Can Tick Bites Trigger Allergies to Red Meat?

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 52

As a Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, I have noticed a very odd and perplexing trend in recent years:  allergies to red meat seem to be on a slow but definite rise at least where I live in the Southeastern United States.  While not a lot of folks I know have this strange type of allergy, there are definitely a few who do and this is something I had never observed prior to just a few years ago.

I have been at a complete loss to explain to folks why they might be allergic to red meat.  I have generally considered it to be yet another symptom of the rampant and worsening gut imbalance problems people subsisting on modern foods and pharmaceuticals suffer from and have advised looking into healing and sealing their gut wall a la the GAPS or SCD Diets with their holistic health practicioner.

Now, there appears to be at least one possible explanation:  tick bites.

The Journal of General Internal Medicine has published an article by Susan Wolver, MD, and Diane Sun, MD of Virginia Commonwealth University which identifies the rising trend of red meat allergies which first appeared in the Southeastern United States.

Dr. Wolver and Dr. Sun stumbled upon this connection by analyzing the case histories of three patients.  People with an allergy to red meat, a very new syndrome, wake up in the middle of the night about 3-6 hours after eating red meat for dinner with hives or worse, a severe, life threatening condition known as delayed anaphylaxis.

The reaction is thought to be caused by antibodies to a carbohydrate known as alpha-gal.

A patient produces these carbohydrate antibodies after being bitten by a tick, most probably a Lone Star tick.  This same carbohydrate is in all red meat – pork, venison, beef, and lamb.  When the allergic individual consumes these foods, the immune system releases histamine in response to the ingestion of the carbohydrate alpha-gal which is the cause of the hives or anaphylaxis.

Most worrisome, anaphylaxis triggered by red meat appears to be the very first life threatening allergic reaction due to consumption of a carbohydrate rather than a protein.  What’s more, this is the first anaphylaxis that occurs hours after exposure rather than immediately upon contact or ingestion.

Could more carbohydrate induced anaphylaxis be on the way?

The conclusions of Dr. Wolver and Dr. Sun:

“Where ticks are endemic, for example in the southeastern United States, clinicians should be aware of this new syndrome when presented with a case of anaphylaxis. Current guidance is to counsel patients to avoid all mammalian meat – beef, pork, lamb and venison.”

The list of foods that potentially must be avoided by allergic individuals just continues to grow and grow. How much longer will it get before conventional circles recognize the health effects that an overreactive immune system many times triggered by severe gut imbalance plays in food intolerance?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Source: Carnivores: Beware of Ticks

Picture Credit

Comments (52)

  • tanya langlois

    My husband developed an allergy to red meat 5 yrs ago. The delayed reaction occurs in the middle of the night and has become progressively worse. Initialy homoeopathic sulphur would work, now not so much. The interesting thing is that where he was bitten by a tick suffers the most swelling. also interesting is that he can still eat pork, but no other red meat. We havent tried kangaroo yet though. This allergy is terrible

    August 21st, 2012 11:52 pm Reply
  • Gigi

    to all of you who said you have had tick bites..and from someone with lyme, PLEASE seek out a doctor who will treat you with antibiotics…and not just a week but at least a month. two would be even better. if you don’t, it will come back when you least expect it. and you won’t know what it is b/c the symptoms are so varied. please please please get treatment! it’s a horrible disease!

    August 21st, 2012 12:05 pm Reply
  • Lina Merrill via Facebook

    I got bit this Spring and I start having skin allergic this Summer that I never experienced before. After I read this article I realize that it could be from the tick bite. Thank you for this information.

    August 21st, 2012 11:54 am Reply
  • dude

    are people confused by the food-combining stuff? Meat is only ESSENTIALLY a protein, Carbs form important parts of every food.

