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The Story of My Experiments with Corn

Nutrition 622 Project 2 Exercise
Due week 10 March 13
5% of grade

for Nutrition IV Winter 2010

Many students have been submitting essays about the same change that they are doing for interviewing techniques, another class that we have concurrently. I have decided to make another change, and to report on my experience of that. I am eliminating corn from my diet, to see if I have any sensitivity to it. I will eliminate it for substantially longer than the one week requirement.

I have already eliminated gluten and soy from my diet, and have sustained those restrictions long enough that they are no longer a hardship. I have given up many other foods before, for as long as a year at a time, and then added those foods back in when I was unconvinced that the change had yielded measurable effects. Gradually, however, my diet does change, based on my experiments.

I did not expect this change to be particularly challenging. I am not your average patient. I have been experimenting with dietary restrictions for many years. I do not have the "but what does that leave me to eat?" reaction because I know that the variety of fruit and vegetable foods is endless.

I am conducting a major spring cleanse this year, and preparing for a water fast to be done over spring break. I have tapered down until I am not consuming any coffee, sugar, dairy or meat. I have a few eggs left in the fridge, and I'm still consuming olive and fish oils, but those too will be eliminated by the end of next week. The only grains remaining in my diet are rice and oats, and those will be gone by the end of next week. During week 12 of the quarter my diet will be entirely raw fruit and veggies, no fats, no grains, and definitely no sugar, meat, dairy, alcohol or coffee.

Why then do I write about corn? All these other things could be a much bigger deal. But corn is important to me. I am entertaining the notion of giving it up for good. Corn is a favorite food of mine, a comfort food.

I'm from the southeast. I love grits in the morning (with a soft cooked egg and cilantro on top), corn chips any time (with salsa and beans for a meal), and popcorn in the evening (with my delicioso mix of salt, cumin, brewer's yeast, garlic and chili powder). Corn's prominence in my diet increased when I removed other grains. Corn is the quickest carb left in my diet, the highest glycemic food, and hence the food for which I reach when I want quick energy. It is also a traditional treat, and the one remaining crunchy salty snack in my cabinet. My mother sent me a bag of popcorn for my birthday. Tonight I am going out to the movies, and it will be hard for me to not have popcorn. I can smell it coming.

Corn is one of the foods most likely to be genetically modified. I suspect that I may have a sensitivity to corn, simply because it has been my go-to grain when other foods were taken away. You could even say that I am addicted to it, because I love it so much, and because it gained such prevalance in my diet over time. I also have a particular fondness for salt, and corn is one food on which abundant salt is delicious. I generally add salt to a sack of corn chips. So the elimination of corn will also cause a substantial reduction in salt intake. If I replace corn with veggies and fruits, it will be a drastic improvement to my overall nutritional status.

It has taken me some time to overcome my resistance about giving up corn. The final straw to my denial about corn came recently. I am taking an elective called gastroenterology lab with Dr SSL. I was doing the reading about iliocecal valve syndrome one night, and the notes mentioned popcorn. I immediately put down the notes and popped a huge batch in coconut oil, covered it with my spice mix, and downed the entire bowl while studying about the IC valve. The next day in gastro lab my cecum was full, and my IC valve was irritated. Everybody palpated it, and muscle testing confirmed what I knew to be true. I allowed myself to be used as an example for the class. I was indeed the poster child for eating foods that irritate the ICV, from nuts to chocolate to popcorn.

Later that week my IC valve remained so irritated that it would not open. I did not have a bowel movement for several days, which is unusual for me. I started to feel very toxic, got a headache, and my skin broke out in an abundance of acne. I finally took matters into my own hands, and gave myself a series of warm enemas. The fecal matter I rousted was fermented and very sour. The very last thing to emerge from my large intestine was a bolus of popcorn fragments, completely undigested. The popcorn had stayed at my IC valve for the better part of a week.

That evening I felt my small intestines begin to move again, and within a few days my skin was looking better. I finally realized that I had been torturing my GI system with my massive popcorn habit. I already knew that nutritionally I wasn't doing myself any favors, as corn is almost devoid of nutrition. But it took an experiment with intentionally irritating my ICV and allowing myself to become toxic before I was really ready to give it up. I think this may be why the author of The Easy Way to Quit Smoking tells his readers to light up regularly, so that they can become disgusted with their habit in the process of contemplating ending it.

At this moment I've been corn-free for over a week. I've been chocolate free for over 2 weeks. I've been coffee-free for 2 days. The only cravings I notice are for the purest of simple sugars, like cookies with frosting or mint candies. After my cleanse and fast, I expect to reintroduce some vices but in small amounts, because I enjoy them and am willing to suffer the consequences. I hope to stay off sugar. And I don't know if I will re-introduce corn. First I will do some research about types of corn, agricultural practices and whatnot, and decide which kind is best if I am going to take any in at all. Then I will keep careful track, to see if I have any signs of sensitivity to it when I reintroduce. If I have no symptoms, I will probably allow it in my food rotation, about once a week. We shall see, the dietary experiment continues.



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