Corn Questions.
December 13, 2014 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I have issues digesting corn, and also digesting information related to digesting corn! Do you have the answers to these corny (had to) questions?

I did an elimination diet after having issues with some foods. I discovered corn was causing issues with my sensitive digestive tract like un-fun tummy issues, bloating, and general ickiness.

I'm so confused because all of the info I can find online is about having a corn allergy - for example anything derived from corn will cause an allergic reaction. But then I read somewhere - that I can no longer find - that certain things don't contain corn protein which can be what some people have issues with.

1) Is corn protein a thing? If so, what has it and what doesn't?

2) Have you had issues with certain corn things and not other corn things (corn syrup vs corn flour). Did it relate to corn protein? I feel like I've been okay with things with dextrose (corn sugar) but I don't drink them often after avoiding corn.

I know I can just try to add back in corn syrup things like candy and see how I do, but I'd still like to know more about these items, since corn items are in everything (I'm sure I'm still eating a small amount of corn derived things here and there anyway.)

PS: You are not my doctor, etc. Yes, I have been to doctors and done many many tests. They are aware of the foods I'm eating and not eating. The medical side of this is covered.
posted by Crystalinne to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to this link, the thing that doesn't have corn protein in it that's made from corn is corn oil.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:39 PM on December 13, 2014

All plants, including corn, contain proteins and often (but not in every case) when you're allergic to some food it's some protein or proteins in that food that triggers the allergic reaction. (I'm conflating allergy and intolerance here even though they may not be the same thing.)

According to treehorn+bunny's link corn oil isn't allergenic because it's very highly refined and doesn't contain any protein. Corn syrup, especially organic or non-high fructose corn syrup may have enough residual protein to cause problems. High fructose corn syrup may be like corn oil and not contain enough protein to trigger a problem so that may be why sometimes corn sweeteners don't bother you. It's also possible that the amount of protein in corn sweeteners in the amount you're eating aren't enough to bother you.

Certainly if you're allergic to some corn protein you'll probably have problems with anything containing corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, etc. Also like the link says, any generic "vegetable" label listing very likely contains corn.
posted by sevenless at 10:03 PM on December 13, 2014

Yup, I have a similar issue. I can eat trace amounts of corn derivatives without issue. I can eat small infrequent amounts of *corn* : corn, corn tortillas, popcorn etc. I rarely eat straight up corn because I don't digest it at all.

Note that I don't eat much processed food, so I'm not eating as much corn derivatives as some do.
posted by jrobin276 at 10:09 PM on December 13, 2014

My daughter is allergic to fresh corn. Corn syrup doesn't bother her at all, nor does any other corn derivative. It's just actual corn, either whole, or processed like into a tortilla.
posted by COD at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2014

I have digestive issues with corn similar to yours but worse (projectile vomiting, aches like one gets with the flu). Alas, ALL corn is the problem for me.

And not just corn - the thing that will make me vomit faster, harder and longer than anything else is distilled vinegar, which in the States is made from corn. (I have, unfortunately and accidentally, had a couple of unintentional double-blind tests on this one. No fun!) I also react to corn oil and bourbon (corn mash).

Corn is, yes, in everything in the US. Corn starch, for example: It's in powdered sugar (to keep it separated). It's often in shredded cheese to keep it separated. It's often in yogurt to thicken it. It's in baking powder to keep the cream of tartar and baking soda from reacting to each other. (That was another accidental double-blind test.) Corn syrup and distilled vinegar are used in most condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.) Cider vinegar is often just distilled vinegar with food coloring.

There are also cases where producers are vague about the ingredients so they can switch things up as need be. "Food starch" can be corn starch, potato starch, or something else. Dextrin, maltodextrin and dextrose are generally made from corn but can be made from other things.

The other challenge with a corn allergy is that formulations change all the time, and corn is not yet a boldfaced allergen. (It may be soon as corn allergies are becoming more common.) Kraft Mac and Cheese was safe for years, but this year they started putting corn starch in it. Trader Joe's Jo-Jos had corn starch, then were corn free for a long time, and this year they started putting corn starch in again. We now read the labels ever single time.

Corn is also very, VERY common in gluten-free products and not just in the States. I went to Australia last month and met an artisanal chocolate producer who used corn syrup in all of her candies in an effort to be gluten free (wheat glucose is often used in Australian sweets).

Corn syrup used to be uncommon overseas. In 2005 when I went to Italy I didn't have to worry about corn syrup. But last month I noticed that many sodas in central Europe had corn syrup in them, as did many sweets (I may never be able to eat stroopwafeln!) Corn syrup has always been common in Japan because that's where they invented it. I looked into buying natto recently (as you do) but could not find any that was not made with corn syrup.

Feel free to DM me on this. It's been a long road of trial and error (painful, 12-hours-of-vomiting error) for me to figure this out, but boy am I a million times healthier!
posted by rednikki at 8:05 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Allergy is SO NOT food intolerance, and that is probably why you're confused from all of your reading. If you think you have a food allergy, you should go to a doctor for testing and in the mean time completely remove that food from your diet. If you think you have a food intolerance, then it's safe to experiment by eating small amounts and building up to figure out what your personal tolerance is.

Let me give you an example: I have one friend who is intolerant of milk products. If he drinks milk or eats things like cheese or ice cream, he will get "gastrointestinal distress"...basically gas and diarrhea, plus the cramping and discomfort that goes along with that. The problem is that his digestive system has trouble processing milk properly, so a lot of it comes out the other end in the wrong condition. The severity of his symptoms are dependent on how much he ate, what he ate (including how pre-processed it was, some pre-processed foods are easier to digest and don't cause problems), and how long it's been since he ate it (symptoms are tied to the progress of the offending food through the digestive system, and usually take a little while to show up).

I have another friend who is allergic to milk. If he eats things like milk chocolate, anything made with or containing milk at all, his throat starts to close and he has trouble breathing, gets light headed, eventually passes out, and could die. The problem is that his immune system thinks milk proteins are dangerous, and will go on a full scale attack if anything associated with milk goes into his body. Symptoms are basically dependent on how much milk was in whatever he came into contact with, cooking or other pre-processing does not change anything, and his symptoms tend to start within 10-15 minutes of eating something bad.

The good news for you is that it does sound like you have an intolerance (although I am not a doctor and you should talk to one). If you have an intolerance, then there probably are corn-derivative foods which are perfectly fine for you, because they contain little or none of whatever it is you have trouble digesting. You probably also have some amount of corn that you can eat without ill effect (and some amount past that with only tolerable problems, such as a small amount of loose poop). And I hate to tell you this, but once you've determined that you really have an intolerance, the best way to find your limits is to experiment with small amounts in controlled situations, such as trying one type of corn product a week.

(Whereas if you have an allergy, the best way to find your limits is to completely avoid whatever you're allergic to except when directly under the supervision of a doctor.)
posted by anaelith at 6:02 AM on December 15, 2014

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