    August 20th, 2012 3:35 pm Reply
  • Beth

    What IS that in the photo besides the tick? :-)

    August 20th, 2012 3:02 pm Reply
  • kristyreal

    It’s not just the feed that the cows eat, but how they are processed. If you buy grass fed beef from the most well-known site online (I won’t say the name, but it sounds like smellness), it will still contain corn derivatives. Most carcasses are washed down with lactic acid (product of fermentation of corn waste by mold), citric acid (the same), or vinegar (same again). They are then packaged in cryovac packages that are dusted with GMO cornstarch…….expensive grass fed beef ruined in the processing.

    The trick is to find a local farmer and a local small scale meat processor who will custom butcher your beef for you using only water! My processor washes all equipment down very well before processing my meat and uses unpowdered gloves and plain white butcher paper. I can’t eat any meat from the grocery store (even organic or grass fed), but I have no issues whatsoever with my custom butchered grass fed beef. I am still looking for completely corn-free chicken (I currently have access to pastured chicken that is fed some corn, but is processed clean which doesn’t work for me), pork (same case as chicken) and ocean fish. Eggs are very difficult as well because they can come from corn-fed chickens, but they are also washed with detergents when sold commercially (eggshells are porous!). Sometimes they are even coated with corn oil after washing to try to mimic the “bloom” that naturally protects eggs. It’s horrifying to see what is done to our food.

    August 20th, 2012 2:59 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Yes, this is the FIRST allergy triggered by a carb not a protein. It is also the first that can trigger delayed anaphylatic shock instead of immediate.

    August 20th, 2012 2:54 pm Reply
  • Tim Swart via Facebook

    I guess I’m curious, and very confused. Mention of Carbohydrate as cause talking about Protein? Sorry for my lack of science background in my questioning :-(

    August 20th, 2012 12:43 pm Reply
  • Kathy Pilarcik Deutsch via Facebook

    I was bitten by 7 (stuck in the weeds with a flat tire) and got the dreaded “bullseye” with 5. I still have strange flare ups of skin illnesses and food sensitivities and it has been 3 years.

    August 20th, 2012 12:23 pm Reply
  • Tim Swart via Facebook

    I am one of those people with Milk.

    August 20th, 2012 11:31 am Reply
  • Monica Johnston Connell via Facebook

    i suffered a tick bite a a kid … Would this be an acute allergy or an intolerance?

    August 20th, 2012 11:20 am Reply
  • Trisha Simpkins Tipton via Facebook

    I tried that. Went on GAPS and still can’t eat it

    August 20th, 2012 11:19 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Some people’s physiology is so messed up that even if they drink 100% grasssfed milk they still have a milk allergy. Most with milk allergies are ok with it but you still have the few that can’t handle even the purest milk.

    August 20th, 2012 11:17 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    I have read reports that the issue is because some ticks are GM, but I have not been able to confirm that this is in fact true.

    August 20th, 2012 11:15 am Reply
  • Tim Swart via Facebook

    That is quite interesting…I would look at an entire Autoimmune protocol of eating and eliminating all grains/legumes/sugars before I would call it a meat allergy.

    August 20th, 2012 11:14 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Some folks still have trouble even if the cow just eats grass.

    August 20th, 2012 11:11 am Reply
  • Trisha Simpkins Tipton via Facebook

    This happened to me and I have tried 100% grass fed meat from a friend and it made no difference

    August 20th, 2012 11:10 am Reply
  • Tim Swart via Facebook

    Grass fed does not mean it’s clean…Grass Finished is the term that everyone needs to be educated on. Unless cows were raised in feedlots, 70% of a Grass Fed cow was grass…the last 30% of it’s life is spent on Grains/Soy feed. Thanks to our wonderful (insanely sarcastic) labeling laws, we are being fed a bunch of crap by our “grass fed” labeling.

    In 3 months of that Grain Finished cow’s life it is fed grains to “fatten” them up for more profits…that fat is now poisoned with grain, and WILL transfer to the people who have “the allergy” for sure.

    August 20th, 2012 10:58 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    @Tim actually some folks are having problems even with grassfed meats.

