Dear Dr. Oz,
My name is Nicole Jurain and I am the mom of a corn allergic child. About 2 years ago I started a web site called Corn Freedom and also a Facebook page with the same name. Cornfreedom.com has received 30,000 hits so far and my facebook page has over 700 members.
Several months ago I started asking my members to please send me letters about their struggles. I have been collecting those letters to send to you. Yesterday, October 16, 2012 you actually mentioned corn allergies during your show. This was a great acknowledgement for our community. As you read the letters attached you will see how many doctors have no idea about corn allergies, how many of us are misdiagnosed and mislead.
Our son responds to corn neurologically. This is very common and there are many children who are diagnosed with sensory issues or Autism who actually have food intolerances. Our son becomes combative, depressed, anxious, Autistic-like, dyslexic, hyper and has been diagnosed with ADHD but only some times (which is confusing to a parent). When he was about 2 years old I was directed to an allergist by way of a friend. I had to fight with my doctor, he wanted us to see a dermatologist for the bumps on our son’s cheeks, I told him I wanted to find the cause before I treated our son’s symptoms with steroid creams.
Our son is 11 years old now, we still fight doctors and have to educate where ever we go so our son can be properly cared for. He cannot go to public school due to the level of environmental corn contaminants in the building, for example; the cleaning products, perfumes, detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, hair spray, tempera paint, finger paint, glues, dry erase markers, colored chalk, the cafeteria…the list is extensive.
You will read about more in the letters attached. Examples include mom’s who are told that their children need to be off breast milk and on formula because their milk is making the babies sick. These children are ending up on feeding tubes. The real reason for this reflux disorder is found out after mom’s research on their own, CORN. If they simply were told to alter their diet so the breast milk was clear of allergens the babies would be fine. Of the many moms I have helped throughout my short time here as Corn Freedom is vast. These children with proper help of elimination diets for the moms, and proper care from Environmental Allergists, these babies grow out of their food intolerances by the time they are about 2 years old. This happened for me with our second child due to my diligence in figuring out what was wrong with our first son.
We would love for you to bring more awareness to what it’s like to have a corn allergy, how it can affect us and that it’s real. We all have been made to feel like we are making things up, blaming allergies to explain our children’s strange behaviors. Corn allergies are a very real issue. Every medication whether it’s prescribed or over the counter contains corn. We’re terrified to have to go to the hospital, IV medicine and anesthesia, hand sanitizers used by all E.R. staff, the detergent to wash the sheets and gowns, hospital food, “green” medical instruments. I have spoken with a few E.R. doctors they honestly have no idea what to do for a corn allergy. Their initial response is not to give a patient anything with corn syrup in it. They do not know about the list of over 80 derivatives that do not use the word CORN as an ingredient. Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Ethylene, Polypropylene, corn is in our vaccinations to help grow the strain and preserve it.
So many people are suffering from undiagnosed corn allergies that need to know immediately that their symptoms are common and not in their head as they have been told over and over again by their doctors. They are not crazy and they need to seek the proper medical attention. My goal is to get corn labeled as an allergy ingredient so our food sources and hygiene products can be properly chosen. With your help we feel we can get the word out and start giving these people a chance to really live again.
Founder of Corn Freedom
Did you know that your compounded medication recipes are older then 20 years? Did you know all the new medications in the past 20 years are kept under patent by the companies so your compounding pharmacist cannot get the ingredient to create your medication? This creates many issues for you. 1. some bacterias are resistent to the 20 year old antibiotics. 2. medical advancements have created new me…dications that pin point a specific bacteria and works faster to stop an infection, like the flesh eating disease, Amoxicillin, not the best choice. 3. Lyme Disease can be quickly combated with newer medications then Amoxicillan. 4. If you or your child would benefit from ADHD or ADD medication, you have to use the Ritalin 20 year old recipe that has been abandoned by other drug companies. IF you have to go to the hospital for an emergency situation they will only have medications, creams/topicals, injections, that contain corn in the ingredients as a binder, filler, preservative, color, flavor…
To whom it may concern:
This letter is regarding corn not being recognized as a top allergen. My daughter suffers from Eosinophilic Esophagitis and is allergic to all but 3 foods.
We are forever reading labels and corn is one of the worst offenders to her. Corn, corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin – you name it. ANY form of corn we have to avoid!
If she consumes corn in any form, she is extremely sick and this also causes her eosinophil count to go up as well. She has EoE, which causes her body to think food is a parasite and attacks itself. It causes her body to be allergic to almost all food and causes an over abundance of eosinophils (white blood cells) to thrive in her esophagus. This destroys her insides.
