor added to it is from ethyl mercaptan which is typically sourced from corn. I personally don’t have a lot of concerns about reacting to the fumes in a well ventilated area, or about food cooked over it in a pan, but wouldn’t want to be in an enclosed room with it, and wouldn’t want to eat food that was on a grill directly over it with a closed grill top.
  • Charcoal Briquettes: Briquettes are bound into shape using a starch, often corn but sometimes wheat, potato, or rice as well. Less sensitive people may be fine with being near or even cooking over corny charcoal as long as the food doesn’t touch it directly, but I personally can’t even be around it let alone eat food that was cooked over it.
  • Charcoal lighter fluid: Often contains ethanol from corn. And also smells terrible even if you aren’t allergic.
  • Grill and utensils: If cast-iron, can be pre-seasoned with a problematic oil. Corn oil is rarely used in pre-seasoned cast iron, however soy oil is very common, and even for those who are not soy allergic, many pressed vegetable oils contain citric acid as degummers and other contaminants that will be problematic for a corn allergy.
  • Grill and utensils: Can be cross contaminated. This is a big concern only for the truly sensitive. I discovered through experimentation that if I carefully clean a grill that has previously had corny charcoal burned in it, I can handle meat cooked over lump charcoal with the lid open. If, however, I close the lid and let the smoke infuse through the meat, I react to the meat. Somehow residue from the old allergens cooked in the grill remain even after I scrub and cook into the meat. Same with my oven. If I use a brand new grill with the same charcoal and close the lid, I’m fine. Porous foods get corned even with the lid open. Again, you probably have to be crazy sensitive to worry about this, but I know first hand that it is possible.

 What do I use instead?

Since some briquettes are bound using non-corn starches, you *could* research a brand that uses one of the alternative starches. However, they could change their source or formula at any time. I prefer to avoid binders entirely and use  lump charcoal that is only made from wood, no fillers. Check my product list to see which brands I am using safely. Note that some brands of lump charcoal are extremely poor quality and people have found things like carpenter’s nails in them because they are made from scrap wood. Check online reviews before you purchase a brand and make sure that it’s a high quality product.

Lump charcoal is far more temperamental to light and keep lit than briquettes. That’s why people use briquettes. To get it lit without lighter fluid, I use an electric charcoal starter. You pile the coals over it and plug the starter in, and the coals light in a relatively short time. Because the charcoal isn’t infused with the natural tinder of corn starch, a quality grill that retains heat well and allows for good airflow is important. I got a cheapo grill that had great reviews on Amazon and have found that my lump charcoal doesn’t seem to want to stay lit in it, so will probably need to upgrade. Our  more expensive but corny grill has no such problems with the same charcoal, so I do know that it is the grill causing the issue not the fuel.

Are All Lump Charcoals Safe?

Probably not. The issues I would be concerned about are:

  1. Quality control
  2. Packaging

Typically lump charcoal “should” be just fired wood, but depending on the source of the wood lots of other stuff could end up in there. Check out this FAQ about lump charcoal. 

“Since making lump charcoal is often done under somewhat crude conditions, it is normal to find a few rocks or pebbles in lump charcoal. However, a few other oddball items have been found like a mouse, human hair, a tootsie roll wrapper, varnished wood, and black shiny objects commonly referred to as moon rocks. Personally, in over two years and hundreds of pounds of lump charcoal, I’ve found 3 rocks and a tootsie roll wrapper. It shouldn’t be a great concern.”

Even if one isn’t concerned about allergens, that’s just kind of gross.

Then after that, it could be possible that the facilities are shared with something allergenic or whether the bags might be dusted with corn starch or made out of plant fiber or lined with corn plastic (PLA).

One could call and ask about all of these things, but I just guinea pigged the Royal Oak and it’s been okay, so I stick with it.

Cross Contamination

Barbecues are often chaotic. People are usually milling about,  moving dishes around and touching things constantly. If you are preparing both safe, and non-safe food, keep a close eye on what food is touching what utensils and surfaces and don’t let your corn free food come into contact with those things. Probably set yourself up a completely separate prep  and staging surface for your food, and consider using a separate grill top if not an entirely separate grill for the corn-free food.

I actually have to use a brand new corn-free grill, as I am so sensitive to cross contamination and traces that  corny foods cooked in an enclosed space like an oven or closed-top grill will stick to the walls in such a way that they contaminate other foods cooked in it. When I cleaned our grill top and tried to cook food on our old grill that had had the cornstarch-charcoal cooked in it, I was able to eat something that had been cooked for just a few minutes with the lid open, but reacted to a mushroom cooked for a long time with the lid closed.

