6 Reasons to NEVER Eat Corn Especially if You Are Celiac or Gluten Sensitive

6 Reasons to NEVER Eat Corn Especially if You Are Celiac or Gluten Sensitive post image

Corn is the go-to starch for people who cannot tolerate wheat or gluten. It makes sense – it is gluten free and widely available. However, corn can be an irritant for some people.

Folks who have to suddenly take gluten out of their diet are usually starch eaters and need to have a replacement. While it seems like a good replacement, there are actually several problems with corn that you need to know about especially if you are celiac or gluten sensitive.

Corn Has Cross Reactivity

There is an issue called cross reactivity which can occur when someone produces antibodies to a particular food, like gluten. The proteins in other foods have similar structure to the protein in the original reactive food (in this case gluten).

Cross reactivity occurs when the person’s over alert immune system starts attacking those similar proteins as well. This causes increased damage to the gut lining and leads to leaky gut. The proteins leak into the bloodstream and incite further immune reactions that may even become extra-intestinal – like the joints.

This happens a lot in people and is very common. It is important to test other foods like dairy products as well. Unfortunately, going gluten free may not completely resolve the symptoms until cross reactivity with other proteins is investigated.

Additionally, someone with gluten sensitivity usually has sensitivity to the large amount of lectins in nuts, seeds and beans. In these folks it is critical for them to learn how to properly prepare nuts, seeds and beans. if they are using them as substitutes.

Recent research has demonstrated that patients with gluten sensitivity may also react to the glutens in corn and rice. This study published in the journal, Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, analyzed the amino acid sequences in corn and compared them to the sequences found in gluten molecules. Similarities were found between the amino acid sequences in the two grains.

The researchers also found that these amino acid sequences may also bind to the IgA antibodies that are produced by the body when gluten is ingested by someone intolerant or is celiac. They further found that this activation may occur in those people with the celiac genes, HLA-DO2 and HLA-DO8.

Clearly, these people should not be eating these other grains.

Dairy, coffee and other legumes like peanut and soy are also prone to this activation.

Genetically Modified Foods Cause Intestinal Damage

We are aware that genetically modified foods such as, GM corn and GM soy, cause damage and inflammation to intestinal cells. In genetically modified corn and cotton, a gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria (Bt) is inserted into the cells of the plant. This causes a pesticide to be produced in every cell of the plant. This Bt-toxin kills insects that eat the plant by breaking down their gut lining and they eventually starve. This tissue damage is fatal for insects and cannot be good for humans.

Another study published in Life Science, showed that Bt toxin is very damaging to mice. Researchers found that the Bt toxin produced a …”high systemic antibody response.”

People can have issues with GM food regardless of their sensitivities. The corn, soy, cottonseed and canola crops are over 90% GM in this country. Additionally, sugar beets, papaya and some other crops are GM to a lesser extent.

Aside from the intestinal damage issue with GM foods, these crops are highly sprayed with glyphosate, a pesticide now considered to be a probable carcinogen.

Corn is High In Omega 6

Corn is high in omega 6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory.

This study published in Pediatric Research found that mice feed corn oil were subject to villous atrophy that was more severe in the corn oil-fed group than those of control group,. They also found that in the corn oil-fed group, red blood cell membrane levels of n-3 fatty acids were lower than the control, and the synthesis of leukotrienes was highest among all groups. Leukotrienes are indicative of inflammation.

Molecular Mimicry in Corn

Molecular mimicry is similar to cross reactivity. However, in this case, a person reacts to the food because the structure of the food itself is similar to a body tissue. For example, gluten can be similar to certain people’s thyroid gland and this will cause the immune system to start to attack it. Muscle, joint and endocrine glands (pancreas and thyroid) are most affected by this.

Molecular mimicry may also occur in response to a bacteria or pathogen.

Mold Exposure in Corn

Sensitivity to mold exposure is more prevalent in celiacs because they eat a lot of corn products. The type of mold that contaminates most corn is fumonisin.

Mold causes immune system problems and many other problems. People who eat corn are getting low doses of mold on a consistent basis and so can continue to have health problems. The symptoms are similar as having a yeast infection – autoimmune problems, joint pain, asthma, irritation around eyes and nose, sinus infections, brain fog, skin reaction like eczema and at its worst, cancer.

Again, many people on a gluten free diet may not be on a good gluten free diet. They may be eating a lot of the processed gluten free foods that have many additives and chemicals.

This study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research evaluated the fumonisin levels in the diets of people with celiac. They found that the fumonisin intake in the celiac patients was significantly higher than in controls. They also found that the typical diet of a celiac patient was high in sweets and soft drinks and low in vegetables, iron, calcium and folate. The researchers concluded that,

These findings may have serious health implications for the celiac population due to the widespread occurrence of fumonisins in most of the widely consumed gluten-free products, leading to continuous exposure to this particular mycotoxin. Moreover, the recorded nutritional quality of the celiac patient’s diet raises concerns regarding its long-term adequacy and its potential impact on chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

This is a major reason why some people do not get well on a gluten free diet.

