(NaturalHealth365) In yet another edition of “This Should Be Science Fiction But Somehow It’s Not,” a mysterious new type of allergy called alpha-gal syndrome, or red meat allergy, is believed to be caused by tick bites. (Yes, you read that right.)
Interestingly, this news comes on the heels of a recent announcement from the Mayor of New York City, who has pledged to reduce the Big Apple’s food-based carbon emissions by a third come 2030, in part by encouraging people to cut back on red meat consumption and eat more “low-carbon food” like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Despite rampant “fact-checking” websites claiming otherwise, many have expressed concerns that this is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempted overstepping by the government to track and restrict free market purchases by individuals.
Questionable New York news aside, the rise in red meat allergies has people concerned about the actual root causes.
Red meat allergy reportedly on the rise – now scientists are exploring possible causes, including tick bites
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), meat allergies of any type are uncommon, but “more cases have been reported in the past few years.” The ACAAI quickly downplays this rise in red meat allergies by noting that there has been an “increased recognition of the diagnosis,” however, there could very well be other factors at play beyond rising rates of diagnosis.
One surprising trigger? A bite from the Lone Star tick.
The ACAAI says that a bite from this species of tick, which is found predominantly in the East and Southern areas of the United States, including Texas to Iowa and even up to New England, “can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork.” Once bitten, a person who develops the so-called alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) will typically experience “mild-to-severe symptoms several hours after eating red meat,” according to Children’s Health Defense (CHD).
Other infections and diseases previously linked to Lone Star ticks include southern tick-associated rash illness, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, heartland virus, and Bourbon virus disease.
So, how the heck does a tick bite cause someone to become allergic to beef? The scientific explanation goes something like this: Tick bites expose a host (animal or human) to tick saliva. Tick saliva contains – among other things – trace quantities of a carbohydrate called alpha-gal. For some individuals, exposure to alpha-gal in tick saliva will trigger an over-sensitized immune response, thereby initiating an allergic reaction phenomenon. And since alpha-gal is also present naturally in red meats (e.g., pork, cow beef, rabbit, lamb, goat, buffalo, venison) and cow’s milk, affected individuals can go on to develop an allergic reaction when consuming these foods, too.
Now as researchers aim to learn more about tick-borne illnesses and allergies, other possible triggers of red meat allergy are being explored. Children’s Health Defense pointed out that animal-derived ingredients containing alpha-gal (like gelatin and carrageenan) are also found in a wide range of other products, including medical devices, personal care products, and medications, including vaccines and drugs used to treat cancer. Additionally, some large-scale food manufacturing processes could also potentially expose people to the alpha-gal.
Here are the warning signs and symptoms of red meat allergy to look out for
At this time, red meat allergy caused by the Lone Star Tick has no known “cure,” but the condition can be managed by avoiding the consumption of meat. Unfortunately, since alpha-gal is also present in so many other things, some individuals may struggle with unusual and “unexplained” symptoms for a long time!
For affected individuals, here are the signs and symptoms of meat allergy (or really any type of food allergy) to look out for, according to the ACAAI:
- Stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Repetitive cough
- Tightness in throat
- Hoarse voice
- Weak pulse
- Pale or blue discoloration of the skin
- Swelling of the tongue and/or lips
- Anaphylaxis, which is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction
You should know that allergic reactions to meat (and the alpha-gal it contains) typically occur immediately after consumption but may take up to several hours to develop. You’re encouraged to speak to a trusted healthcare provider, such as an allergist, with questions.
Keep in mind, an actual ‘allergy to meat’ is rare, but does remind us to always know the source of our foods and choose wisely. Always look for 100% grass fed beef options and avoid “factory farmed” meat options for obvious health reasons.
Sources for this article include:
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