Wash your hands frequently and keep an eye on your guests and family members, especially if they are drinking alcohol. One friend of mine that doesn’t really know much about my allergies constantly tries to “help” and ends up touching things he really shouldn’t with cross contaminated hands.  Another friend was standing near my “safe” grill and absentmindedly put some corny trash into my burning coals.  It was just the end of a hand-rolled cigarette (corn in the adhesive) and not enough to affect my food, but it could have been something much bigger.  Another dear friend is usually VERY careful about cross contamination, and after a couple of beers walked up to my safe grill and stared at the rack of short ribs roasting on it, then reached out and POKED IT WITH HIS FINGER. I think lasers probably shot out of my eyes, because as soon as he did it, he took three steps back and went, “Oh DUDE, I am SO SORRY.”  The rib was fine BTW, as he’d just washed his hands before doing that and had only touched his relatively clean beer bottle with his other hand.

Tips on Saving Money at the Farmer’s Market

Eating the way I have to is expensive, and I don’t have any choice but to find a way to afford it. I am financially lucky compared to many, and I still have a difficult time affording it. Over the summer as I’ve been stockpiling food for the winter, I’ve found a few ways to cut costs and thought I would pass on what I’ve learned.

  • Ask about buying large quantities. Farmers will often cut you significant deals if you are buying a 25lb box instead of just a couple of pounds. Of course you’ll have to find ways to preserve and store that quantity.
  • Show up late in the day for discounts on items that the farmers don’t want to pack home. Showing up late may cause you to lose out on the fast-selling items though, so be aware of that before you make this decision.
  • Ask about the “seconds” or the “uglies.” These are items that are physically blemished but often perfectly edible. Often these are not out for display and are kept under or behind the counter somewhere.
  • See if you can work out a trade. I have had more than one vendor tell me that if I showed up early to help them unload the truck, he’d cut me a deal on the produce I bought. I didn’t end up taking them up on it, but I don’t think they were joking. If you have a marketable skill like website design, you could look at trading that kind of work for food, as well.
  • Keep a friendly, polite, open line of communication with your farmers. Being a good and frequent customer can get you some discounts, but if you don’t speak with your vendor enough for them to know you and remember you, they may not realize what a good customer you are.

If you have SNAP/EBT benefits, there are many farmer’s markets that accept EBT cards. Here is a list of Farmer’s Markets that accept them. (This is the official Food and Nutrition Service document, and is a Microsoft  Word document. If you don’t have Word, I will try to keep this Google Doc version updated.)

Safe-for-Me Products: The List of What I Use

Last updated November 2017. 

I have been hesitant to publish a list of what I use.  Sensitivities vary so wildly and there is no such thing as a list of foods that will work for everyone with a corn allergy. For that reason, I’ve erred on the side of being overly cautious to avoid causing someone a reaction. But PLEASE try any product with caution, no matter who is recommending it. The first trial should be only a very small amount and always with rescue meds and other safety precautions prepared, including someone around to help in case of reaction.

This is a product list with some hints at how I locate safe produce. For the specific list of what kinds of produce I can eat, see my “What I Can Eat” post.

Makeup

  • Bellaphoria– all of these products are corn safe, but I only *like* their eyeshadows.
  • Bella Terra– shimmers, eye pencils. Check ingredients. I have a reaction (rash and acne) to the powder foundations, but not sure if the issue is corn.
  • Coloresciece Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Powder – I actually use this as regular makeup pretty often as I find that the medium matches my skin tone better than anything from bellaphoria. Check ingredients- not all of their products are safe. The exact product I have linked should be safe, but I guinea pigged it based on the ingredients list and didn’t contact the manufacturer.
  • 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara– The mascara is the only product I know is corn safe. It is *not* gluten free but I don’t seem to react to gluten near my eyes, only ingested.

Environmental Trigger Protection Products (Gloves and Masks)

  • Powder-Free Nitrile Gloves – Many brands may work but those are the exact ones I use. I wash my hands with safe soap after the gloves are on to get any  possible manufacturer residue off. I prepare food with these gloves on and have never reacted to the food because of it. Update 2014: The Costco brand powder free nitrile gloves work fine too, and are WAY cheaper.
  • I Can Breathe brand carbon filter mask. Update 1/27: I am now reacting to the new removable coconut-based filters for these masks. I now prefer the VogMask both for appearance and function.
  • VogMask n99 CV and Vogmask N99 C2V. I wear size Medium.  More info on sizing here. You can’t fully wash these masks because soaking the built-in filter with water will ruin the activated carbon.  The filter portion of it is fine for me out of the box, however the cloth strip around the edge that holds the whole thing together makes my face itch, and sometimes the material of the outside of the mask “smells funny” to me. To deal with the itchy cloth, I get a faucet running and hold the edges under the stream and scrub at it with my fingers, then hang it on a doorknob to dry. Once it’s dry,  I stick the whole thing in my back jeans pocket and walk around like that for a day, the warmth of my butt removes any chemical smell from the mask. This works with everything except those velvety ones that just smell weird to this day. Yes, I did just recommend using your butt to *remove* scent from an item. Any other way you have to get it warm but not too hot for several hours should work fine, I just find my back pocket convenient. Here’s a longer explanation of why I use this particular one and what it does and doesn’t help me with.
  • 3M Half Facepiece Respirator with  the  3M 60926 Multi Gas Filter Cartridges. I got this for heavier chemical & allergen exposures than the vogmask n99 can help with, however I have not used it for this purpose to see how much more effective it is. I got this product from someone who is MUCH more chemically reactive than me and believe that it will help far more than the vogmask, I just so far choose to avoid anything that the vogmask can’t handle.  I needed to air out the respirator portion of this for weeks before being able to put it on my face, it smelled strongly of plastic to me. Now that it’s been wiped down and aired out, I can wear it and the filters without having reactions to the mask or cartridges.