There is no cure and we will battle this for the rest of her life.
I beg you to please help get corn on the required list of allergy causing ingredients.
Thank you so much!
- Dear Corn Freedom,
- Trevor was born June 13, 2007. Around 18 months, he started the terrible 2’s. And they just kept getting worse. So bad that at around age 3 ½, I had him evaluated by the local school district. He scored one point away from needing services for Asperger’s. My husband and I, still worried, talked to a psychologist. Our list of complaints were; social isolation, high anxiety, easily frustrated, very loud, impatient, inability to anticipate things, unmotivated, inability to make a decision, hates places with a lot of people, high energy, sleep problems, tummy aches, bored often, short fuse/bad temper, interrupts constantly, easily confused, loses stuff a lot, distractible, difficulty with transitions, yells a lot, demands all of my attention all the time. After testing, he was diagnosed with high anxiety, moderate depression and possible ADHD. He was 4 at this time.Because his brother and sister have multiple food allergies, on a whim, we had him tested. He has many food allergies, but the two we found directly correlated with his behavior the most are corn and soy. Upon removing all his allergens, he is 80% better. Because Trevor is hypersensitive to corn, we have to buy special soap, lotion, laundry detergent and we have to be careful when going out in public. If someone has perfume on or if there is a popcorn machine around, we have to move him away quickly. I have to be prepared just to go to Target as they have a popcorn machine in the store. So I just bite the bullet. He has reacted to our local library and the Phoenix zoo due to cleaners and food smells that contain corn and soy.He is starting kindergarten in 2012. We have decided to homeschool him. In a public school where there are chemicals used to clean, food being prepared, and other children who have corn, soy and other allergens in their school lunches, we don’t think that that environment is conducive of learning. He behavioral reactions would keep him from getting the most of his education.
- Nikki Tomasky Sharp
My story for the Dr. Oz write-in campaign:
My children are both allergic to corn. They are 6 months old and 2.5 years old. Although they test negative to standard skin and blood tests, multiple elimination diets and careful trials of corn containing products with our pediatrician have confirmed that they do not tolerate corn products, regardless of how sincerely a company claims that their product “contains no corn protein.” We discovered my older child’s corn sensitivity when he reacted quite badly to one of the elemental formulas usually suggested for children with severe food issues; the main ingredient was corn syrup solids. We returned to nursing him at 3 months, eliminating all corn from my diet, and my miserable, colicky son turned into a completely different child — one who was actually happy most of the time. I’m sorry to say that we still didn’t realize the can of worms we had discovered.
For a long time, we thought my son was allergic to everything: rice, pears, milk, flour, eggs, salt, etc. It took us months to discover that he wasn’t allergic to everything, it’s just that corn is IN everything — and it doesn’t have to be labeled or disclosed. In fact, he’s not allergic to any of the above foods, when we manage to find them corn free. The hardest part of all of this is that corn doesn’t have to be disclosed as being present in products, since it’s not recognized as a major allergen. According to some companies, it’s not an allergen at all, since the FDA doesn’t require it to be labeled.
Currently, there is no help for the corn-allergic individual. Corn based ingredients aren’t labeled as corn. Corn based processing aids aren’t usually included on ingredient labels at all. Few to none of the foods offered by my local WIC program, Food Bank, or other assistance programs from low-income families are safe for my corn-allergic children. We eat the same 15 foods day in and day out, because it’s the only food we can source safely, and it costs us $600-$800 each month to buy safe food for my family — a family of four with an AGI of 16k last year. Not even medicaid is a fail-safe here, because we have to have my children’s medications specially compounded for them. This usually involves finding a medicine that isn’t processed with corn (no small feet) and then compounding the raw (bulk) active ingredient in a simple water solution. But compounds made using raw ingredients like this are not covered by insurance plans or medicaid. We paid $100 out of pocket last month to treat my son’s ear infection with a corn-free antibiotic, and my daughter’s reflux medicine costs us around $100 each month as well. As if adding insult to injury, we often don’t have prompt access to medicine, because companies do not keep corn information on hand, so it can take weeks to find a safe medicine once we have a diagnosis.
My biggest plea is to get awareness of corn allergy out there, and ask companies to label corn in their products. I’m so scared for my children, because I can’t protect them from corn right now, and they have their whole lives ahead of them. Please help me help them.
