Corn is a four letter word.

Three years ago, I almost lost my son Vinny to his severe food allergy to tree nuts. He secretly ate a piece of toffee and lied about it. While his father and I sat in the E/R crying and watching Vinny sleep off his Benadryl/Epi-pen-induced coma, the doctor came out and said, “That boy needs to be under the care of an allergist.” Within the week, Vinny had an appointment.

We already knew Vinny was allergic to peanuts and tree nuts from an earlier blood test. But now we were requesting a food panel. They would only test for a couple foods, because of his potential for an anaphylaxic reaction. I agreed to be tested, too, to offer moral support. Turned out Vinny and I are both allergic to cats, dust, dust mites, and all the grasses, weeds, and trees that grow in Idaho. He’s also allergic to dairy and corn. I’m allergic to chicken, barley, malt, coconut, and corn.

At the time of the allergy test, I wore a size 10. I was still drinking beer, eating bread, fried foods, including chicken, you name it. I was running three miles a day several times a week and lifting weights. I looked pretty good and weighed about 160 for my five-foot-six frame. The allergist recommended a full elimination diet.

Later, I discovered that if I ate any type of food with corn in it, i.e., restaurant french fries (deep fried in vegetable oil that had corn oil) or enchiladas with corn starch, Heinz ketchup, gravy, within two days, tiny blisters formed on my fingers that opened up into full-blown eczema. And since I’ve taken corn out of my diet, I’m incredibly sensitive to its effects.

Corn is everywhere: dextrose, fructose, modified food starch, Xanthan gum, vegetable oil. I can’t eat at any fast food restaurants or fried foods at sit down places.imin

Vinny’s ten. He eats popcorn, which makes his skin itchy. He says he doesn’t care. The allergy will become worse with age. He cannot eat dairy. It gives him horrible flatulence and the runs. And as one teacher described his behavior after he dairy: he wilts like a flower.

The benefits of my food allergies are that I have been turned on to clean eating, and my body has shrunk four pants sizes. I’ve lost 30 pounds because of healthy eating! I have to watch every bite I put into my mouth, not because I want to lose weight, but because these foods I’m allergic to quite literally poison my system. The effects of chicken on me aren’t even worth discussion. Once you stop eating poison, your body loses inflammation. It’s that simple.

When I go to barbecues, restaurants and gatherings with friends, some say, “Wow. I’m lucky. I’m not allergic to anything.” I’m like, “Really? Have you ever had a food panel done? How do you know?” Plus, I didn’t ask for this. A little sensitivity goes a long way, folks.

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