Is Corn Gluten-Free?
Yes, corn in its natural form is gluten-free. However, be on the lookout for gluten in corn that comes in a sauce or with any other ingredients, as they could contain the protein. Regardless of the type of corn you purchase, always double check the ingredients label to make sure the product is truly gluten-free. Get help on reading food labels here.
Other Types of Corn
There are other variations of corn that can be eaten on a gluten-free diet. Along with plain corn, people with celiac disease commonly ask if the follow are gluten-free:
- Corn flour
Cornstarch is gluten-free in its natural form. Cornstarch is made by grinding up the starchy (carbohydrate) portion of a corn grain and turning it into a very fine powder. Cornstarch is typically used as a thickener for soups, sauces, gravy and stews. It’s also used in pre-made gluten-free flour blends because it creates a smoother texture.
Just like corn starch, corn flour is gluten-free in its natural form. It has a light, finer texture when used in baked goods. Whenever possible, buy corn flour that is labeled gluten-free, as it is possible for cross-contact to occur during the manufacturing process.
Cornmeal is also gluten-free. Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from maize, (i.e. corn). Just like cornflour, it’s important to look for labeled gluten-free cornmeal whenever possible, as cross-contact can easily occur during manufacturing.
Hominy is a product of corn and is gluten-free. Hominy is made from dried corn kernels which are then soaked in a lime bath or lye bath. It’s used in many different products, like tortillas, for example.
While popcorn is naturally gluten-free, it can contain additives or flavorings with gluten. Popcorn itself is made from corn kernels which are heated until they “pop.” Certain ingredients are then added, such as butter, salt, and spices, and some of these additives can contain malt flavorings, soy sauce, or spice blends that have gluten. Normally, it’s easy to read the ingredients and determine if the popcorn is gluten-free, but if there is any confusion over items like starches and flavorings, please call the manufacturer before consuming it.
Other times, such as at sporting events, movie theaters, fairs, or anywhere with a popcorn machine, it can be difficult to determine the exact ingredients. In these cases, it’s best to ask questions about how the popcorn is prepared, how often the machine is cleaned, and what the ingredients in the butter and other flavorings are before consuming. If you cannot obtain a clear answer, it’s often best to not eat—though that decision is ultimately yours to make.
Finally, popcorn can be made safely at home using your own machine and ingredients. Small-popcorn machines are easily obtainable, and you can make interesting custom flavors, or just good old butter and salt!
Celiac Disease Symptoms after Eating Corn
Do you feel like you’ve been glutened after you eat corn or corn products? If so, first check the products that you are eating. Is there a hidden source of gluten? What about the way it was prepared? Could cross-contact have occurred? If the answers are yes, stop eating that product, drink plenty of water and rest as much as you can until you feel better. Be sure to check in with your doctor, especially if your symptoms aren’t going away.
If you are certain that the corn or corn product you ate did not contain gluten, you could have a corn allergy or sensitivity. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian knowledgeable of celiac disease. They will be best able to help you figure out if you are sensitive to corn.
A corn allergy can be difficult to diagnose, since skin prick tests cannot tell the difference between allergies to grass pollens and to other seeds and grains.
Corn allergy symptoms can include:
All of these symptoms can be caused by gluten exposure. That’s why it’s important to have professional support in determining if your issues are coming from a corn allergy or gluten exposure. Gluten exposure over long periods of time can cause serious long term health problems, like osteoporosis, other autoimmune diseases and even certain cancers. Your doctor can help you find out if you are being exposed to gluten by checking the same antibody levels that the celiac disease blood test checks. Learn more about celiac disease testing at www.BeyondCeliac.org/GetTested.