Personal Care Products

I make most of my my own body products. Recipes can be found here.

  • DoTerra Clear Skin Topical Formula (affiliates link) – This doesn’t prevent acne but I find it helps a LOT for clearing it up once it starts. I get acne as an allergic reaction so this is a huge breakthrough for me.
  • Karlin’s Finest Baking Soda (for ingestion and personal care, bought at my local co-op)
  • Gluten Free Savonerrie liquid castile soap. (NOT coconut free.)
  • Desert Essence Tea Tree Tooth Tape – waxed with bees wax. I don’t react.
  • beeswax pastilles from Mountain Rose Herbs
  • Desert Essence jojoba oil
  • NOW brand jojoba oil
  • NOW brand castor oil
  • NOW shea butter
  • Mountain Rose Herbs shea butter
  • Mountain Rose Herbs cocoa butter (topical only though it is food grade)
  • Mountain Rose Herbs tamanu oil
  • Young Living and Native American Nutritionals essential oils (check to make sure they are steam distilled, not solvent extracted.) Other oils may be safe, those are just the ones I use. NOTE: These oils can be triggers for anyone with scent sensitivity including those with mast cell disorders. Try with caution and please be aware that others around you may react to the scents if you wear them!
  • zinc oxide powder- non-nano only. I ordered some random stuff that I didn’t do any research on other than to know it did not contain nano particles, so I’m not saying which brand because I don’t trust it necessarily.
  • titaniuim dioxide powder – I ordered some random stuff from Amazon and it seems fine, but not linking it because I did no research.
  • Amazing Herbs Black Cumin Seed Cold-Pressed Oil (topical only)
  • Bentonite Clay – Detox Clay Powder from Living Clay Company

Cleaning Products

And of course, I also make a lot of my own cleaning products. Recipes here.

Household supplies

  • Paper Towels: unpaper towels, and also the Kirkland brand of paper towels from Costco
  • Kleenex: handkerchiefs
  • Napkins: cloth napkins
  • Cotton balls: reusable cotton rounds
  • Toilet paper: Scott Tissue 100, regular (not extra soft)
  • Trash bags: Glad tall kitchen drawstring bags. (I don’t react to those but doubt they are safe for everyone)
  • Q-tips: store brands have all been fine for me so far
  • Cookware: Glass, stainless, and enameled cast iron. I want things that will come completely clean if unsafe food comes into contact with them.
  • Bakeware: I don’t do much baking these days due to having no safe flours, but I have been using pyrex and anchor hocking glass baking dishes and silpat and fox run brand silicone baking mats.  I also use any old brand of aluminum foil successfully, though I don’t use it *often*.
  • Utensils: Silicone.
  • Blender: BlendTec -There are a number of high powered blenders out there. This is the one I got,but if I had to do it over again I might go for the much cheaper Ninja. Suffice it to say that I really do think that with this allergy you are going to WANT a blender that is capable of more than your average Oster. Here is a brief overview of the options out there.

A note on silicone: There are some questions about the safety of silicone bakeware. The conclusion so far is that it seems relatively safe but there just haven’t been many studies done.  With respect to a corn allergy, one thing you’d want to worry about would be whether the cheaper silicone items could have corny fillers and dyes. Additionally it is important to note that silpats (which I use and happily)  are actually fiberglass coated in silicone, so you might want to avoid using a pizza cutter or sharp knife on your silpat.

Food Storage

I try to go with glass over plastic and when I store in glass I try not to let the food touch the lids.

