Welcome to Sage Alpha Gal
Smart Tips for Living with Alpha-Gal Syndrome
From the foods you eat to the health and beauty products you use, everything is different when you have an alpha-gal allergy. The tips, tricks, and tools at Sage Alpha Gal are created by a fellow “alpha gal” to help you live (and thrive) with alpha-gal syndrome.
The information provided on this site is based on my personal experience living with alpha-gal syndrome. Because I have an MBA (and not an MD), nothing published on this site should be perceived as medical advice as I’m clearly lacking the letters required on my diploma to be a physician.
What is Alpha-Gal Syndrome?
Alpha-gal syndrome is a food allergy to meat, dairy, and other products made from mammals like cows, pigs, and sheep. It is also known as alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy.
In the United States, alpha-gal syndrome is most commonly caused by a bite from the lone star tick. Easily identified by a white dot on its back, this little bloodsucker is carried by deer in the eastern and south-central regions of the US. In Europe, Australia, and Asia, the alpha gal molecule has been found in different species of ticks including the castor bean tick, kangaroo tick, and Asian longhorn tick.
When one of these nasty little buggers bites you, it injects a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into your body. In some people, this unfortunate incident results in an allergic reaction after consuming beef, pork, lamb, dairy, gelatin, collagen, or other mammalian products. An allergic reaction to alpha-gal can vary from annoyingly uncomfortable to life threatening.
How Long After a Tick Bite Does Alpha-Gal Develop?
Most food allergies cause quick reactions. For example, a person allergic to peanuts or shellfish typically experiences a reaction within minutes of consuming peanut butter or lobster. But it’s not uncommon for a reaction to alpha-gal to take several hours to appear.
And reactions can vary widely by person. You may have alpha-gal syndrome if you experience any of the following within three to six hours after enjoying a cheeseburger, pork chop, or triple-scoop ice cream cone:
- An itchy rash or hives
- A runny nose, sneezing, or headache
- Swelling in your lips, tongue, or throat
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting
Meet Sage Scott
Diagnosed with alpha gal syndrome in the spring of 2021, travel writer and photographer Sage Scott was likely bitten by a lone star tick at least a year or two earlier — probably while enjoying the great outdoors with her camera in tow.
Sage lives in the suburbs of Kansas City where she’s always excited to see an opossum waddle through her wooded backyard or a frog hop across her deck because both creatures feast on the nasty bugs that cause alpha gal syndrome.
How Common is Alpha-Gal Syndrome?
Most people with alpha-gal syndrome in the United States live in the south, east, and central regions of the country where the lone star tick is most commonly found. Approximately three percent of Americans (around 10 million people) currently suffer from alpha-gal syndrome.
How Do You Test for Alpha-Gal?
If you suspect you have alpha-gal syndrome, talk to your physician. After inquiring about your exposure to ticks and your symptoms, your doctor will most likely order a blood test to measure the amount of alpha-gal antibodies in your bloodstream.
What Foods to Avoid If You Have Alpha-Gal Syndrome
As a general rule, people with an alpha-gal allergy should avoid all mammalian meats and by-products. This includes beef, pork, lamb, mutton, bison, venison, goat, and rabbit. Additionally, people with alpha-gal syndrome should avoid medicine capsules containing gelatin and beauty products with collagen. Many alpha gals can tolerate traditional dairy, but some must also avoid all milk, cheese, and other dairy products made from cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk.
I summarize my dietary restrictions by saying I follow a vegan + eggs + poultry + fish/seafood diet. Is it just me, or does that just scream for a clever acronym?
Does Alpha-Gal Go Away?
No. Once you have alpha-gal syndrome, you will live with it for the rest of your life. However, by avoiding the foods and products that trigger an allergic reaction and by avoiding additional tick bites, some alpha-gal sufferers have seen their symptoms decrease over time.
On the other hand, “alpha gals” bitten by additional lone star ticks can experience greater allergic reactions over time. After additional tick bites, the ground beef taco that once caused you to break out in hives or writhe in pain may require you to carry an EpiPen in case you go into anaphylactic shock.