Deanna, Lincoln NE
My name is Cathleen Morrison, I am 28 years old. I was diagnosed with a corn allergy in 2008, at the age of 25. I grew up in Germany & Illinois, but I have lived in Nebraska for about 10 years. (And yes, I get that crazy look, followed by: You live in Nebraska?! And you’re allergic to Corn?!) Don’t worry, I still love Cornhusker Football! I was engaged at the time of my diagnosis and am so thankful to have a supportive husband whose life has changed completely with mine and a step daughter who has tried her hardest to embrace all of these changes.
It all started in April of 2008 when my lips began swelling up. It went away, but then my fingers swelled up and were hot to the touch. I didn’t know what was going on so I made an appointment with my primary care physician. I was given antihistamines, but it didn’t get better. The next 5 months or so were a living Hell. I had over 15 Doctor appointments. I was diagnosed with Lupus. I was diagnosed with Angioedema and a few other “diseases.” I spent many hours in the ER due to swelling of my tongue & cheeks and general pain. Because my throat wasn’t swelling, it wasn’t a real emergency. But I can tell you that I was very uncomfortable and very upset. I had horrible gas and bloating. My feet were twice the size. I had aches and pains up and down my arms and legs. All during this time, I was given Prednisone, Augmentin, Antihistamines (these are the ones I remember off the top of my head)… all of which were not helping.
Finally, in September of 2008 I asked my primary care physician to refer me to an allergist because I was doing my own research & being my own advocate and thought it was food allergies. I got the referral. I went. Within 2 hours I had been diagnosed with a corn allergy. As it turns out, all those medicines I was being given contained corn. No wonder I wasn’t feeling better.
At first I cut out the obvious things; corn syrup, corn starch, corn anything… soon I learned that corn was hidden. I actually obtained a list from the web that held over 300 words that mean corn! So, I learned to read labels. Over the last 4 years I feel like I have had to change everything about my life. I used to wear contacts, but my contact solution contained corn. I stopped wearing contacts & changed back to my glasses. Two years after this, my vision corrected itself. I have 20/20 vision now. I don’t know if the corn allergy affected my sight. No professionals were able to tell me if there was a definite connection. Below is a list of the products in my daily life that have had to be substituted with home-made equivalents or I have searched high and low for a corn-free version.
Toothpaste/ floss/ mouthwash
Toilet paper/ other paper products
Cleaning supplies for the home
Dryer sheets/ liquid detergent/ powder detergent
And of course FOOD
Not only have I had to change all of the above, but my family has had to also, for the most part. My husband was using his same old toothpaste, but when he would kiss me, my lips would swell up. He had to change his toothpaste for the sake of kissing his wife! So, while I am the one that suffers the outward signs and behavioral problems, he has had to adjust his lifestyle to keep me safe & happy. My Mom is so amazing to me. When we have family dinners and even on holidays, she makes a version for me that is corn free. She somehow understands how hard this is and even if it’s a pity meal, I’ll take it!
The biggest change for us is eating, in general. I can go out to eat, but I order a salad and bring my own dressing. I try to avoid going out because socially, I feel awkward about it. It sometimes strikes peoples interest, but don’t count on it. It’s not just corn. It’s table salt, vinegar, most premade or highly preserved, boxed or canned goods, cured meat, frozen foods, sweet treats… ugh. So many things I miss. We do have one place, a locally owned little joint called Blue Planet Natural Grill. There are maybe 5 things I can have from here & this where I go for my birthday, anniversaries and eating out with friends. The owner, Jeff and all of his staff, are so friendly and actually take my request seriously when I ask for the whole wheat bun instead of their normal breads. I wish more places were helpful, natural & healthy like this one! (they even have uncured bacon!) Some of our best friends buy us gift cards to Blue Planet for Christmas and birthdays because they know how fun and special it is for us. There are also a couple other places in Omaha that are corn friendly, for me at least. I cook almost every meal in my kitchen. Most things are made from scratch and we eat a lot of meats from Fareway (great store), seafood, vegetables, whole wheats and natural dairy products. Whole Foods & Farmers Markets are a savior! (Even your fresh fruits from the store have wax on them that are derived from corn)
I am becoming more and more sensitive to corn every day. It took my body two and a half years to react to corn in my lotion and shampoo. We have Popcorn Wednesdays at my work and I have to stay out of the lunch room on those days because I get an instant headache. When I do ingest corn or its derivitives, it usually takes me a good 1-3 weeks to feel like myself again. I suffer a lot of different reactions when subjected to corn, but not alays all of them at the same time. The following have occurred;
Swelling of cheeks & tongue (no anaphylaxis shock)
Swelling of fingers, hands, toes, feet, ears
Diarrhea/ Constipation (depends)
Hives on scalp, forehead, arms, legs (especially shins), armpits
Irritability/ Lack of concentration
General anxious feeling
I have had to get all my medications made at a compound pharmacy. Thank God I do not get sick very often, but I always have Antihistamines on hand to help me recover from my reactions when I fail to read a label properly and completely.
