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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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    Very helpful. I'm going through the tests for Celiac right now and am rather worried. My GI doctor seems pretty sure that I have Celiac.

    Irene stern don't be worried about celiac. I'm 15 and have had it for 6 years...it's a huge adjustment but it's kind of fun to go an adventure for new and interesting foods.

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    Get checked for Mastocytosis. This is how mine started. First Wheat, then rice, then soy, then corn, beef, pork, milk, eggs, chocolate, tomato and finally onions. I ended up enteral feed until I got it under control. I still have flares.

    I have had celiac for several years, but the gluten-free diet was only slightly helpful. Over the years I "scientifically" identified dozens of foods that don't work for me, but the list makes no sense. Recently I got and additional diagnosis of Fructose Malabsorption. This helps explain many of the things I can't eat, and also suggests many things that I eat lots of (Fruit, onions, garlic, vegetables, honey...)that I should not have been eating. Now, when I stick to the gluten-free and MF diets, I really can eat most of the things I thought were bothering me. Most of my list was bad science from making too many assumptions. I am in the process of retesting everything. I still might have a problem with cornstarch and yeast, but almost everything not on the gluten-free or FM list now seems to work.

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    Many celiacs have co-morbid conditions --like leaky gut syndrome-- and they need to avoid difficult to digest foods in order to heal the damage in the intestine. But I have found that certain foods and grains remain difficult for celiacs even after the gut has healed. Corn and sorghum are two such grains. That is why we are doing a low carb gluten free diet for our family now.

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    Very helpful. I'm going through the tests for Celiac right now and am rather worried. My GI doctor seems pretty sure that I have Celiac.

    Irene:

    Have the tests been conclusive for your celiac suspicion? Are you on a gluten/wheat free diet and how is that working. Personally I have been undiagnosed but am always having 'flares'.

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    Thank you, I am not celiac, but my son I believe is. we decided to move as a family gluten and casein free as I have other issues with fog and sleep. We started compensating with rice, corn, peanut butter and soy products. Now I am reading where some or all can still cause issues. I am struggling with the hit and miss methods as there are so many combinations to consider. for instance how you would ever determine a spice to be a reaction issue? I'm just tired of feeling bad and we don't have money to go get testing done. Thanks everyone for your input.

    I have heard from several people and read that although small amounts of soy may be good--beware, do not intake too much soy because it can have negative effects.

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    Response to Eileen Swanson who seems to think she is allergic to corn, rice, soy, tomato, yeast, dairy, eggs, acidic foods....Goodness, this sounds like a perfect reason to create food out of cardboard....

    Sylvia, there's a difference between food sensitivity and an allergy. Food sensitivities can cause a wide variety of symptoms like dander, bloating, headaches, sore joints, poor mental clarity, exhaustion, malnutrition, weight gain, irritability, poor memory, gas, diarrhea, etc. If you have a sensitivity, that doesn't mean you can never eat that food again, it just means you have to stop eating it for a period of 6 months to a year, to let your body heal. Then you can eat it again.

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    Unfortunately I have to disagree with you Scott simply because there has been research that proves certain group of celiacs, maybe as much as 36% of celiacs are challenged by corn. Whether the corn contains gluten or not isn't the issue. The issue is whether or not corn and it derivatives can challenge celiacs. You may want to update your knowledge with more research. Here is one study publish on pubmed and there are more saying the same thing which is corn can be an intestinal challenge is a certain percentage of celiacs: Well darn this site doesn't allow me to publish the study - do a pubmed search.

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    Unfortunately I have to disagree with you Scott simply because there has been research that proves certain group of celiacs, maybe as much as 36% of celiacs are challenged by corn. Whether the corn contains gluten or not isn't the issue. The issue is whether or not corn and it derivatives can challenge celiacs. You may want to update your knowledge with more research. Here is one study publish on pubmed and there are more saying the same thing which is corn can be an intestinal challenge is a certain percentage of celiacs: Well darn this site doesn't allow me to publish the study - do a pubmed search.

    I've not seen any research that indicates corn gluten is toxic for celiacs....I seriously doubt I could have missed that, since I do get notified of all studies published concerning celiac disease, and have looked at each of them since 1995.

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    I'm really intolerant to corn - it makes me really ill. I'm struggling to find food I can eat as I plan to go gluten free very soon. It seems that the only alternative to wheat is corn - I despair!!

    You can eat rice! I find that it's an awesome alternative. There are rice noodles, and crackers, and so so many things. It's been really awesome and super helpful on my gluten free journey!

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    I'm really intolerant to corn - it makes me really ill. I'm struggling to find food I can eat as I plan to go gluten free very soon. It seems that the only alternative to wheat is corn - I despair!!

    Rice and soy are also alternatives.

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    Good explanation. I had wondered if I was missing something when I saw references to corn gluten. My thoughts are that GM foods are no good for us, and there is research out there to back it up. Maybe it is the pesticides, maybe the GM, but I do my best to stay away from both. Corn is on our "naughty list" along with soy and other common GM foods.

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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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