tears for soy and corn

August 26, 2009 at 12:18 am 18 comments

Several months ago when my son just wasn’t getting any better, when his hives kept appearing every night and he continued to wake up itchy and irritable, I went on a quest to figure out what was causing his allergic reactions.   First, I tore apart his room, thinking or hoping I might find a huge colony of dust mites or something that was affecting him at night. That would have been a simple solution.  No such luck.

I have previously written about my son’s allergies and our first trip to the allergist and about day 3 of reading food labels.

I had eliminated all known foods from his diet and someone suggested that  I needed to find out the unknown. What was lurking in my son’s food and supplements?  I examined everything that my son put in his mouth. It turns out his multi-vitamin contained corn; so did the papaya supplement that I occasionally gave him.

I was giving him 3 different antihistamines as recommended by his allergy doctor. Two OTC and one rX.  Let’s just say that my local pharmacist and manufacturer of the store brand were very helpful indeed. (as opposed to the Zyrtec people who were vague and refused to give me any real ingredient info and kept their stance as the finished product has never been tested for soy.  grrr) It turns out that sodium acetate is derived from soy.  Go figure.  Voila’.  I had been unwittingly giving him a product that was not labeled as containing soy, a product as “prescribed” by his allergy doctor who very well knows that my son is allergic to soy. I cried and cried. I was angry. I guess that’s why it’s taken me this long to write about it.    I wasn’t angry at anyone in particular (like the allergist or the manufacturer), just angry at the whole situation. And overwhelmed.

Thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 , there are 8 common allergens that must be clearly labeled on food and drug products.  This makes my grocery shopping a little simpler than if this act hadn’t been passed. However, I sure wish corn was on the big 8 list!

Out of all my son’s allergies which include wheat, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, tomatoes, berries, just to name a few….corn is the hardest to avoid because it is not one of the top allergens required by law to be clearly labeled on the product. This Corn Allergy website has been very helpful to me.  Did you know that simple table salt contains corn because corn is involved in the iodization process?

In addition to corn, soy is also very hard to avoid because soy fulfills so many different roles in American manufactured food (binder, propellant, filler, etc.)    I have compiled a list of common foods below containing soy.  Which of the following product does not contain soy?

  1. Cheerios
  2. Hellman’s real mayonnaise
  3. Nabisco Honey Maid Graham crackers
  4. Meijer Applause snack crackers (like Ritz)
  5. Olive oil cooking spray (aerosol can)
  6. Marzetti organic Parmesan ranch dressing
  7. Starkist solid white albacore tuna in water
  8. Chex Party mix seasoning packet
  9. Vitamin E
  10. Celestial seasoning raspberry tea
  11. Grey Poupon spicy brown mustard
  12. Oscar Mayer hot dogs
  13. Ceterizine (over the counter antihistamine)
  14. Oat Dream oat drink
  15. Hershey’s semi sweet chocolate chips
  16. Worcestershire sauce

The answer appears at the end of this article.

Below is a picture of what trace amounts of soy or corn can do to my son. When I say trace amounts, I mean the amount of soy or corn is so minuscule that most people don’t react to it so manufacturers don’t feel the need to label their products as containing the ingredient.   He used to look like this every single day before I finally figured out that it was his antihistamine that was doing this to him.  This photo was taken as the hives were fading.  (in other words, they were often much much worse than this picture conveys.   Here the hives are red marks on his skin, rather than being upraised and angry red.)

hives

The last time my son broke out in his hives was about a month ago. His older brother had left a piece of taffy-like candy out and Jackson ate a bite (just one small bite) before his brother grabbed it away from him.  A couple hours later, his whole body turned red like he had a sunburn then his lower body was covered in  hives. All this from one little bite of candy containing corn syrup.

Now the answer to the little quiz above. It was a trick question. All of the mentioned products (as of this writing) contain soy. I included the name of  the brands because similar products in other brands do not contain soy. Most notably, bumblee tuna in water does not contain soy because it truly is in water, unlike the aforementioned brand of tuna that is in actuality packed in broth. This fact is clearly labeled in small print on the back of the product, yet it is still called, tuna in water. Very annoying, indeed.

Now when I am at the store and discover a new product that is potentially safe for Jackson that I haven’t purchased before, I call the manufacturer and ask them before buying it. I was looking at a loaf of rice and millet bread at Whole Foods. I called them and they said no corn or soy. Then I asked what the source of the methyl-cellulose was (anything ending in “ose” is usually derived from corn.)  The answer was cottonwood. Hmm. really? Cottonwood?  So I bought the bread and Jackson devoured it!

