To bring my blood sugar levels up rapidly Sunday night, I was given a 50% solution of dextrose. This would be fine, except that dextrose is directly derived from corn. The problem with that is that I have an allergy to corn. The incidence of corn allergies is rising rapidly, primarily due to the fact that so much of the corn grown in our country is genetically modified (GMO). I was very fortunate the reaction I experienced was not extreme. Many people with corn allergies experience anaphylaxis (deadly allergic reactions) when given dextrose intravenously. These allergic reactions typically include a swelling of the throat and mouth which often makes it impossible to breathe. Again, I was very, very fortunate.
On a side note, I'm also concerned that I had genetically modified material directly injected into my veins. Over 90% of corn grown in this country is GMO (genetically modified). Having that crap in my bloodstream concerns me gravely, but I'm taking measures to protect myself.
Although the physiology of an allergic reaction is the same, there is a huge difference between eating an allergenic food and having it directly injected into your bloodstream. Let's look at what happens during an allergic reaction:
- The body is exposed to an allergen, triggering a complex cascade of cellular reactions.
- White blood cells release allergy-specific antibodies which then bind to mast cells, a very specific type of blood cell specifically designed to protect the body from allergens and antigens. Mast cells are most commonly found in the digestive tract and the respiratory system, which explains why allergic reactions typically affect those body systems first.
- The cells of the allergen bind with the chain created by the bonding of the antibodies and mast cells.
- When the allergen cells bind with bonded antibody and mast cell chain, it stimulates the mast cells to release multiple chemicals and hormones that create a chain reaction designed to kill the allergen and protect the body.
- The most common chemical released from the mast cells are histamines. The histamines cause common allergy symptoms (inflammation, itching, etc.) that we are familiar with.
I received the dextrose Sunday night and experienced immediate nausea that persisted for four days. Remember those mast cells in the digestive tract? They sprang into action and did their job as soon as the blood containing the corn product circulated into my stomach and colon. (Nice, huh?) The next day, I was extremely congested (the mast cells at work again) and ached from head to toe.
The achiness is what signaled me that I had been exposed to an allergen. One of the most common, although often unrecognized, symptoms of food allergies is sore joints and achiness. This is created by the inflammation caused by the histamines and other chemicals released by the body in an attempt to protect itself from the allergen. I immediately began researching and realized very quickly that the dextrose was derived from corn. At that point, all I could do was help my body eliminate the allergen. I also treated the inflammation using natural methods.
The most visible allergic reaction I experienced occurred in the site where the IV was inserted, the back of my hand. The entire back of my hand and several inches of my arm turned stunning shades of black, blue and red with visible dark red blotches where blood vessels had burst. I wish I had taken a picture, because it was quite a sight. An IV typically produces a bruise, but not one that measures 6" x 6". The entire area was extremely tender, also a result of the inflammation created by the histamines. The inflammation created by the corn in the dextrose caused some of the smaller vessels in my hand to burst, and created leakages in the larger ones. Not at at all dangerous, just ugly and mildly inconvenient.
Was there an alternative? Yes. In my case, I could have been given a medication called glucagon. Glucagon stimulates the liver to produce sugar (glycogen) and to then release it into the bloodstream. Although glucagon has its own set of side effects, the use of glucagon could have eliminated the allergic reaction I had. It's a minor point since the reactions I had were minor, but its use could have avoided disaster had my reaction been severe.
As I stated in my last post, the EMTs who came were amazing. I'm so thankful they were there. I do find it incredible that standard IV procedure does not include asking the patient's family what allergies the patient has prior to the delivery of IV fluids. Dextrose is included in multiple IV solutions. Knowing that a patient has a corn allergy would enable the team to select an alternative solution and avoid disaster.
I'm sharing this to ensure that anyone with corn allergies is aware that some IV solutions contain corn derivatives. When possible, please ask about the contents of an IV solution before allowing it to be administered. Most glucose solutions contain corn derivatives. Be careful!