THE BITE THAT CHANGE YOUR DIET

By ZOE SALVADOR
Illustration by MIKE DE LEON

Allergies are very common. Some people are born with them; others develop them over time. People can be allergic to just about anything: dust, pollen, peanuts – you name it! But did you know that there is a type of allergy that can be acquired through an insect bite?

There is a molecule found in mammals – but not humans – known as Alpha-gal, which causes mammalian animal flesh allergy (also known as Alpha-gal syndrome). According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it gives you a severe allergy to the flesh of pigs, cows, and other animals. In some cases, it can even be found in gelatin and dairy products.

How do you get this said allergy, you might be wondering? From the bite of a creature we all know: the tick.

ALLERGYDID YOU KNOW?

Getting bitten by a tick that causes Alpha-gal syndrome can mean developing an allergy to meat!

TICK OR TREAT

The lone star tick is the most common type to spread this allergy. These ticks have Alpha-gal in their saliva. When they bite us, our bodies would attempt to protect us from this foreign molecule by attacking it once it reaches our bloodstream. This is what causes the allergic reaction. Because the antibodies have been primed to protect us against Alpha-gal, consuming animal flesh that contains this molecule will be interpreted by the immune system as a sign to attack. The symptoms of the allergy tend to appear three to eight hours after exposure. It definitely comes as a shock to those affected by it. Sudden rashes or sneezing from food you used to eat does seem scary, and the possibility of anaphylaxis adds to the scare factor. BLESSING IN DISGUISE In some cases, the allergy is temporary, but by the time the affected person figures it out, their body would have already adjusted to the plant-based lifestyle. Getting an allergy thanks to a tick bite might not be the most ideal way to start eating vegetables and fruits, but it does come with health perks. Should one be scared of the Alpha-gal allergy? Not necessarily. A plant-based diet does wonders to the body and is known to improve health outcomes. And if you’ve ever considered going plant-based, you might as well beat the tick to it! Lone Star Tick 

People who get Alpha-gal syndrome might eventually steer clear of meat altogether, turning their diets plant-based. Vegans have nothing to worry about, even if they were to be bitten by ticks responsible for this allergy – they don’t consume animals, after all. 

BLESSING IN DISGUISE

In some cases, the allergy is temporary, but by the time the affected person figures it out, their body would have already adjusted to the plant-based lifestyle. Getting an allergy thanks to a tick bite might not be the most ideal way to start eating vegetables and fruits, but it does come with health perks. Should one be scared of the Alpha-gal allergy? Not necessarily. A plant-based diet does wonders to the body and is known to improve health outcomes. And if you’ve ever considered going plant-based, you might as well beat the tick to it!