    August 20th, 2012 10:55 am Reply
  • Tim Swart via Facebook

    Find some Grass Fed and Grass Finished/Pasture Raised Wild Caught meats/eggs/fish, and I will pretty much bet that there will be NO such allergies. Karen Pendergrass chime in here please :-)

    August 20th, 2012 10:53 am Reply
  • Tim Swart via Facebook

    Allergies from Meat are directly caused by what the meat EATS!! Corn/Soy/Grain fed feeds that our food is being fed are the direct cause of what people call “meat allergy” you aren’t allergic to the meat itself, but the hypersensitive perceive it as an allergy because they are truly allergic to the FEED.

    August 20th, 2012 10:52 am Reply

      Meat contains fats protiens and carbs- in fact glycogen is the way carbs energy is stored for muscle activity

      August 21st, 2012 9:30 pm Reply
  • Melinda

    I’m confused. You write that this is the first known example of an allergy to a carbohydrate, not a protein. But, isn’t meat a protein and not a carb? You repeat it lower down too. So, please help me understand what you mean – thanks!

    August 18th, 2012 11:23 pm Reply
  • Lucy

    I live in Ausraila, so we have different ticks, and I have had thousands of bites over the years. I can not believe that a tick would cause a red meat allergy – it would most likely be what they feed the animals in confinement! We have an aquaintance that sells chemical free grass fed beef and lamb to people that have had problems for many years and that is the only meat they can eat. Why can’t people see that the cause of so many of our health problems are caused by the food we eat. It is so logical, but the big pharmaceutical company’s can’t make money if everyone gave away junk food and only ate real food!

    August 18th, 2012 8:16 pm Reply
  • Pingback: Allergic to Grass Fed Beef?

  • Doug Baumber

    I have had serious trouble from ticks twice in my life. When I was a raft guide in colorado I had a tick which resulted in several months of on and off fever, headaches and serve joint and muscle pain interspersed by days of normality.
    The second incident is were i pulled a tick out of my neck and left it there for 3 months ignoring the
    irritation. Eventually I woke to have weakness,racing heart dizziness and so on. The doctor was stunned that I was silly enough to ignore it till it became almost fatal. Ticks are not to be messed about.

    However much of the allergy to beef is probably not allergy to real beef. A friend works as a government inspector in the beef industry. The stories are horrific.He as a vet sometimes has tears in his eyes at the suffering of the animals. They are held in lots fed, chicken manure, ground up plastic milk containers(hence contaiminated with BPA). The animals are help in lots were they can not move, so they gain weight- I mean unable to move 6 inches. I was in teh military and knwo the pain of standing at attention for hours on end. The animals come in from their soft lot covered in feces,balls of it on their coats the size of soccer balls- legs and feet so weak from not being able to move- and they are in extreme pain after being trucked and then having to walk on concrete with their soft hooves. the cattle are fed antibiotics ,pain killers and so on, Here may be part of the problem. My daughter and i are allergic to most antibiotics and feel very ill if we eat commercial eggs or chicken. we get nausea sometimes and sometimes a rash. We have our own chickens which are on the bugs and grubs diet and have no problem with these eggs- we don’t eat our chickens they are much loved pets- just as affectionate as dogs and cats-so has made me appreciate the cruelty of factory chickens- Nazi death camp conditions for these beautiful loving birds.

    In summary- yes it could be ticks -but it could also be the antibiotics excetra- did u know they add caffeine to the chickens food to keep them awake eating then to stop the meat being tough they feed them prozac and paracetomol. they then add by weight 30% a saline /salt solution with MSG because the chicken meat is so tasteless. The birds have chronic chest infections from constantly breathing in manure and dust stirred by the flapping wings- many die from ammonia poisioning as the ammonia lays low on the ground. Factory cows are similar- no wonder people may be adversley reacting to factory beef- In Australia they can call it grass fed if has some of its life in the field then fattened the last 100 days in a lot -grain fed- ie chicken manure-scraps off the battery hen floor,ground plastic milk bottles fast food oil waste and so on. Why do people react to beef-no wonder-

    August 18th, 2012 5:03 pm Reply
    • watchmom3

      Doug, after reading your comment, I just felt sick about the whole meat industry.. If I didn’t have a blog like this one to come to and hear others who are also sickened of all this horror and travesty…well, I would just go crazy.. I already knew most of what you spoke of.. but, when I think of how people are so cruel to not just animals, but other people…it is just an endless cycle of pain. Thank you for reminding me and helping to stiffen my resolve not to give them a cent of my money and tell others that we must all BEWARE for the survival of our families. God bless.