My primary doctor & his nurses aren’t medically trained in food allergies and every time I go in I have to explain everything all over again. I have to tell them that I cannot have that medicine they suggested because it has corn in it and it has to be compounded, you cannot use that latex glove on me because it has corn starch on it…. If you aren’t educated, you don’t know, but I think primary care physicians need to have a little more education on food allergies/ topical allergies in general. I had a bad experience with the Allergist I was referred to (Grumpy Old Man) so I am actually in process of finding a new one. I have an appointment next week to get a serious grasp.
Since becoming allergic to corn I have developed sensitivities to rice, oats, bananas (although no latex reactions as of yet), pineapple, apples, oranges, grapes (raisins & wine!), cantaloupe… I’ve been told to check/ did some research on my own to look into an allergy to unripe fruit, of which all of this will be addressed with my 3-4 hour appointment with a new Allergist next week.
I have found Corn Freedom and Shuck Me!- The Corn Allergy Info Page on Facebook which are helpful with tips, reminders and also the sick relief that other people are suffering just like me. While it is becoming a large community I can vouch that as an adult, I have been bullied in reguards to my food allergy. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult it is to deal with this as an adult; where people are stuck in their ways and changes in their friends lifestyles bring out the UGLY in them. I have not learned how to handle it because I’m still so shocked by it. The way I dealt with it was cut those friends out of my life because my health and well-being are far more important. I actually overheard someone at my work ask another person if ‘so and so’ was allergic to anything because he was going to rub it all over his desk. WOW! These are adults, apparently. Kids are now learning, willing or not, about food allergies and bullying in school. I hope that the lessons will stick with them throughout their lives.
Because corn is such a huge component in foods and personal items, it is not impossible, but extremely difficult to fit this allergy into your daily life. Corn is so largely produced. If we grow a lot of it, it will be used. I believe there are things that are meant to have HFCS in them, have at it. Do it right though. But I also believe that it has become too prevelent in everyday items. The high exposure to HFCS could be the beginning. high fructose CORN syrup.
If corn was acknowledged as a top allergen my life would change dramatically. Proper labeling in general has become less of a priority, in my opinion. I cannot imagine how ecstatic I would be to go into a store & be able to see corn labeled. That would be such a relief.
Of course I always hold onto HOPE, but this is my life. It’s not easy. Learning how to deal with this has been one of my biggest struggles, but one of my biggest accomplishments.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Dear Corn Freedom,
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and panic disorder and was put on antidepressants. I kept telling the doctor that I knew I did not have anxiety and that something I was eating/being exposed to was the culprit in me feeling anxious and out of control. My anxiety would come about an hour after I would eat or after I was out and about running errands. It was not to a specific place. I reluctantly took the antidepressants and quickly knew that I did not have a chemical imbalance. As we all know, there is no way to determine the levels of serotonin in the body, but the symptoms were far worse and even different symptoms were popping up with taking the meds. Long story short, I did some research on my own and starting coming across people who shared a similar story as me. This is where I happily met Nicole. I went to my doc and asked about the possibility of corn as being a trigger for my anxiety. The doc replied that I was insane for even thinking so and dismissed my theory. I went to a new doctor and was given Zyrtec to try to combat my allergy. Although it helped, it did not cure the reaction. I now stay away from anything I can that contains corn. If I do happen to ingest something with corn or come into contact with something airborne, I usually exhibit anxiety symptoms within 24 hrs. It is easier to deal with now that I know what is causing my anxiety, but it doesn’t make it right. I am constantly rearranging my life around the possibility of coming into contact with corn. I have switched from doctor to doctor and have not gotten one yet who fully understands my sensitivity. In meeting others on the cornfreedom website I began to realize that there are many suffering just as I do. I would like to see more research done on the subject and more awareness to the public. It took me years to understand my allergy triggers and they are changing every day with every product that come into contact with. I believe with awareness and further research there will be a link to many unresolved health problems and an allergy or sensitivity to corn.
