If we say "ticks" and "food sensitivities" you might think of Lyme disease - totally appropriate because they are definitely related! But would you think of alpha gal syndrome, also known as AGS? If not, you're in good company. That's why we're talking about it today!
Food allergies can be a cause of food sensitivities because they crank up the immune system, weaken the integrity of the gut lining and generally cause a lot of inflammation. All things that increase our overall reactivity. That's reason enough to talk about food allergies, but alpha gal syndrome deserves some time in the spotlight because of its unique characteristics.
Alpha gal syndrome is an acquired allergy to mammalian meat (think things like venison, beef, pork, lamb - not chicken or fish) which is caused by a tick bite. When you are bitten by a tick, it passes a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into your system and that sugar may or may not cause an immune reaction. Alpha-gal is a component of most mammalian meat. Once your body is sensitized to the sugar, it works really hard to keep you "safe" when it sees it again in your steak dinner, pork chop or hamburger and that's when symptoms start.
Like most individuals diagnosed with alpha gal syndrome, you may have been a regular at the local steak restaurant or happily eating venison tenderloin cooked in butter and onion every night for dinner. This is an acquired allergy - it happens all of a sudden, out of the blue.
Symptoms can be the classic anaphylactic-type reaction with hives, swelling of the tongue and airway and respiratory distress. Yes, it can be life-threatening. But symptoms are also commonly limited to the gut - cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. Sounds a lot like IBS, doesn't it?
And here's one of the biggest puzzle pieces for alpha-gal - symptoms are not immediate. It may take between two and six hours for hives or gut symptoms to start. That's a long time! And the delay makes it harder to connect the dots between symptoms and what you ate.
One nice thing about alpha gal syndrome is you can specifically test for alpha-gal IgE in a blood test to see if you have the allergy. Of course, you can also do an exclusion diet and eliminate all items from mammalian products and wait to see if things improve. Keep in mind many supplements and medications are in gelatin capsules. Gelatin is made from beef. It is also necessary to look at body product ingredients; look for gelatin, lanolin, and carrageenan.
Like any sensitivity or allergy, there is a whole new world to explore, learn and then apply to your life and your situation to prevent symptoms. But you know better than anybody how your body works, what is right and what is most definitely wrong. Trust your body and trust your instincts!
The big question to answer if you're suspicious of alpha gal syndrome is whether or not you have recently been bitten by a tick - or if you can relate a tick bite with the onset of your symptoms. If your answer is Yes then you have some more research to do! Consider starting an elimination diet. See if you can make a difference in symptoms. Look for a healthcare provider who knows a bit about it or is willing to listen.
And keep in mind, for some the reactivity goes away and they can enjoy some of those favorite foods again after a few years. How's that for a silver lining?!
Sixty-second Self-care Tip…
Figuring out this food thing can be a real challenge…and a real pain. It affects every aspect of life, right? And now we're talking about alpha gal and how the symptoms frequently present in the middle of the night. There goes a good night's sleep!
When I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with it all, I need some help with perspective. And that's what I want to help you with today.
This link will take you to a free download (it's instant - no email required!) to help you take a look at multiple aspects of life and how things are going for you. Then, the one or two spots that need the most support and attention to get you feeling better overall are easier to identify.
And then you're not killing snakes* trying to make everything better all at the same time! Give yourself a break, check out the Food Sensitivity Life Wheel. You truly can work the tool in less than 60-seconds!
* "killing snakes" is a phrase my mom and I use when we're spinning our wheels trying to make all the things happen at the same time. Imagine it - if I were faced with a bunch of snakes, my fight or flight would be on FULL BLAST!Feeling stuck and alone on your food sensitivity journey? I get it. I've been doing this thing for over 45 years and I still feel stuck and alone part of the time. All I can say is, you're not alone. I see you. Need to just vent or ask a question that is holding you back on your journey? Email me! My eyes only…and I'm already in your corner - email@example.com.