How I Beat Alpha-Gal (Mammalian Meat) Allergy

In 2017, I was bitten by a tick.

As a result of that tick bite, I developed alpha-gal allergy, a little known (but growing) sickness that would debilitate me any time I ate steak, pork, or any other meat from a mammal.

As a red blooded man who loves steak and bacon, this was unacceptable. I decided to fight against this bullshit new lifestyle, and 12 months later I was completely cured.

Here is my story.

The Good Stuff First: How I Resumed Eating Steak

Usually there’s a disclaimer of “please consult your doctor before trying any new health regimens“. Don’t do that. Your doctor is a pussy. They will tell you to do whatever the AMA says has least likelihood of a lawsuit – which is “embrace your new lifetime of vegetables”. If you want to eat steak instead, you’re going to have to take this into your own hands, and try what worked for me:

  1. Get antibiotics EARLY after getting a tick bite.
  2. Give meat a rest for a while (in my case, 9 months)
  3. Gradually re-introduce meat via exposure therapy.

Early Antibiotics

I first got sick about 2 days after finding the tick on me. It was lodged between my knuckles on my right hand. After carefully removing it, I noticed that the area was way more puffy and itchy than any tick bite I had ever had before. I thought nothing of it, and later on attended a church potluck where someone brought pulled pork.

That night, I won’t say I collapsed on my deck… but I strategically decided to lay down on a flight of stairs for about 45 minutes, until I regained enough strength to climb back up.

I was sick as a dog. Light headed, full body ache, I spent most of the next 3 days in the bathroom. It was the sickest I had been in about 20 years.

Now my wife grew up near Lyme, Connecticut, where Lyme’s disease was first discovered. Her whole family had seen enough people debilitated by Lyme’s disease that they knew the importance of getting a round of antibiotics early — it can be the difference between being sick for a week or being sick for multiple years. So I went to the doctor, told them about the tick, told them about the rapid onset of sickness, and asked for a series of tests, as well as antibiotics.

I live in Virginia, and at the time knew 3 people who had contracted this damned meat allergy, so that fear was also in my mind. I asked the nurses for an alpha gal test. They looked at me like I was retarded, telling me they had never heard of such a thing. I pressed on, and they discovered in their system that they did actually have such a test, and reluctantly drew blood for it. I left them with 2 vials of my juice, and in return got a prescription of doxycycline.

My results came back a few days later: negative for Lyme’s disease… positive for alpha gal allergy.

The doctor had no suggestions for me, other than to avoid all mammal meat for the rest of my life. “Enjoy your new lifestyle!”

Fuck that doctor.

A Terrible 9 Months without a single Steak

Not much to report here. This time was filled with research, both into the disease, into what foods were now forbidden to me (meat is hidden in some very unexpected places), and what kind of treatments were available. There was not much good news.

Things I learned:

  1. Turkey Bacon is horrible. It is not a bacon substitute, any more than carob is a chocolate substitute
  2. Ostrich meat is the closes thing to a traditional steak, if you can find it.
  3. Duck meat is a really good replacement for pork.
  4. I used to make fun of vegetarian restaurants that worked so hard to make plants look and taste like steak, but lemme tell you something: those places saved my sanity on more than one occasion. You guys get a high five for the rest of my life for helping me through a hard time.

I’m a data point of 1. I waited 9 months because that was how long it took for the swelling between my knuckles where the tick bit me to finally disappear. Feel free to wait less or more time. It’s your body. Experiment.

Exposure Therapy

One of the things that I learned was that allergists have been very successful in taking children who were deathly allergic to peanuts and boosting their resilience, via something called exposure therapy. The idea is that you take a vanishingly small amount of the allergen, take it, and then watch for any sign of an immune system response. If there’s even a hint of a response, you wait for it to die down, and take even less. The goal is to take a small amount without your body reacting negatively to it. So that’s what I did. I started with beef jerky, since it’s easily reproducible and measurable. At the time (2017/2018) I was traveling quite a bit for work, and needed a regimen that I could follow anywhere in the United States. So I started out with 1 gram of beef jerky, and went from there.

I probably looked like a drug dealer. I had little pouches of precisely measured beef jerky, one for each day.

The first one was the most nerve wrecking. I had no idea if I was going to wind up in the hospital, but I was determined to beat this stupid life-altering illness. So I ate the jerky, and my wife and I monitored me for any signs of sickness over the next 24 hours. (The allergens in mammal meat don’t normally effect people with this disease until 4-8 hours AFTER they’ve eaten the meat).

There was no problem. So the next day I took another gram.

After a week with no symptoms, I upped it to 2 grams.

That was my regimen. Take a small dose daily for a week, watch for any sign of illness, and if there is none, continue. I have no idea how fast I could have gone. For all I know, the initial round of antibiotics might have cleared it up (though I did not want to chance it). I used the disappearance of the swelling and itchiness of the tick site as a sign that it was OK to try to expose myself to the allergen.

By the time I worked by way up to a hunk of meat the size of a playing card, I realized I had made a full recovery. I have enjoyed a carnivorous diet for the past 5+ years since then with no problems whatsoever.

Let me make it clear: no doctor recommended this therapy. I did it at my own risk. It worked for me. If you have this illness, I hope it works for you, too.

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