  • Anchor Hocking TrueSeal Glass Storage
  • Pyrex Bake & Storage Glassware
  • Mason Jars- for fridge, shelf, and even freezer. I also eat soup out of mason jars.. I’ve found that many beer coozies will stretch to fit over a mason jar, so I freeze my soup in the jars, then microwave them still in the jars and slip a coozy over to insulate while I eat it.
  • Mason jar lids:  the bpa-free Ball brand canning lids contain a corn-contaminated resin and are NOT safe. I personally have been able to store non-canned foods using these lids so long as I don’t boil the jar and melt the resin, but this is a dangerous game. Some options for storage lids are:
    • Eco Jarz stainless storage lids (I haven’t tried this brand, so please do your own research)
    • Ball plastic storage caps (NOT water tight!)
    • Turning the regular canning lids upside down so that the resin doesn’t touch the food. (This only helps if you don’t react to touching the resin, which some do.)
  • FoodSaver brand vacuum bags – other brands may safe but have not been vetted by anyone. Anything made from plastic can be dusted with corn starch or made with corn-derived plastic.
  • Ziplock Brand Bags – UPDATE: Recently Ziploc released a new “easy open tab” on all of their bags, and when they did this, the plastic of the bag itself changed texture. A couple of the *most* sensitive people have reported reactions while many are still using them safely.
  • Ziplock brand “slider” bags.  Storage and freezer, all sizes. These are working for me still but reactions have been reported.
  • Cling film: Berry Plastics “Omnifilm” 12″ roll, 5000 ft. Item # J820340.  Box E0452, UPC 709411 27245 6 – I do not buy this for home although I’m going to try soon, but the shop I buy cheese from uses it and it’s the first I’ve found that I’ve not reacted to.
  • Aluminum foil: I have only ever tried good old Reynolds brand, and it works for me and many others. There are totally possibilities for aluminum foil to be corny, so try cautiously.

Cooking Fats

Spices/Herbs

For the most part I try to use herbs that are fresh from specific vendors at the farmers market or my own garden. I dry and store them for the winter. I plan to trial some more pre-packaged spices soon but it hasn’t been a priority as I have a very short safe list otherwise.

Salt

  • Himalayan pink salt, bought in large blocks intended for salt-plate cooking. I rinse them under water for 3-5 minutes then let them dry, then use a very HUGE mortar and pestle intended for making guacamole to whack off chunks and break them up into grinder-sized pieces. I have eventually reacted to every pre-ground salt, so this is how I have to do it.

Vegetables/Fruits

At this time I am am *mostly* eating fruits and vegetables from specific local vendors at the farmers market. These are vendors that I have talked with and determined that they use practices that work for me allergywise. (For ideas on what questions to ask, reference Where’s the Corn in Foods? and this awesome list of questions.) I do have just a couple of grocery store items I can eat, and then there are a couple of items I mail order away for because it is easier than finding them safe locally. There are also just a few items that I have discovered I can eat only if I grow them myself, mostly root vegetables, because the  organic fertilizers that folks are using are problematic for me. Not sure if that is for corn reasons or what.

General advice about asking questions of farms: Check about the spray status of *each* crop, as different plants will have different possible issues. For example,  in my area squash,pole beans, and eggplants have powdery mildew issues and may be sprayed with a certified organic spray for that. Brassicas (like broccoli) may have pest issues during the hot months that will decimate a crop in a day, but do not have these issues in winter, so cabbage from the same farm may be unsafe in summer but safe in winter, or may be intermittently unsafe in winter since they are selling a mix of new plantings and heads that were planted in summer. On the other hand, some crops like peppers that are resistant to these issues may not be.  To complicate things more, the microclimate may vary between farms even if they are relatively close together, so they may face different issues and use different methods. Ask about sprays a few different ways- Often people are accustomed to answering questions from the perspective of toxicity or general safety, and will reply that they don’t “do anything” to a crop, when they mean they don’t do anything *toxic* to it.  Something that works for me is to just ask them about whether a specific plant is pretty hardy or if it’s susceptible to blight or pests, and how they deal with that.

Mail Order Fruits & Veggies

  • Chaffin Family Orchards – Citrus fruit and raw/uncured olives to cure yourself. The pre-pressed olive oil is NOT safe.
  • Rancho Charanda Citrus Ranch –  So far everything I’ve tried from them (citrus, dragon fruit, cactus fruit) has been safe for me.
  • Flying Grand Ranch – Citrus fruit and avocados.  *UPDATE Feb 2016* – Some reactions reported to the navel oranges. We don’t know why. You *must* ask them to not wash your fruit, or they will wash them in corny white vinegar. Usually once you tell them once they remember each time, but it’s good to check every time anyway.

From Local Farms

Note that these foods are subject to seasonal availability, so it is very important that I buy extra and preserve while they are available. All items must be spray free. Fertilizer seems to only matter for items that grow below the ground our touch the ground. Items that are co-grown with corn are a problem for me, and during corn harvest season anything that is even transported on a truck with corn I react to. As much as possible, I avoid farms that also grow corn.

  • Leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, pole beans, peas: Spray free. Fertilizer does not seem to be not a very big problem with items that grow above the ground.
  • Pomme Fruits (apples, pears, quince)- Mineral/kaolin clay is okay for me if I peel them, but not others. My first-safest vendor uses poultry to control bugs on his apples. My second safest vendor is not organic but sprays once before the fruit buds and not again later. The certified organic folks often spray their organic pest repellents several times throughout the season, coating the fruit in the corn-based solvent/coating agents used to make the repellent stick. If the fruit itself has been sprayed with anything, organic or not, there is usually an issue.
  • Stone Fruits (peaches, apricots, plums, cherries) – Similar to above, but these fruits are very prone to mold in our area, especially cherries. >Late in the season, bags may be used to line the fruit boxes that are either dusted with corn starch or have an antimicrobial coating.
  • Berries – Spray free. U-pick if possible because the packaging can be corny. More info here. 
  • Mushrooms, grown on sawdust. More on how mushrooms can be corny.

