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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Corn Gluten - Is it Safe for a People with Celiac Disease Who are on a Gluten-Free Diet?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    The term gluten in reference to the cohesive, elastic protein mass remaining after starch is washed from a dough goes back to Beccari in 1745. Strictly speaking, gluten is found only in wheat because it is difficult to wash a cohesive protein mass even from rye, the closest relative to wheat, let alone from barley or oats or anything else. Unfortunately, a misuse of the term by the corn industry has become common in recent years. It has become fairly common to call corn storage proteins corn gluten. Personally, I think there is no justification for such usage. Corn may contain prolamins, as does wheat, but not gluten.

    When it comes to celiac disease, a similar corruption of the term has become very common. There are certain related proteins in wheat, rye, and barley that give rise to particular peptides during digestion that are capable of triggering the responses typical of celiac disease. Only in the case of wheat can these be strictly considered to be derived from the gluten proteins. But for lack of a suitable term, patients and their physicians began speaking of gluten-free or gluten-containing foods. People ask me, How much gluten is there in quinoa? I have to translate this into, Are there any harmful peptide sequences in the proteins of quinoa? There is nothing in quinoa that is like gluten prepared from a wheat flour dough, which has an unusual, perhaps unique, viscoelastic character.

    In any case, as far as we know, corn does not seem to cause harm to celiac patients. Corn has not been studied in the extensive way that wheat has in relation to celiac disease, but for 40+ years patients and their physicians have seemed to agree that corn is OK. The sequences in the corn zein (prolamin) fraction are suspicious, but they do differ in an apparently crucial way from the protein sequences of the wheat gliadin (prolamin) fraction. There have been no modern biopsy-based studies of the effects of purified corn proteins on the celiac intestine as there have been for wheat, but the mass of evidence still seems to point in the direction of corn being safe for celiac patients.


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    Anyone else have problems with corn? I am aware that it is not gluten, but after my celiac disease diagnosis I slowly became more sensitive to other foods. Rice first. (ouch) Then corn. Soy. Tomato. Besides the yeast, dairy, eggs, acidic foods...

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    I was really glad to find this article because I have seen food with 'corn gluten' in the ingredients and since my diet is boring enough already, I thought 'Oh no, that's one more thing I can't have!' I said, 'Corn is great, and I can have it. Why ruin it? What idiot decided to start putting GLUTEN into corn?'

     

    Thanx very much for clearing that up for me!

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    Anything that improves on my understanding of gluten is beneficial. In our household we have become almost paranoid in our obsession with 'analyzing ' the content of foodstuff and corn gluten had given rise to another ominous ingredient.

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    I have a similar reaction to corn so I do wheat and other grains as most celiacs do although it is a very mild reaction in comparison. I know a man that has a medical license and has celiac. Also has the same reaction to corn. It seems to me that this is misinformation to say that celiacs are not sensitive to corn. I have never had problems with rice or central American grains, nor soy, the only problems I have had with tomatoes is when they are canned and have calcium lactate added, in that it is made from corn.

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    It seems that when we remove certain foods from our diets which have been harmful to us, our bodies have, or sometimes have, a knee jerk reaction. Maybe some celiacs are allergic to corn, or develop an allergy to corn, soy, dairy, eggs, etc. It is good to know, as this article states clearly, that there is not an automatic total ban on corn for all celiacs. Thank you for your research and hard work in this area! It is very much appreciated.

    Sheri

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    Thanks so much for this article. My friend's daughter has celiac and I am trying to learn to prepare food so that she is able to eat at our house. We are doing Thanksgiving here! I will double check with my friend to make sure her daughter has no outside problems with corn, but this has definitely helped clear up the question of 'corn gluten' for me. Thanks again!

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    I hate corn, and the whole corn industry that forces it into EVERYTHING. So I'm like commenter #1 in that corn gives me the same reaction as gluten, namely: making my 'acne' flare up (dermatitis herpetiformis). I'm getting another round of scratch testing done to check for allergies to things like corn. I am also looking into metal poisoning (I have a number of metals I'm actually allergic to from my dermatological testing: nickel, chromium, aluminum, etc). Then I'm looking at candida and/or parasite issues. But I still have to eat. Does anyone have anything I can actually eat? I'm really hungry.

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    I've just figured out, myself, in the last week, that I have celiac disease. My doctor insists it's IBS. Well, I've been reading and following strictly, a Gluten Free Diet. It's only been a week, and I am starting to feel a significant change in my body.Earlier today, after reading an article that Corn was 'okay' to eat, I cooked corn on the cob for dinner. Almost instantly, I started feeling my legs getting heavy, my hands and legs going numb, and felt just as I did prior to figuring out that it was Gluten affecting me. The corn (for me) does not agree with whatever My body is trying to fight against. I have been very ill for 3 yrs, and saw several doctors. All misdiagnosed and wanted to pump drugs into me. I am glad I followed my own instincts and hope I am going to feel better with each day.

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    Great article! Yes, some celiacs are also allergic to corn. Some non-celiacs are allergic to corn too. Thanks for showing that it's a separate issue, and that it's not an automatic matter of concern for celiacs. I think we need to be careful sometimes about attributing every problem we have to our celiac disease. I'm allergic to caraway seeds, for example, but that has nothing to do with my celiac disease!

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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