This post refers to an allergy. Please read my disclaimer and proceed mindfully.
For more information on Mammalian Meat Allergy (MMA) also referred to as Alpha-Gal Syndrome, refer to my website MMA Safe Place.
For a couple of years now I’ve had what I suspected was a “red-meat allergy”, from a paralysis tick bite. This is a growing concern especially on the coastal areas of NSW and QLD. There are new cases diagnosed every day, children included, so I wanted to share with you a little of what I’ve learned, so you can help yourself, or others, access good information should they ever be affected.
Firstly – if you’re ever bitten by a paralysis tick (and please teach your kids this!) – don’t try to remove it – don’t even touch it! Keep a “wart-off” product in your handbag/backpack and freeze it off so the paralysis tick cannot inject you with the “alpha-gal” protein, which it could have picked up by a recent feed (a cow, for example). If you don’t have access to the wart-off product, leave the tick in place until you can get to a chemist. Essential Oils are a little more risky as they can take a bit longer to work and the tick can still get irritated and inject you – I used essential oils and I still got the allergy – so please consider getting wart-off.
Secondly – if you are bitten by a paralysis tick, it’s not guaranteed you will become allergic to mammal meat products. This is just one form of a paralysis tick bite side-effect. So book a doctor appointment and have a blood test to check for “alpha-gal allergy”. You will also know if you suddenly start getting sick after eating. For me the symptoms were full-body tingles, tremors, heart palpitations, nausea like food-poisoning, urge to vomit but difficulty vomiting, sleepless nights with high anxiety, drop in blood pressure, urge to cry etc, pacing hallways etc. I mistook these symptoms for panic attacks. What I found worked for my “panic attacks” was vitamin C (4 mandarins did the trick!) or a vitamin C supplement, and an anti-histamine over time as the symptoms worsened. As they became worse again – I didn’t realise the foods I was eating were triggering allergy – I started using an asthma puffer occasionally to open my airways and calm me down, along with essential oils Sage, Lemon Grass, Frankincense, and Peppermint. I’ll always keep these first-aid tools with me now, but generally a state of calm, yoga, and deep diaphragmatic breathing is a really good preventative for the worse symptoms.
Thirdly – if you or someone else has alpha-gal allergy, don’t despair! Stress and Anxiety are enormous co-factors in the severity of allergies or food intolerances in general. Not only is it helpful to manage stress levels pro-actively to ensure a correct diet can be followed, but in my case stress management techniques have allowed me to stabilise my condition at home when I have accidentally consumed something my body can no longer tolerate. It takes time to get your mindset organised, for a change in diet and more diligence when eating out and for responding appropriately in the case of allergic reaction. It is also essential that you see a doctor, and an Allergy Specialist and check the extent of the allergy and put safety precautions into place and know what to do if you are affected. Allergic symptoms can occur within 20 minutes to 12 hours of eating and can range from mild discomfort to severe life-threatening symptoms caused by beef, to include all mammals, to even include milk and even milk-chocolate. Knowledge is power: Learn as much as you can. Planning is key: have yourself organised with everything you need to comfortably overcome incidents.
During the earlier years of my symptoms, I was taking a whole-food powder in vegan-capsule and plant-based protein powder as a chocolate or vanilla shake. Juice Plus+ is all vegan. After just 2 years I said Juice Plus+ “saved my life” when I didn’t know what was making me sick, because Juice Plus+ smoothies filled my belly up when I was both confused and weak from elimination diets. Fortunately now this allergy is more well known about and doctors can provide earlier diagnoses and support. (Edit (2022): It is now suspected that some red-algae products, including spirulina and algal oil, may trigger symptoms for some sensitive people living with Mammalian Meat Allergy. These red-algae based ingredients may be present in vegan supplements including Juice Plus+. Always proceed with caution and check your ingredients thoroughly with the assistance of a dietician or doctor).
Here are some practical solutions for shopping:
Alpha-gal is not “red-meat”. This is not “red-meat allergy” – and naming it that means you can make the same mistake I did and keep eating prosciutto and cheese for the next 2 years! Alpha-gal is all mammals, even including kangaroo, pork, lamb – any animal born with live young. That means the occasional bacon for Sunday breakfast, or ham sandwiches on the run, or gyoza, or biscuits made with margarine, are out. It may even include vegetarian spring-rolls, if they are cooked in the same deep-fried pan as meat spring rolls.
It is also a little tricky if you already follow a vegetarian diet – vegetarianism is omitting meat and is definitely the closest diet to meat allergy – but sometimes vegetarian foods are cooked in animal fats or on a pan that has recently cooked meat. Just take a little bit of extra caution – take a look at the cooking areas, or read labels. I used to eat mostly vegetarian, but simply didn’t realise some ingredients included mammal products, such as cheese “rennet”.
These are the products to look out for:
- Cheese (rennet): buy the vegetarian option, which is made with animal-free rennet.
- Lollies (many different kinds): only eat vegetarian because a lot of lollies are made with gelatine.
- Thickened Cream, Sour Cream, and some Yoghurts: they often have gelatine. Read ingredients and buy pure cream and pot-set yoghurt. Be careful when eating out at parties or restaurants, as the cakes on offer probably have cream or jelly.