Having a corn sensitivity or allergy is a pain to say the least. Its not about just avoiding the yellow ear of corn. Its in our shampoos, plastic bags, detergents. Cleaning products, home building supplies, school essentials like paints and glues all contain corn among billions of other everyday products. I recently went to the movies and was sick for a week due to just smelling the popcorn in the theater. It is a constant struggle to stay away from corn filled products. Someone with perfume might set off an allergy for me. Eating something in a restaurant every single time causes a reaction. Corn allergy sufferers cant live a normal life. My children and I are all sensitive to corn, and we are sick of the government ignoring the request to at least include corn allergy warnings on labels. Its not as obvious as you’d think. No one with a food allergy should have to second guess if everything they come in contact will make them sick. The growing use of corn products in everyday items as well as the rise of corn allergy sufferers needs to be addressed. People need to be aware of this allergy/sensitivity and the many faces that it presents itself as. Dr. Oz we are asking that you help to shine a light on this subject. Help us to spread the word about corn allergies and sensitivities. It will help thousands.
Thank you so much,
Christi Barron, Alaska
WE DID IT!!! ACKNOWLEDGED HERE AT MOMLIFETV.COM CHECK OUT EVERYONE’S LETTERS AND KEEP SENDING THEM TO ME B/C WE’RE NOT DONE YET! THERE’S A PART 1 AND PART 2 DON’T MISS THEM!
For some reason this letter was not included in the momlifetv piece, tons of possible reasons none intentional so I would like to include Becki’s story here. Please copy the link to this blog and pass it around! Thank you.
I would like to take a few minutes to tell you about my fourteen month old son, Raiden. He was born at 39 weeks, after a normal pregnancy weighing eight pounds, seven ounces. He was discharged with a clean bill of health after twenty-four hours, even though he was already refluxing. We obtained a reflux prescription (the first of three) a few days later. Raiden continued refluxing and at three weeks of age was diagnosed as a “lazy nurser.” A week or so later we conceded defeat, and put him on Gerber’s Good Start formula. However, he had problems choking, so we thickened his formula (as we had done with his two older brothers). Almost immediately his diapers became very foul smelling and were extremely loose. Raiden did not lose any weight, but was very slow in putting any on. He was almost one month old before he was back to his birth weight (a feat accomplished by the end of week one for my other three children). Raiden became super skinny and drank twenty-four ounces of formula per day, the minimum recommended amount.
Shortly before he turned four months, he had made enough improvement with his swallowing that we were able to stop thickening his formula. I noticed a difference in his diapers – not quite a stinky and not quite as runny. When I looked at the ingredients on the thickener I discovered it was corn starch. This led me on a quest for a corn-free formula. I made several phone calls to the various manufacturers and found ONE that is corn free. Similac Alimentum Ready to Use- $10 for 32 ounces, which lasted about one day. Yes, over $300 for formula per month!
The turnaround was almost instantaneous! Raiden started gaining weight (he went from the 5th percentile to 50th in two months) and his reflux was GONE! He also had normal stools, even to the point that I would be surprised that some were dirty in addition to being wet.
He is now fourteen months and hovers around the 50th percentile in weight, and 75th in height. He is a happy boy who loves his older sister and brothers. However, any time he eats anything with corn or a corn derivative, he refluxes and his stools are stinky. It has been very rough avoiding corn. It is in EVERYTHING, even where it has no business. Cereals are almost non-existent, even rice chex contains corn. I go grocery shopping with a two page, two column list of the KNOWN names for corn. It would be so much easier if corn was listed in the ingredients. We have other food allergies in our family (wheat, egg whites, pears, pineapple, milk, and peanuts) and the corn is BY FAR the most difficult to avoid! I have contacted numerous companies trying to find out if their product is safe for my child. I had one person from Kraft tell me they could not tell me whether the starch used in their barbeque sauce was corn – they said it was “proprietary information.”
Corn needs to be listed in the ingredients as other top allergens are listed. Food allergies are on the rise, and no one needs to suffer needlessly. I had a corn allergy as a child and had to “tough it out.” I am very thankful that we discovered what was making Raiden sick, now I pray that it becomes easier to go shopping. Corn needs to be labeled everywhere it is included, whether it is a food item or a non-food item, such as toothpaste and sunscreen. Thankfully Raiden does not react to touching corn, but it would be nice to know exactly what he should avoid.
Thank you for your time in this important matter,
Becki Hagerman (from southwest Missouri)