Another time I bought some turkey bacon someone recommended to me. I read the label and it seemed safe. After eating it and thoroughly enjoying it, my allergy boy broke out in hives so I e-mailed the company. Their response was, “Thank you for your inquiry. The lactic acid starter culture in this product is derived from corn. There is no soy present.” Who would  know that lactic acid is corn…it says it is non-dairy, but it doesn’t say that it’s corn. Why can’t they let everyone know that it came from corn?

What has been your experience with food allergy and reading labels?

If you liked this, you might like my other posts about dealing with my son’s allergies and eczema:  Top 5 products that have helped our severe eczema and adventures in homemade cleaners.

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Entry filed under: allergies, eczema, food allergies.

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alexis Cinnamond Pullen  |  August 26, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Hi Guinever,

    My husband recently got diagnosed with Celiac disease. Any chance you’ve had Jackson tested for this or other autoimmune diseases? There is an itchy rash associated with some folk’s Celiac symptoms. Also, it is common for people with Celiac to find they are sensitive to many things once the gluten (from wheat, barley, and rye) has been eliminated. I’m finding even the labeling changes (which tell me wheat is present, or sometimes that it is manufactured in factory with wheat) misleading at times. There are a number of processes, especially for processed meats (hydrolized proteins are usually hydrolyzed wheat protein) and are not labeled as containing wheat. Obviously what you are dealing with is far more severe than my current situation, and more challenging because, this is your CHILD. I’m generally growing more frustrated with the food system, and trying to learn more.

    My son has also had digestive issues, and with my husband’s diagnosis, we’ll need to follow up with additional Celiac tests for the kids. Hope you find the answers you are seeking.

    Reply
    • 2. guinever  |  August 26, 2009 at 9:08 am

      We have an appt with a pediatric rheumatatologist in October so we are pursuing auto immune disease and other things besides food and environmental allergies.

      You might look into the magazine Living Without. I subscribed to it for a year and it is mainly for people with celiac desease or dairy or egg allergies. I couldn’t use any of the recipes in there but it was comforting to read other’s stories about living with food allergies to know that I’m not alone.

      Reply
      • 3. Alexis Cinnamond Pullen  |  August 26, 2009 at 7:49 pm

        Thanks for the tip. I had run across another Celiac magazine, but hadn’t heard about that one. Good luck.

  • 4. Michelle  |  August 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Guinever, I am right there with you on corn! I have to tell you–my dad, me, and one of my five children are allergic to corn! Corn, I’ve heard, is the most genetically modified ingredient on the planet. At least one of my dad’s specialists have told him that his genetic structure just does not tolerate all the genetic modification in modern crops, which is why he has so many allergies. I thought back in the early 80’s corn was one of the top 5 allergens so I also really do not understand why the food labels are not required to list when the product contains it!

    Also, my youngest, the toddler, has accidentally gotten peanut butter a few times. He really looks about like that picture of your son covered in hives when he gets a very small amount–only he mostly gets the hives all over his face and his eyes start swelling shut! I carry liquid children’s Benadryl with me at all times now, and we keep a couple of bottles at home too. Now the church nursery does too, after an incident there! We’ve had a few scares with peanut butter!

    Reply
    • 5. guinever  |  August 26, 2009 at 11:43 am

      I’m glad the Benadryl works for your son. It didn’t for us–it would stop the itch short term, but then the hives would appear=( We are currently getting an antihistamine compounded at the pharmacy shop with just water and rice syrup.

      Reply
  • 6. Pam in SE MI (TOG loose threads)  |  September 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Guinever, this is absolutely maddening! I have waited for this post, and now I see why you waited to write it. 🙂 Some believe that we should ALL avoid corn products because they are so genetically modified, and this is coming to make more and more sense to me. But it’s so darn hard to avoid! Thank you for your persistent pursuit of corn free everything. We can all learn from your research!

    Love,
    Pam

    Reply
    • 7. Guinever  |  September 7, 2009 at 3:55 pm

      Yes! Corn and for that matter, soy are so very hard to avoid in America. Because they’re cheap, they’ve crept into most packaged foods in our grocery shelves. (often being genetically altered)

      We have a certain brand of bread here, that says in bold letters “no high frucrose corn syrup,” on the front of the package, but if you turn the loaf over, you’ll see “corn syrup” on the list of ingredients. Advertising that it doesn’t have HFCS is quite misleading in my opinion since it does contain corn syrup. grrr.

      I’ll always love corn on the cob, slathered with butter and sprinkled freely with salt! I hope that someday my son can enjoy corn like this, in most simplest form without his body waging warfare against it.

      Reply
  • 8. Kathy  |  September 12, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Guinever,

    You may already know this, but in case you or another reader does not, here is a list of “corn by another name” — hidden ways corn is included in many food products, even if “corn” doesn’t appear.