      August 18th, 2012 6:04 pm Reply
      • doug Baumber

        more likely a drug used in the raising than the beef- try true 100% organic grass fed

        people should start getting their own chickens- if one million people got 6 chickens each that would be six million less in concentration camp conditions, ps today i shared a big cuddle session with my chickens today. they love being picked up and patted- most wait calmly for their turn some will pull my leg hair if they feel ignored.

        August 19th, 2012 7:29 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Yes, I think it will die down now that it has been discovered that many other bloggers were plagiarized, not just me. Just a strange thing that happens out of the blue sometimes.

    August 18th, 2012 3:49 pm Reply
  • Chris

    I think there is some definite connection. I contracted Lyme disease about eight years ago, started having weird problems, and through error wasn’t diagnosed until years later. About two years ago I started to have severe joint inflammation, and then finally got diagnosed. The only thing to make the inflammation go away was stopping meat. I know this because I couldn’t go on the antibiotics right away. I tried it because I saw an article about how with Lymes there may some problems (gut related) to digesting protein. The inflammation was completely gone within a day or two after stopping eating the meat. I, however, had been eating entirely a grass fed, free range meat diet. Even that didn’t seem to matter. Now I’ve seen these allergy articles since then, and I do believe there is some kind of a connection.

    August 18th, 2012 3:31 pm Reply
  • Gracie Pinon via Facebook

    Yes i noticed even on your website I have some technical difficulties this morning. It’s all the traffic about that political issue I think. by the way, im baking your carrot cake today. sounds good. thanks.

    August 18th, 2012 3:20 pm Reply
  • caroline

    I am sensitive to beef. When ever i eat i I get really tired. This stared happening in the spring, and i thought it was because the cows were eating the same grass I was allergic to..could this be a possibility. I am going to try bone broth today again too see how that goes. Thanks for this article :)

    August 18th, 2012 2:01 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    FB is having issues today Andrea. I’ve had some problems with weird stuff happening too.

    August 18th, 2012 1:36 pm Reply
  • Andrea Abercrombie via Facebook

    For some reason it’s not letting me post it here, I did email it to you Sarah.

    August 18th, 2012 12:53 pm Reply
  • Mrs. Mac

    Interesting … also, I wonder if there could be a connection to eating red meat from (GMO) corn fed beef? I’ve suffered from hives for the past six years and have to watch EVERYTHING I eat … for GMO’s, preservatives, etc. Keeping to a ‘clean’ diet helps. Drinking milk thistle and/or nettle tea has been very effective in detoxifying my system .. practically no more hives.

    August 18th, 2012 12:26 pm Reply
    • kelly

      I would agree with the coorelation that corn and also soy could be contributors, I am just as allergic to corn and soy as beef……I do suffer from cross contaimination issue (ie: lamb is often times basted with beef juices..). Clean eating is difficult unless you eat at home all the time, which is what i do mostly but not always possible.

      August 18th, 2012 12:36 pm Reply
      • kristyreal

        You might benefit from the Avoiding Corn Forum on Delphi. My two kids and I are allergic to corn and soy and I’ve been able to find out so much about hidden corn from that forum. Your problem is most likely hidden corn derivatives in the processing of the meat. It isn’t enough to simply buy grassfed beef for us, we must buy at least a quarter of a cow at once so we can have it legally custom butchered. USDA regulations require some kind of antibacterial treatment be used on meat that is to be shipped, but laws differ around the country. You want a small processor that will accommodate your allergy: only water used on carcass, no powdered gloves, rinse equipment extremely well with water after any sanitizers or cleaners are used, no cornstarch dusted cryovac packaging. If you have problems with fish or shellfish, it is because much wild-caught fish is packed in citric acid-laced ice right on the boat! We couldn’t tolerate any dairy until we found raw milk locally (we buy it illegally) because the vitamin D is suspended in milk using polysorbate 80, propylene glycol or corn oil.

