Allergies (hives!) and processed corn products

Why would someone break out in hives off an on for months or years? How could it be that no cause is found? What happens when the hives keep getting worse?

In the last five years I have seen more and more people with the diagnosis of “chronic hives.” The hives had gotten worse for most people, beginning to take over skin area like an invading army. And in addition, it seemed that the hives had started to take over their lives–waking them up at night, causing them to wear long sleeves in the heat to cover the spots, and sometimes developing into life-threatening, throat-closing reactions.

Reaction of patients

My patients said that all too quickly the doctors had stopped looking for causes and started focusing on different combinations of drugs to suppress the reactions. They got tired from Benadryl, were up at night, gaining weight, and feeling “crazy” from oral Prednisone. Most of them felt that after a very short time topical steroid creams were not effective.

With a very careful, detailed medical history, and comprehensive testing for allergies, we began to look for the causes of the hives. One was blue clothing dye, another was nickel, but most were foods or food additives. Among the many allergenic foods, the most common, and the “sneakiest” cause of hives was processed corn products.

These are especially hard to find because very often people who do not react when they eat plain, unprocessed corn, do react when they eat products that contain corn starch, corn syrup, or corn sugars–dextrose, maltodextrin, sorbitol (there is sorbitol in most toothpastes–see below!) and erythritol–there are too many to name here.

I believe there are two reasons for that

First, more and more processed corn products have been injected into the marketplace. For any of you who saw the documentary King Corn, there is a scene where the filmmakers show a supermarket aisle. They have examined all of the products on both sides of the long aisle, and there is not one that does not contain corn.

Second, the processed corn contains traces of all the chemical extractives that were used to process it. These chemicals function as haptens, or adjuvants which in immunologic terms means substances that increase the allergenic properties of another substance. So corn, which is already a common allergen, is made even more allergenic by processing.

It turns out that the patient with the increasingly severe reactions in her mouth was allergic to processed corn, and was reacting to the corn sugar sorbitol, in her toothpaste.

Everyone else was also allergic to corn, and some were allergic to dairy or eggs or gluten as well. Some of them had been scratch tested for food allergies as well, and came up negative–I believe that this was because the processed form of the corn products was not tested.

Definition of processed food →

Reaction to processed corn

The most severe allergic reaction to processed corn we have encountered was to the corn sugar in the IV solution known as D5W–which contains 5 grams of dextrose (corn sugar) for each 100 ml of water. This man was dying in the intensive care unit, had been given D5W despite being told that he was allergic to corn, and recovered very quickly when his IV was changed to plain saline (salt water.)

The other source of corn products in addition to foods is body products. It is amazing how many of them now contain corn starch, syrup or sugars.

Although not everyone is equally vulnerable to reactions from processed corn, it is in so many forms, in so many products that it is all too easy to get an overdose of it, day after day, and to be sensitized to it as an allergen.

Bottom line: eat as many whole foods as possible, and avoid processed foods that contain corn starch, corn sugars and corn syrup, and that have labels a mile long, and that contain words like “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” ”autolyzed yeast extract” “dough conditioners” “artificial coloring and flavoring,” etc. Also, avoid artificial sugars like aspartame and saccharin, food additives like MSG and sulfites, and food dyes. And watch out for too many processed corn products and other chemicals in your soaps, lotions, shampoos, cosmetics, and other body products. You will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much energy you have!

Dr Martha Howard

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