Corn, MCAS and the Nordic Diet

My Mother often told me a story about her first awareness of a place called ‘Canada’. She was born in Finland during the war. Of course, food was scarce, and rationing continued long after the war was over. Canada had sent a fair amount of food aid to Europe, including a lot of canned vegetables. My Mother told me that they weren’t fussy about what they ate, but nobody would touch the canned corn. Corn is native to the Americas, it isn’t closely related to anything else isn’t any other grain like it. It grows well in Europe, so it had been introduced there, but it wasn’t very common. The only corn they knew about was feed corn. (Hubby’s Great Uncle was from the Netherlands, refused to eat corn, even after he lived in Canada for years. He called it ‘pig food’). They were actually a bit insulted that someone would think that animal feed was appropriate for people.

Her family and neighbours were looking at it, trying to think of how they were supposed to eat this stuff. All the cans had big Canadian Flags on them, and there were several comments like ‘Do Canadians have teeth made of stone?’, and ‘It must be awful. That’s why there is so much of it, even Canadians won’t eat it.’.

Eventually, they decided to open one can, and they tried a nibble. Yum! I love the stuff, I used to eat it straight out of the can in university. My Mom said that they had a number of cans, and they all ate their fill. Poor things, they quickly learned that eating that much corn has excellent colonic cleaning properties. (Ooops). They were happy to have corn after that, but in smaller quantities. It stuck with my Mom, little did she know that she would call Canada home one day.

Corn Sugar

I usually do much better with European candies versus North American (although it did flip once), The ingredient list can be identical, but I will react to one and not the other. A couple of years ago, I tried to figure out what the difference was. It turns out that the sugars in European candies are usually derived from beets, barley or wheat, not corn. They do use cane sugar as well, just like in North America, but much less of it. Corn is nowhere near as ubiquitous.

A fair number of people say that high fructose corn syrup is ‘worse’ for you than cane sugar. All the studies look at the aspects of fructose, looking at glycemic index, insulin effects and so forth. They seem to be completely missing the other half of the equation. Perhaps it’s not high fructose corn syrup that’s bad for you, maybe it’s high fructose corn syrup that is. Most researchers are adamant that the source of a refined substance is irrelevant, but my mast cells don’t agree. A dextrose IV will send me straight to anaville. In fact, it caused one of my worst reactions.

Corn is my enemy, not wheat.

Wheat is the current taboo food, but I wonder if there isn’t more to it. I’m arguably one of the top 100 most allergic people in the world, and the one food that I tolerate best is wheat. (Hard cooked- crackers, cereal, toast, etc). Why do so many people seem to feel better when they eliminate wheat from their diet? (An aside, I’m not talking about people with celiac here. Having celiac and MCAS is a double whammy. I also know many people who are allergic to wheat. Again, that’s not what I’m talking about). We all know people who have gone gluten free, and it made them feel so much better. Within 6 months, though, most of them are reintroducing it into their diet, even if only some items. I think that sensitivity to corn might explain part of this picture.

Corn is Everywhere 

A few weeks ago, I went to a local grocery store. (A very rare event-way too easy to get exposed to something). I could not find a national brand bread (and most local stuff as well) that didn’t have corn and/or soy in it. I wanted to buy rye bread, I seem to tolerate it quite well. Dempster’s recently revamped their rye bread offerings, five different varieties of Rye. Every single one of them contain corn. Rye bread is usually wetter than wheat bread, so they put cracked rye on the tray so the bread doesn’t stick. You know what I mean, the grittier flour on the bottom of rye bread, bagels, etc. At Dempster’s, they use cornmeal. No baker in Germany would even consider such an atrocity- but corn is so much cheaper that rye, and it has a similar ‘mouth feel’. It’s confusing, too. The brand of English muffins we buy has corn on one variety, but not the other. It took us ages to figure that one out! I think that cutting out wheat products like bread also cuts out corn products. It’s so hard to tease out which one it is, and people are more aware of wheat than they are of corn. For example, a lot of people don’t know that when something says ‘gluten’ as an ingredient, it could be corn or wheat gluten. I think that it’s possible, even likely, that a lot more people are sensitive to corn than we think.

If I react to English muffins, rye bread, bagels, etc., it would be a reasonable assumption to make that in some way or another my body and wheat didn’t get along, whether it be an allergy, an intolerance, celiac, etc. And in most cases, they’d be right. But I do think it’s worth double checking, especially for those who can tolerate some wheat based products but not others. Getting good nutrition is hard enough, removing foods from your diet when you don’t have to isn’t a great idea. And wouldn’t you kill for a croissant right now?

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