Grown Myself (Curently this should probably be read as, “stuff I *could* eat if I didn’t suck at gardening.)

  • All root vegetables.

I seem to have an unusual amount of troubles with foods that grow below the ground. I believe this is because the certified organic fertilizers many farmers use contain corn based preservatives like citric acid, and those that simply use animal manure still feed their animals some corn. I am still working out what the parameters are for safety for myself. So far using NO fertilizer results in root vegetables I can eat, but very low crop yields. Like, my last attempt I got about as many potatoes as I planted.  (boo) But they were safe. (yay)

From the Grocery Store (all items organic, unwaxed, and not packaged in any kind of plastic bags or wrap, however I may be getting lucky with if and what kinds of sprays or fungicides are being used. Your mileage may vary depending on your sensitivities and the suppliers for your particular store)

  • grapefruit (organic, unwaxed, ungassed)
  • lemons (organic, unwaxed, ungassed- I never eat the zest, only use the juice) (I react to these occasionally and just wait until they have a new batch and can usually have them again.)
  • limes (organic, unwaxed, ungassed)

Meat/Protein sources

  • Chicken (custom processed, not corn fed)
  • Beef (custom processed, not corn fed)
  • Lamb  (custom processed, not corn fed)
  • Shellfish (local, pulled direct from the water and only kept on ice)
  • In-Shell Walnuts from a private distributor.   Sorry, I am working on a new publicly available mail-order source but currently do not have one. I have reacted to in-shell walnuts from many orchards that claim don’t spray, and have reacted to all shelled nuts, ever.  I keep the walnuts in the freezer until I eat them so they don’t mold. Yes, it takes up a lot of freezer space. Yes, cracking them is labor intensive. I do it anyway.

Sweeteners

  • A few local honeys. (questions to ask)
  • Honey from Sunny Honey Co – ONLY the 12 oz sizes and larger as the smaller jars are sanitized with unsafe cleaners. I reacted to the raspberry blossom and sweet clover. I have tried and done well with: moses lake wildflower, fireweed, buckwheat blossom, maple blossom, blackberry blossom, coriander blossom. I reacted to pumpkin blossom but believe it is corn safe as others have tolerated. I am allergic to pumpkins.
  • Maple syrup from Patterson Farms. The defoamer is heavy cream.
  • Maple Syrup from Sugar Maple Farms. They use no defoamer at all.  I have only tried the plastic jugs not the glass jars, and do okay with them.

Baking Ingredients

  • none at this time. Lost the cocoa powder sometime in 2013 and don’t really know why.

Beverages

  • Tea- I am tolerating the teas from Mountain Rose Herbs in the 4oz cellulose packaging. The larger packages are in craft paper bags lined with corn PLA and I react to those. I personally can only do the black and oolong teas (except the Kumaon variety, but don’t know why) but I think this is a separate sensitivity and has to do with how black vs green tea is processed. I have not been able to do any herbal teas from MRH and I don’t know if that’s corn or another sensitivity.

Cheeses

NOTE: Packaging is a HUGE problem with cheese. Many/most plastic wraps are either dusted with corn starch or in some other way are corny and cause a massive reaction. Additionally the surface cleaners and disinfectants that many shops will use will contaminate cheese. I happen to have completely lucked out and found a local shop (Metropolitan Market in West Seattle) that uses products that are okay for me. The same chain but a different shop (Bellevue) is NOT safe for me. So finding the cheese itself is only half the problem. Less than half. For items like the Herve Mons Emmental, the wheel is something like 150-200lbs, so ordering the whole wheel is probably not reasonable unless you have a HUGE group buy.

  • Kirkland Isigny St Mere brand grass-fed Brie. This cheese is grass fed in summer but the cows are supplemented with grain in winter, and the grain surely contains corn. I still do great with it. NOTE: I have pulled this due to an intolerance reaction- I do not think the cheese is corny but I think it may be soy or gluten contaminated.
  • Herve Mons St Nuage cheese – It’s very ripe and VERY rich. It does not have the “stinky” bite like the camembert below but it’s still a bit more ripened than the Isigny brie.
  • Monte Enebro goat cheese from Spain. – This, like the other cheeses other than the Isigny, is very expensive.
  • Herve Mons Camembert– This one smells a bit like feet, so if you are not a stinky cheese fan, stay away. 🙂
  • Herve Mons Emmental –  This is a hard cheese, similar to Gruyere or a very aged swiss in flavor. Note: You MUST find someone who can cut and wrap this for you safely as the whole wheel is over 100 lbs!!!
  • Stagionata Pecorina Ricotta Salata from Sardinia- This is the “cheapest” of the imported cheeses. it is a fresh made with only sheep milk, salt, and whey, which is then aged until hard. The link is not where I buy it from, it’s just the most specific link I could find that showed what it was.
  • Vallee d’Aspe Ossau-Iraty raw sheeps milk cheese. This is a semi-hard aged cheese, think gouda more than extra sharp cheddar, with a very rich creamy, somewhat nutty flavor. I do not buy it from the seller I just linked, I get it locally.
  • The plastic wrap they use that is safe for me is: Berry Plastics “Omnifilm” 12″ roll, 5000 ft. Item # J820340.  Box E0452, UPC 709411 27245 6

