Thursday, January 22, 2009

Allergic to corn

After my last post, I've had lots of people asking me about my corn allergy. So, I figured I'd answer that question. I recently found out that I was allergic to corn, but I've always had lots of allergies and asthma. In fact, I've taken medicine almost every single day of my entire life, just so I can breathe. Yes it sucks, but I've learned to live with it. Growing up, I was really affected by my allergies - several hospitalizations and really limited abilities. I think my mom tried to protect me too much, and my asthma really affected my life.

As I grew up though, things got a bit better. As a young adult, I finally realized I could live my life. I just carried my inhaler with me as I went, but I learned to ski and I took up running. For about 10 years of my adult life, I finally felt free of my asthma and allergies. I know that sounds dramatic, but I seriously had breathing issues every single day.

After Bryn was born, I started having issues again. It was to the point that I was using my asthma inhaler several times a day - I even woke up needing my medicine almost every night. I decided to visit my doctor. He did a few tests, and referred me to a pulmonologist - she also did a few tests, declared me as one of the most allergic people she had ever seen, and then she referred me to an allergist.

I saw my allergist for the first time last fall. He immediately decided to run a battery of allergy tests, but before I could take them, I had to be off of my medicine for 2 weeks. Completely off. The only way I could do that was to wait until it snowed, which would kill the majority of things I thought I was allergic to.

I finally made it in for my testing this past December. My doctor decided to test me to all the common allergens, as well as several foods. They tested me for 52 different things - up and down the inside of both my arms, the nurse give me tiny pin pricks containing the allergens. She told me that they would check me in 10 minutes, and I wasn't allowed to scratch - she set a timer and left.

As soon as she left the room, the itching began. I'm not talking a mild itch either - this was a burning, horrible itch, that took all my strength not to scratch. I was sitting with my fists clenched resisting scratching with all my might. My arms were seriously on fire, and I could feel the fire spreading up my shoulders, my neck and into my face. My neck started itching, my lips, and I could feel a hive on the roof of my mouth. My nose started running, and my chest felt tight. Almost every one of the "pin pricks" had turned into a huge welt - and some were spreading around to the other side of my arms.

About the time I decided I was going to die, the nurse peaked her head into the room to see how I was doing. I had tears streaming down my face, and I told her that I was "not so good". She took one look at me, and immediately called the doctor in. He looked at the timer - only 5 minutes had passed, but he called the test.

The doctor and the nurse set out trying to help me. They first had to classify each pin prick location. The welts were classified by their size on a scale of 1-4 - a "1" was 1 centimeter in diameter, and a "4" was 4 centimeters in diameter. After the doctor classified them, he put cream on the bumps. The majority of the bumps were 4+, meaning they were bigger than 4 centimeters in diameter. Many of them had actually grown together and were spreading around to the other side of my arms. I was miserable, and the cream wasn't helping. The doctor ended up having to give me epinephrine, benedryl, steroids and wrapping my arms in ice, and he made me stay 2 hours to make sure I wasn't going to die.

After this ordeal, he met with me to decide the course of action. However, he admitted that he was stumped, and had no idea how to treat me. Out of the 52 things I'd been tested for, I showed a reaction to 46 of them. He had never seen anyone as allergic as me, and didn't even know what to do. His only suggestion was that I try and eliminate things from my life that I was allergic to.

Corn was one thing that I showed a reaction to. It wasn't even one of the worst, but I figured it was a start. Thus began "operation corn elimination". And I'm not going to lie - it has been difficult. Corn is in almost everything. If you consider the products made with corn: corn syrup, corn oil, corn starch, or just plain-old regular corn, it pretty much eliminates about 90% of all foods. Even things I never even would have thought contained corn (like caramel syrup, used in cola).

Needless to say, it has been difficult, and I have never even been a big eater of processed foods either, but it has been an experience figuring out what to eat. I think that I have been pretty much corn free for the past 2 weeks. On two occasions, I have eaten something that contained corn, and I almost immediately got hives on my lips and down my neck. I think that now that I have it completely out of my system, the reactions are more severe.

But I have noticed a huge difference in my health. I have more energy, and my skin is less dry. I can also breathe! I've needed my steroids a lot less, and actually have made it several days without needed any medicine at all. I've also lost 8 pounds - I think most of that can be attributed to not taking the steroids anymore, but I'm not complaining. I feel really good. I've also found several other people who are also allergic to corn - its actually becoming more prevalent. My theory, is that because corn is in everything, that it is going to cause more health problems.

So there you have it: the long, boring story of being allergic to corn. Be thankful it isn't you.

**PS. If you're wondering why you haven't seen me around lately, I'm feeling pretty much the same as Mindi. Just read her post here - she said it so well.


nicole said...

Wow. I'm sorry for all of this craziness. (But yay for the 8 pounds.)

PS I'd love to see any recipes that you love that work for you - cutting out extra hidden ingredients is a good thing when you can do it.

Heather said...

That sucks, Christie. I'm sorry that you have to deal with all that, but like Nicole said above, yay for the 8 lbs!

And I really liked that blog post you linked to about commenting. I TOTALLY agree with that - I got so obsessed with following others that when I got 'behind' I felt stressed. And that's, frankly, kinda dumb. So, I've been done with obligatory comments for a while now. What a relief (though I miss the extra comments, what did your friend refer to them as, like cocaine or something? - that made me laugh)...

Ruhiyyih Rose said...

Geesh I got all scratchy just reading this post! WOW. What an ordeal - I think it is fascinating, not boring at all! Sorry about the ordeal of it, boo.

I haven't had much to write about so no post up today. Life has gotten a bit quieter around here not that Obamarama is dying down...

::Jan:: said...

That is a major major adjustment for anyone. I am just so sad that you had to go through so much to figure it out too. I can't imagine. I know there is corn in so much. I just hope that you will find your food groove and beable to come up with enough stuff that will keep you satisfied. Wishing you all the very best :)

Holly said...

I am so sorry for this, but I am so glad it's making such a huge difference in your life Christie!

PS... I hate you for losing 8 lbs already :)

Omgirl said...

Wow, that is crazy! I remember getting that allegy test as a kid. It was painful and scary. And I was allergic to a ton of things too, but none of them food related. Mostly outdoor--dust, trees, cats, dogs, pollen, mold, grass, etc. Anyway, I am sorry yours are so severe. But I'm glad it'smaking a difference in your health to know what they are and avoid them.

Omgirl said...

Wow, that is crazy! I remember getting that allegy test as a kid. It was painful and scary. And I was allergic to a ton of things too, but none of them food related. Mostly outdoor--dust, trees, cats, dogs, pollen, mold, grass, etc. Anyway, I am sorry yours are so severe. But I'm glad it'smaking a difference in your health to know what they are and avoid them.

kari said...

Good grief how have you survived all these years?! Do your girls have it as bad as you? Poor thing.

Julia said...

Wow. That is scary. I don't think I'll be having any allergy tests anytime soon.

My boss's wife is allergic to everything...i mean everything! And she is soooo skinny. Pretty soon that will be you. There are some pluses. Glad you are alive still!

Lynita said...

Crimenitly! I can't even imagine how hard that must be! My home teacher has that same allergy, but I don't think he is nearly as healthy as you are, he hasn't been to church in 3 mos! I am glad that you got tested, even if the results suck, it is better to know how to take care of yourself.