        I know there is a connection because we react to ALL corn derivatives – even though doctors assure me that we can’t be allergic to things like maltodextrin (because there is no corn protein present). The tick bite-induced red meat allergy is a reaction to a sugar molecule in the red meat. I was very interested when I read about the first documented allergic reaction to something other than a protein……..We corn allergy sufferers have known it was possible for years, but doctors just won’t listen.

        August 19th, 2012 2:52 am Reply
  • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

    Thank you for posting this information. Perhaps only conventional red meat triggers the problem then? More research clearly needs to be done here. For now, folks who get a tick bite need to be informed of the potential problem and be on the lookout.

    August 18th, 2012 12:21 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    @Tina Thanks :) My hubby took that photo last night at dinner at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I like the black and white effect.

    August 18th, 2012 12:01 pm Reply
  • Jess Young via Facebook

    @Andrea, I’d be interested to read that article as well.

    August 18th, 2012 10:46 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    @Andrea Can you email me that article? By the way, hope you are doing great! Haven’t seen you in awhile :)

    August 18th, 2012 10:44 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    @Andrea Now that is truly shocking!

    August 18th, 2012 10:44 am Reply
  • Linda

    Wow this sure is food for thought ! Darn ticks anyway .

    August 18th, 2012 10:38 am Reply
  • Andrea Abercrombie via Facebook

    I also read the article that said these thicks were genetically modified to cause this reaction so people consume less red meat. I’ve only see this in one article and haven’t done research, but truly disturbing!

    August 18th, 2012 10:37 am Reply
    • Joyce

      There are a fw articles out on this. Google “genetically modified ticks”. They are genetically modifying salmon, as well as mosquitos. Some to even carry vaccines! Look it up. SCARY!

      August 18th, 2012 1:26 pm Reply
  • Andrea Abercrombie via Facebook

    I read this a few weeks ago, so scary!!!!!!!

    August 18th, 2012 10:31 am Reply
  • Stephanie Duffey via Facebook


    August 18th, 2012 10:28 am Reply
  • Judy Derrickson via Facebook

    Very frightening, since grass fed beef is our staple. We have lots of lone star ticks, but they don’t like me much anymore because I eat lots of garlic. One bit me this year and jumped of, did not imbed. I am ALWAYS in heavy brush, collecting browse for my dairy goats, or deer hunting, so I would be totally covered with bites by now otherwise.

    August 18th, 2012 10:28 am Reply
  • kelly

    I’ve been allergic to beef for well over 8 years now and its amazing to me that people actually argue with me that I’m not allergic (much testing and self testing proves my point), but no tick bites here (I live in big cities). So, while I think it possible, not my case but nice to see beef allergies acknowledged!

    August 18th, 2012 10:28 am Reply
    • TinaC

      People argued with me over my children’s allergies when they were young, even going so far as to sneak them the offending foods to prove me wrong. Very frustrating, and manipulative of them. I mean really, if you are healthy and happy why does it matter to them? .

      Anyway, two of my children’s allergies were to beef and eggs. After some experimenting we found they could have all the organic grass fed pastured beef and organic pastured eggs they wanted however. At the time they had so many other allergies that it was wonderful to discover that! Just thought I’d mention it because although I knew organic was better for you, it never occurred to me at the time it could make such an impact allergy wise.

      August 20th, 2012 11:13 am Reply
  • Tina Lov Ing via Facebook

    Off Topic: I love the picture of you! You’re forty-something a fabulous looking!

    August 18th, 2012 10:25 am Reply
  • Jennifer Pinkasavage via Facebook

    Yes! My mother just went through this.

    August 18th, 2012 10:19 am Reply

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