Dairy and red meat allergies may now be the 10th most common food allergies in the U.S., according to CDC estimates. In case you haven’t heard, alpha-Gal syndrome is on the rise, and it’s still largely unrecognized.
What is this new syndrome? Who needs to avoid red meat and dairy? Might something else be going on here? Let’s look a little deeper at how a simple tick bite can have lifelong, devastating effects – and not just from Lyme disease.
What is alpha-Gal syndrome?
Alpha-Gal syndrome begins with a bite from an infected tick or chigger. The tick or chigger bites some kind of mammal and ingests its blood, which contains alpha-Gal, a type of sugar molecule. If that tick or chigger goes on to bite a human, it can transmit some of the alpha-Gal-tainted blood to the human, which may then trigger an allergic reaction to red meat or dairy products.
One of the stranger things about alpha-Gal syndrome is the time in which it takes for symptoms to present themselves. It typically takes a few months after the tick bite for the person’s antibodies to alpha-Gal to build up, and then it is often several hours after a person eats meat that they have their allergic reaction. (source) The time delay makes diagnosis really difficult because victims often feel like their allergic reactions appear out of nowhere. Before people knew what to look for, an alpha-Gal syndrome diagnosis took some sleuthing.
Alpha-Gal is something to be aware of, particularly since it can be triggered not only by meat and dairy but also drugs containing mammal products, and even carrageenan, an Irish moss used as a food thickener. If you’ve got allergic reactions you can’t explain, you could ask your doctor about getting a blood test to rule this out.
However, for those of us familiar with all our allergies, this is not something to lose sleep over.
In fact, overdiagnosis of alpha-Gal syndrome may be a bigger concern. Detailed studies have shown that about a third of the American population has antibodies to alpha-Gal, which means they’ve already encountered it somewhere. And yet the overwhelming majority of us can eat red meat without ill effects.
So, why the hype around this relatively obscure medical condition?
Well, part of it is simply that sensation sells. The public is fascinated by weird medical conditions, and exotic diseases make for good clickbait.
But we can’t ignore that this is another convenient excuse to scare people away from real meat. Most of us have been happily ignoring the medical establishment’s insistence that red meat is bad for us for years. PETA’s been trying to get us away from eating meat because of animal cruelty. The WEF wants us to avoid eating meat because of climate change. And now the powers are aligning to make us afraid of it due to potential allergic reactions.