- Flavoured meals, sauces and condiments: Beef stocks may be used in packaged foods. Choose vegetarian, and just make sure to read the ingredients.
- Bakery foods: Pizza breads, for example, have bacon, and ham.
- Cheesecakes: save the experience for when you can buy or make a beautiful raw-vegan! I have a great recipe.
If you have kids? Don’t be like me and eat their left-overs! Or lick your fingers after preparing their meals. That too, was triggering mild reactions for me.
Restaurants & Cafes: You can have a quick chat with the chef when you arrive to check that vegetarian options on the menu definitely haven’t come into contact with beef stock or cooked in the same grill-pan as bacon, for example. Also you can ask to omit cheese. I find chefs and staff so helpful and willing to accommodate – sometimes I ring ahead and let them know and talk about the menu options.
Platters being served at big events: know what you’re eating before you eat it. Take your own foods as a precaution. At our recent conference I made myself unwell eating these delicious parcels that had pork in them … I’d say it was worth it – but it really wasn’t, as I had to leave and missed the event!
The other thing to be weary of, which snuck up on me, is Iron Deficiency. I became iron deficient – and that was not a pleasant 2-3 months. Iron supplementation is often recommended for women, and I recommend it for mammalian meat allergy. Especially while you learn a new vegetarian diet. Especially if you are in child-birthing years with extra blood loss, from birth or miscarriage. I have continued to have my JP+ shakes, which have a good amount of iron. And I know that later on, when the diet becomes more normal and my health is strong and resilient, and my immune system is strong again, the extra supplementation can be taken out.
Supplementation from the chemist. Watch out for gelatine capsules and other mammal ingredients. Ring the company and ask if their vitamins, probiotics are vegetarian. I have found that most of Ethical Nutrients is vegetarian, which is great for probiotics and iron and vitamin B, and have found a favourite list of “safe” supplements. My Naturopath, and my Chemist, are more than willing to call the companies before they sell me their products. Propolis was a favourite supplement of mine. However my brand had gelatine – so it’s worth ringing the company for a quick chat, they are always helpful. I have previously not recommended supplementation from the chemist, but with an allergy, the body can get very run down and the immune system weak. So supplementation and chinese herbs have helped me get back on my feet, along with a varied and heathy diet.
This is why I love our Tribal Wellness Community. It is already for the healthy-minded person – but when something totally weird and unexpected pops up, this community is simply a God-Send because pretty-much EVERYTHING in our pages, is safe. I’ve always loved the vegetarian options in this program, and even more so now.
As I think of more examples that may be helpful, I’ll add them to this list over time. I just wanted to raise a little awareness for you, in case a child you know, or an adult you know, is affected – you can easily support them and give them the encouragement that they need. Anxiety, and stress, is often more debilitating than any condition so calming language, hugs and peaceful time together is key.
Please also don’t underestimate the effect of taking meat out of your diet, if you are not used to being a vegetarian. Your body will adapt over time, but it feels the change. I know my body is missing certain foods and I make sure, nowadays, that everyday, I plan ahead to balance each and every meal. It’s NOT ok to be on the run and forget to plan your meals. And it’s NOT ok to gulp your food down in a hurry and create other digestive issues! Don’t we all do that? 🙂 I feel like this is a precious time to pay extra attention to yourself, because it takes a certain level of discipline and focus to manage an allergy, meal-by-meal, on a daily basis. The last thing we need is other digestive issues or stress placing extra pressures on the beautiful body.
Between salmon, seafood and fish, beans, grains, and the list goes on, there are plenty of ways to keep the body nourished. At different times, I added foods back in, that I had taken out during elimination diet testing, such as bread, and sugar, to fill me up (note that gluten can be highly irritating to the digestive symptom and may worsen symptoms, and sugar can cause blood-sugar imbalance resulting in histamine regulation issues). It’s better to eat something than not at all if you’re aware of the more minor uncomfortable side effects. To begin with, my body did miss meat, however I overcame the cravings and found new ways to fill my plate.
Often times people associate a tick-bite with Lymes Disease. I can’t comment too much except to say that, in my case, mammalian meat allergy triggered a whole stream of health challenges that I realised were not Lymes related, but related to having taken meat out of my diet. It can be challenging to suddenly stop eating meat and lose that source of protein and fat, energy and strength. I know it’s not the same for many people and they feel better without meat – and on the whole, I do. But a sudden change without adequate preparation before hand can result in feeling unwell as a whole while the body’s microbiome changes and blood-sugar re-balances.
Stress Relief techniques and associating with like-minded people, such as what we have here in our community, and watching healthy documentaries is inspiring. Check out the Gaia app as well as Netflix, Prime and free-to-air channels, as they will give you the heart-felt support you need that vegetarianism is going to be ok, if you weren’t in that full mindset before.
Day by day we aim to repair our bodies and have trust, faith and optimism for the future. You can join me as I walk to wellness in the private facebook group Joanna Haley Homestead (Journey to Wellness)
Joanna Haley, Author