Gluten Sensitivity and Corn

Researchers have found a 500 fold increase in intestinal inflammation in celiacs from gluten exposure and a 15 fold increase in intestinal inflammation from corn exposure. Non celiac patients did not react to corn. Many gluten free products are loaded with corn – GM corn. Corn contains several different types of glutens (proteins) that may be reactive.

In fact, this study published in BMC Gastroenterology, demonstrated that celiac patients that were still symptomatic (refractory celiac disease) in spite of adhering to a gluten free diet, were actually suffering from trace contamination of gluten from products containing corn. Once off these products as well, the patients improved.

Rules to Live By if  You Are Celiac

For some people going gluten free is just not enough. They need to go grain-free and also need to heal their gut with traditional bone broths and other dietary interventions.

Follow a grain free, Paleo diet, or the GAPS diet with good quality grassfed meats, plenty of organic vegetables and good fats.

Unfortunately, the gluten free food industry is worth billions and they will continue to come up with new ways to call junk food, health food. Those who are intolerant have to be proactive and watchful.

I never eat corn anymore. How about you? Are you still eating corn? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Leave a Comment

  • Amy P. April 24, 2014, 7:44 am

    While we have never had my 11 yr old daughter “official” tested. I learned a long time ago that she could not tolerate any grain. She has been grain free including rice and corn for several years now. People have criticized us for this discussion. We have never really understood why she could not tolerate rice or corn until reading this article. Thank you for sharing it. It just makes so much sense for me now and gives me knowledge to combat ignorance. THANK YOU!

    • Jill April 24, 2014, 9:23 am

      Hi Amy P.
      You are a great mom to realize this and take these difficult steps to improve your daughter’s health. My son has been grain free for almost 10 years now and yes, many people (mainly family) are critical because they do not understand. Some will never make the effort to understand and be supportive. But that’s life I guess and these kids have to learn how to advocate for themselves as they grow up and live on their own.

  • Joy N. April 24, 2014, 9:59 am

    I actually discovered my corn intolerance before my gluten sensitivity.

    I’d been having reactions to corn for years before discovering it was the culprit. I’d been told it was a reaction to an antihistamine – which was partly right since that antihistamine contains corn. It took being in the hospital for dehydration after a bout of food poisoning when I was 7 months pregnant. I broke out in hives from head to two with nothing else but glucose water in my system.

    I continued to have GI problems after eliminating corn from my diet and went on another ten years thinking I was dealing with the IBS I was diagnosed with in my early 20s.

    When people learn that I cannot have either corn or gluten in my diet they ask, “what can you eat? It must be impossible.” It’s not. I enjoy a variety of whole natural foods and can’t go the quick route of processed foods. I am cognizant of everything I eat. All I can say that thankfully I eventually learned that both affect me and am living a much healthier life now.

    Joy N.

  • Melissa Carr April 24, 2014, 11:54 am

    I have been suspect of this for a while. I went all gluten free July 2013. I did not eliminate corn, as I WAS completely addicted to corn tortillas and corn chips. The last few times at the store, I just didn’t buy them. I have since switched to eating more whole foods and not missing it. I noticed that I would be more bloaty, and VERY gassy. It is true that those with Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity have to be careful to nt ingest a bunch of processed foods. I am working my way to grain free. Currently I still eat rice maybe 2x/mth and do not have a problem.
    Thank you for the VERY informative post! Many thanks!

  • Raia April 30, 2014, 10:29 am

    I have been gluten-intolerant for the past 3 years (probably longer, just didn’t know!), but I never really reacted to corn until I started the GAPS diet the end of last year. Let me rephrase that: I didn’t *realize* I was reacting to corn… boy do I realize it now! Nasty, nasty stuff. I can’t even handle non-gmo organic!

    Great article – pinning and sharing on my fb & g+ pages! People need to know! Thanks for sharing!

  • Deana Higgs October 3, 2016, 5:44 pm

    I have been diagnosed as having Celiac Disease in the past 6 months. I ate carmel corn this weekend and chicken tamales that are Gluten Free. I have been so sick off and on since yesterday. Nausea, diarrhea, headache. I will never eat corn again or anything that has corn in it.

    • Dr. Jill October 4, 2016, 3:42 pm

      Good that you know where the symptoms are coming from!

  • Terry Reeves April 30, 2017, 7:11 pm

    So is Quinoa Pasta shells not a good product since it has corn in it? My daughter was diagnosed with Mensentery Adentitis

    • Dr. Jill May 2, 2017, 11:23 am

      She can be reactive to corn so it wouldn’t be a good product for her.