Grilling Supplies

More info on grilling safety. 

Supplements

  • Pure Encapsulations methylfolate.
  • Pure Encpasulations adenosyl/hydroxy b12. Re-pasting the comment from the methylcobalamin from the same manufacturer due to frequent questions: The B12 is still grown on corn glucose, but the inactive ingredients are corn free. I am getting  away with it corn-wise. There is no b12 out there that is not grown on corn sugar unfortunately. If there is, please comment and let me know!
  • Pure Encapsulations Zinc 15 (11/2/2013)-  Only this specific Zinc. Other varieties such as Zinc 30 have corny ingredients.
  • Jarrow Pantothenic acid.   Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm; gelatin is beef-derived.
  • Jarrow Mag-Mind.  Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm; gelatin is beef-derived.
  • Jarrow B-Right.  Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm. Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose is from pine. Good news for those with MTHFR: Jarrow has updated their formula to ONLY contain quatrefolic rather than a mixture of quatrefolic and folic acid.
  • Pure Encapsulations D3- 5,000 iu and 10,000 iu – the capsule form only. I have issues with the liquid forms due to a coconut and palm allergy so have no idea on their safeness for corn.
  • Pure Encapsulations methylcobalamin. There are several varieties of this that contain corn derivatives. Only the one linked is safe. The B12 is still grown on corn glucose, but the inactive ingredients are corn free. I am getting  away with it corn-wise. There is no b12 out there that is not grown on corn sugar unfortunately. If there is, please comment and let me know! I have quit using it due to this form of B12 being a problem for me for genetic reasons, but leaving it here because it’s relatively corn-safe for me.

Medications

  • Twinlab Quercetin Plus C– vitamin C is from Sago Palm, stearic acid is from palm, quercetin is derived from a legume (reference post on FB group)
  • Jarrow Quercetin. Cellulose is derived from pine; mg. stearate is palm.
  • Maxi-flav pure quercetin powder. This can only be ordered by practitioners. I get it through my compounding pharmacy. What I get comes in a jar with just the pure quercetin powder from the bark of the Japanese Pagoda tree, with no inactive ingredients and no capsules. Scientific Botanicals is no longer in business. 😦
  • Compounded diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Compounded hydroxyzine Hcl (atarax)
  • Compounded cromolyn sodium (gastrocrom)
  • Compounded levocetirizine (Xyzal)
  • Compounded ketotifen fumarate.  This med is one that takes 11-16 weeks to show effectiveness and has some difficult effects during ramp up (fatigue/sedation). It can only be compounded in the united states as there is no major brand name manufacturer distributing it here.   Reference 1 – Reference 2 –  Reference 3
  • Compounded ranitidine (Zantac) – as needed

On having an “invisible” illness.

Not all allergic reactions are visible. In fact the worst and most dangerous of my allergic reactions are *not* visible, because they involve the inside of my throat and mouth, my lungs, and my brain. You can’t see any of those things, but I will stop breathing all the same.

Many folks I know who have life-threatening allergic reactions experience only neurological or gastrointestinal symptoms which are in fact incredibly dangerous if allowed to continue, but not in any way visible. Getting people to understand what they go through and believe that the precautions they take are necessary and not just paranoid or attention-seeking is incredibly difficult in that kind of situation. Even well-meaning and otherwise reasonable loved ones will often conclude hypochondria, except that it *isn’t* hypochondria if you are actually sick!

Once upon a time, three years ago now, I had a severe and visible allergic reaction to the tiniest trace of corn derivative. It actually didn’t turn out to be that dangerous (never progressed into any internal issues), but it *could* have. At the time I took pictures because I thought it was weird and actually kind of hilarious in a sick way, but it turned out to be a very good way to get people to understand that yes, this allergy is real, and yes, it is possible to be *that* sensitive.

angioedema

If you or a loved one are an allergy sufferer, and have a visible reaction, I highly encourage you to document. Obviously do what you need to do to assure your safety first, but get pictures if you possibly can. It may come in handy later.

Allergy Accessories: Epipen Carriers

When ya gotta carry an epipen, you might as well do it in style. I have a few different things I do for hauling around my Allergy Accoutrements.