    Reply
    • 9. Guinever  |  September 12, 2009 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks for sharing Kathy.

      Reply
  • 10. shopping tips for a corn allergy « at home with Guinever  |  November 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    […] you liked this article, please read tears for soy and corn and help, no wheat, no corn, no eggs […]

    Reply
  • 11. Serenity Drum  |  October 25, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    My son has had a corn, chicken and egg allergy. He tested positive about two years ago. Thankfully he has had hives only once. I am making the connection of behavior problems in association to even the smallest intake of any of these products derivitives. He is 4 now. Is this something that you have had to face too?

    I haven’t really noticed a connection between behavior problems and intake of allergens. However, my son is quite miserable, clingy, and cranky if he is reacting, but he doesn’t act out or misbehave. I have read in other sources that some cases of ADHD, ADD and other behavioral challenges can be improved with a change in diet so I do think there is a connection for some children.
    ~blessings, Guinever

    Reply
  • 12. Christina  |  November 20, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for posting your experiences here! I have a 4 month old son, that we thought had a milk allergy. It turns out that that it is definitely a soy issue, if not milk as well.

    After switching my son’s rice cereal (from Beechnut to Gerber), he broke out in hives (again). We had put him on Alimentum and that had cleared up his skin remarkably…of course we thought it was a milk allergy. Still he had issues with his skin. Alimentum contains 8% soy oil. Anywho, it appears that the Gerber rice has enough soy in it to push his little body back into overload. I began to start reading labels of everything he seemed to have a reaction to….Aveeno Baby Lotion (contains soy), Johnson & Johnson’s creamy baby oil (contains soy), all of the previous formulas (including his stint on Prosobee Soy Formula). He is now on Elecare, which contains 2% soy oil (better than the 8%). Any ideas where we can go when he can’t tolerate this formula anymore?

    I would have NEVER thought that the Benadryl we were forced to give him would have soy in it! I have stopped it all together now. I was worried the store brand would make him worse! I have done the 1% hydrocortisone cream (prescribed 1 x a day), but I really don’t want to use it on him! So, I am right there with you on the crying. I am at my whits end trying to figure this out! We have been doing olive oil and Beechnut oatmeal (no soy!) in his baths that seems to have help his itching some.

    Did I mention that my son has SEVERE reflux? I believe that it is caused by the food allergies. I honestly think that once that is under control, he won’t loose as much food/formula!

    I would LOVE suggestions, if you have any!!!

    Reply
  • 13. Susan  |  March 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Hi, I have many of the same problems you have with corn! My son is allergic to corn, potatoes, pepper, onions, eggs, and some other random stuff. I also just assume that everything has corn in it in some way or another. One company I called when I asked if the lactic acid came from corn told me that it was originally from corn, but the corn was no longer present because it had been altered. What?! If it came from corn it came from corn. I feel your pain – I have cried many tears over medicine and food I gave my son that was making him sick. My son gets bad stomach aches and diarrehea from his allergies and they cause inflammation of his sinuses. So most often he just gets congested and coughs and coughs and coughs. It’s terrible to listen to. My heart is with you and hang in there!

    Reply
  • 14. johnson  |  April 6, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    My child has the same things I understand every bit of this been there done that with serve eczema not fun but u do the best u can do

    Reply
  • 15. Emily  |  December 30, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    my 15 mo old is allergic to corn, soy, all legumes, nuts… it is so hard! constantly doing research to figure out what she is reacting to and trying to find safe things for her to eat.

    Reply
  • 16. Cindy mennella  |  May 29, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    My son is 26 years old now. Has allergies to milk egg peanuts tree nuts.the allergies started at a very early age. Had to stop nursing because of them. He just started to have problems with soy and corn. He only eats home and brings lunch to work. When he travels he brings all his food with him. It’s hard. I always tried to cook allergy free at home. I never wanted him to feel that he could not eat when he comes over but I just find it hard to do now with the soy and corn allergy. Cindy

    Reply
  • 17. Cindy mennella  |  June 4, 2015 at 12:11 am

    Susan try a compound pharmacy. They take a list of all allergies and make a compound for your child can take. Just take the script from the doctor to them and they will mix it for your son.

    Reply
  • 18. valerie guinn  |  October 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    I am so grateful for this post with a picture! I’ve had 3 misdiagnoses and now I’m getting my son tested for allergies. The above picture looks exactly like my son’s whole body. This is the only thing I’ve seen that has even come close… and it looks like exactly. Thank you so much for the article.

    Reply

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Welcome to my personal blog about my life as a wife and homeschooling mother of a few energetic children! You'll find my favorite recipes, all kinds of reviews, the occasional rant, and whatever else I feel like writing about.

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