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What Is Corn Intolerance? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments


So, what is corn intolerance? And, what’s one of the most obvious ways to tell you are experiencing the symptoms of corn intolerance? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, designed to provide us with enough energy to tackle the day ahead. Unfortunately, for some people, breakfast appears to spark several hours of unwelcome physical discomfort.

In such cases, it is likely a result of food intolerance. We are willing to wager that corn (maize) is the ingredient to blame, as this is an omnipresent ingredient in many kinds of cereal.

Alas, corn is not only found in breakfast foods. As we will discuss shortly, corn is found in a surprisingly wide variety of snacks and meals. Anybody living with corn sensitivity will need to consider future food intake carefully if they are keen to avoid feeling wretched afterwards.

Do I Have an Intolerance to Corn (Maize)?

Outright allergies (learn more about what are food allergies?) to corn are comparatively rare. Alas, corn intolerance and corn sensitivity are considerably more common than corn allergies. The typical warning signs of a corn intolerance will arise up to a few hours after consuming something that contains this product and will include:

  • Feeling sick and bloated.
  • Cramping in the stomach.
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Uncharacteristic flatulence.
  • Skin irritations, such as a rash or an outbreak of acne.

Now, these symptoms of cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea are pretty generic. They could apply to any number of minor ailments. If they arise with regularity, though, food intolerance is the likeliest culprit, so we would recommend taking a food intolerance or food sensitivity test. From here, you will need to think about what food is causing the issue.

We suggest keeping a food diary and noting everything you consume. Cross-reference this with any attacks of the symptoms that we discussed above.

Now, check if what you ate contains corn (maize). If so, you may well have your answer.


What Foods Contain Corn?

On paper, it is easy to identify what products contain corn – the clue should be in the name. We opened this guide by name-checking breakfast cereal, and corn flakes are arguably the most commonplace example of such a meal. Countless other cereals, including those that market themselves as healthy alternatives, also contain corn.

Other foodstuffs, such as popcorn, tinned sweetcorn and corn on the cob, are also easy to avoid if you believe that corn is responsible for any ailments. Alas, corn is also found in the following – often surprising – foodstuffs.

  • Vegetable oil (which often means no bagged crisps)
  • Salad dressing
  • Other condiments, including ketchup, mayonnaise and distilled vinegar
  • Canned fizzy drinks
  • Peanut butter
  • Chewing gum, chocolate and sweets
  • Prepared and cured meats
  • Tinned soups
  • Jam
  • Tinned fruits

Corn is a cheaper alternative to sugar when making foods more palatable – and manages to avoid the sugar tax. It is also a cost-effective thickening agent. As a result, many manufacturers use corn with abandon.

When weighing up whether to include an item in your next supermarket shop, look for the following ingredients. All of these are derived from corn in some capacity.

  • Corn oil
  • Corn syrup
  • Cornflour
  • Corn starch (aka vegetable starch)
  • Dextrins
  • Dextrose
  • Ethanol
  • Fructose
  • Hydrol
  • Maize
  • Maltodextrins
  • Sorbitol
  • Zein

You may need to reconsider your diet if you are regularly eating foods that contain these ingredients. Your sensitivity to corn will not correct itself if you keep consuming it. You will just inflict needless and continual misery upon yourself.

What Can I Eat Instead of Corn?

There is some good news. An intolerance to corn is not as severe as an allergy. You will not necessarily need to give up everything on the list above.

A sensitivity or intolerance to corn typically needs quite a bit of consumption to make itself felt, unlike an allergy, which a mere trace can trigger. All the same, corn will have to affect your body if you have a sensitivity and you eat enough of it. How much you can get away with varies from person to person.

With this in mind, we strongly recommend eating clean wherever possible. While fresh fruits will still contain fructose, this should not be enough to make you unwell. Cut ready meals and processed foods out as much as possible, especially those coated with breadcrumbs. These are loaded with corn. Fresh, grilled fish and chicken will always be preferable to anything from the frozen food aisle.

If you cannot bear the idea of a life without breakfast cereal, head to the “Free from” section of your supermarket or a health food shop. Here you will likely find corn-free alternatives to popular options. You can also switch vegetable oil for canola oil, and if you use artificial sweeteners, stick with a natural option such as agave nectar.

Corn intolerance can be a real pain. So many foods contain corn that it can be tricky to avoid it altogether, and it is understandable if you miss corn in your diet. These products are packed with carbs and sugar, so your body gets an immediate high from consuming it – and likely experiences withdrawal when you stop. Be patient, though, and you will find that you feel immeasurably better for cutting corn out of your daily diet.