I keep two epipens in my bag at all times. I keep them in a waterproof Pelican 1030 Micro Case along with a lip balm tin containing compounded Benadryl capsules. I taped the prescription for the benadryl to the top of the tin so that any official type person can see what the pills are. I thought keeping it in a waterproof case might be overkill, but the day after I finally got it, I had a major water bottle leak in my purse and would have lost $50 of Benadryl, if not the $250 of epipens.

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For longer trips, I keep two *more* epipens, plus spare inhalers, and a spare bottle of Benadryl in another, larger Pelican 1050 Micro Case.

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And for concerts and other short outings where it really isn’t feasible to carry a big purse or backpack, I bring the following items in a utility belt:
leather epi pen holster

  • 1 EpiPen 
  • Lip Balm case of Benadryl
  • Albuterol Inhaler
  • Small squeeze bottle of liquid soap for washing hands
  • Carbon filter face mask kept in a ziploc bag, for aiborne corn: popcorn, fog machines, ethanol fumes, or people wearing a ton of perfume.
  • A black bandana/handkerchief for wiping hands, blowing nose, whatever.
  • If I think I’ll need it, a flattened end of a roll of toilet paper, because yes, toilet paper is often corny, and that is not a reaction you want to have.

leather epi pen holsterleather epi pen holster

My setup is very rock and roll, but there are MANY ways to make carrying this kind of stuff around cute. There are many, many manufacturers of utility belts on Etsy and elsewhere- most of them seem to specifically mention being for Burning Man. I got my utility belt from Gekko London via their Etsy Shop. The workmanship is quality, the pockets were the right size for what I needed, and bonus: The total price for the belt, including shipping to the US, was only 47 GBP! That’s a *steal* for that kind of work, I tell you!

My epipen holster is also from Etsy, specifically from Dennis Doaty Leathercraft. A word of caution: This holster looks badass because it looks like a weapon holster. That’s intentional. Security guards will think it is a weapon. If you are going to wear it in to an event where a weapon would be a problem, walk UP to security holding the epipen separate from the empty holster in your hand, and keep them in your hands until you are all the way through security. Otherwise you will need to tell every single security guard on your way in what it is, and some of them may actually lay hands on you to find out what it is. Can you tell I know this from experience? You may wish to just get a less badass looking epipen case. There are still lots of cute and less threatening-looking options out there.

 

A Letter to My Friends

This started as a “note” on Facebook and sat around in draft format for months.  I decided to make it a blog post. 

Hey friends. I really appreciate the questions of concern and expressions of sympathy that I’ve gotten from people since my health took a serious dive 5 months ago, and I do not want anyone for one second to feel that their interest in my well-being is not appreciated. It most definitely is.  Having this kind of intense personal disaster has really showed me how caring and wonderful people are really capable of being, and has also showed me how many of the folks I have gotten to know over the last couple of years are actually my friends, not just fair-weather acquaintances.

So first, thank you SO MUCH to my friends for being awesome human beings and making me feel truly loved and like part of a community.  I love you right back, and will do my level best to be there for you in the same way you’ve been there for me.

Now that I’ve said that mushy stuff, I want to tell you a few things about what it’s like to be me. Some of it can be generalized to all chronic health conditions, but I don’t want to claim to speak for anyone but myself, you know?

My hope in sharing this information is that you can use it to be an ally and educate others around you when you hear them being insensitive towards people with severe food allergies and other chronic and long-term health problems, and so that you can possibly avoid saying stuff that, while well-meaning and well-received when coming from you, is also the kind of thing that less awesome people say to me all of the time, and don’t mean well when they say it.

Things Not To Say to Me

“Are you feeling better?”

This is a great question to ask of someone who has had a cold or the flu, or possibly even a surgery to repair a one-time injury. But for myself and many others, our health condition is NOT one that is going to magically go away. For some conditions, a miraculous recovery is not outside of the realm of possibility, but it’s usually extremely unlikely. While I understand that this question means that you care about how I am doing and hope that I am doing well, this particular phrasing makes it feel like you actually expect that I am going to suddenly STOP being allergic to the entire world and start having a “normal” life again. Warm fuzzy sentiments aside, there is always an undercurrent of alienation at having my situation so massively misunderstood.

Unless of course I actually did just have a cold or the flu, in which case thanks for asking.

“But you *look* healthy.”

Thank you for the compliment. It’s a good self-esteem boost.  And I do genuinely take it as a compliment when it comes from friends. But please understand that other people have used this phrase to imply (or state outright) that because I look healthy I am healthy and should quit claiming otherwise. You can understand why it’s unpleasant to hear someone I care about utter that phrase.

“I really know how you feel.”

Actually, none of y’all have ever said this to me, and I consider that an indication of my excellent taste in friends. But, just in case it ever occurs to you to do so, please consider carefully.

Unless you have:

  • Eaten two foods, and only two foods, without spices or cooking oils, for weeks on end because everything else made your throat close up .
  • Had to carefully plan your weekly shopping trips because you can only buy food you can eat from specific vendors at the weekly (or bi-weekly, for some people) farmers’ market and would literally face going hungry if you didn’t buy enough for the coming week.
  • Had to consider carefully what to bring with you every time you leave your house because you can’t eat or drink anything that you didn’t bring yourself, not even the water.

Unless you’ve been in that position (and actually a number of people I know have: it seems to be an unfortunately common experience for people with severe food allergies) then no, no you don’t know how it feels. I understand that you sympathize and that you can imagine how it feels, but no, you don’t know. 

How My Life is Different Now

This list is not exhaustive, obviously. It’s just a collection of the more outlandish changes I’ve had to make/limitations I’ve had to accept in my life due to my corn allergy.  I’m not writing this up to gain sympathy, though I do spend plenty of time feeling sorry for myself. I’m just trying to give you an insight into how many basic daily tasks are affected by such a non-exotic health condition.

I have trouble finding water to drink.

Most brands of bottled water use vegetable (corn) fibers in the plastic bottles, and often use corn-based chemicals to disinfect the water. Even a corn-based antimicrobial agent in a water filter will leech enough corn into the water to cause me an issue. Seattle tapwater is so far safe for me, but not all tap water is depending on how it’s treated. I don’t know a lot of people with water softeners, but water softener salts also contain corn.

I cannot drink *anything*  from a glass or cup at a bar.

Actually, I can’t drink or eat anything from the dishes in a bar or restaurant because I am allergic to the soaps and sanitizers used on the glassware, and seem to also have random problems with plastic cups, either the plastic itself or something they are dusted with.  If I am at a show and need to drink water, I have to go drink from the bathroom tap,and hope that the tapwater is not treated with corn-based chemicals, which it sometimes is. The one smidgen of hope here is that if I can identify a safe pre-bottled beverage, like a cider or a gluten free beer, and found a bar that carried said beverage, I could have that.

I can’t eat out at a restaurant, ever.

That was covered above, but it is significant enough that I felt it deserved a bullet point. Even if they miraculously used a dish detergent that was corn-free, most cooking oils are cross-contaminated with corn, and there’s no way they could get their pans clean enough to be safe for me. Related to that, I also can’t use dishes from other peoples’ houses unless I rewash them with my own dish soap.

I can’t see movies in the theater.

My allergy is airborne, so places with popcorn are no good for me. While I might be able to make some arrangements to visit a theater while it is not busy and take plenty of antihistamines ahead of time, the prospect is risky and so it’s not something I can do often.

I can’t eat most produce and have very few available protein sources.

We’re talking whole, organic foods here. Organic produce is waxed, gassed, and sprayed with corn-based “organic” substances.  Organic, pastured meat is sprayed with organic corn-based disinfectants before carving and packaging, and then placed in packages with soaker pads that are soaked in corn-based antimicrobial agents and then wrapped in plastic that is dusted with corn starch. Beans + grains would be a good option for protein, but I seem to react to those too. I haven’t yet figured out if this is a separate allergy or contamination in the fields/storage facilities/processing facilities. So no, just because it “seems” natural or organic doesn’t mean I can eat it.

Going to crowded places is a health hazard for me.

Cleaning products, perfumes, laundry detergent, lotions, and conditioners are all full of corn-based chemicals, even the “all natural” stuff. Going to an art gallery, a concert, or even  just the grocery store usually leaves me with at least a mild headache, if not a full on hay fever-like reaction.

There is a nonzero chance that in a medical emergency, health care providers will kill me while trying to save me.

There is corn-derived chemical in lactated ringers solution, which is the IV fluid that hospitals give you if you are dehydrated and before a number of medical procedures, and a corn sugar (dextrose) is often added to that solution. There is also corn sugar and other corn-derived chemicals in many other injectables, and corn starches and sugars in most prescription drugs. I have never been injected with dextrose to know what would happen, but considering that my reaction to ingested dextrose is anaphylactic, I suspect an intravenous dose would be disastrous.

This is probably the way my life is going to be forever.

A miraculous recovery isn’t *completely* impossible, and it does sound like it has happened that people have been as sick as me and come back from it to a more reasonable level of sensitivity. But I absolutely cannot assume or plan for that being the case. So this is my life for now. The best I can hope for is to find more efficient ways to cope with the accommodations I have to make so that I can go back to focusing on living life instead of just surviving.

Thank You For Your Patience

My other hope in sharing this is that you will be understanding about the fact that I cannot seem to STFU about my allergy. Because it pervades every single aspect of my life, the topic feels relevant to most conversations.  And since it’s on my mind a lot, it’s pretty hard not to talk about it, even if I don’t really want to. I often feel self-conscious about talking about it, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

So if you’ve actually read to the end of this, I hope that you’ll understand why that is and have some patience with me when I go off on a tear about how corn is in absolutely everything and I can’t go anywhere or eat anything ever again.