Okay, really, this blog post has absolutely nothing to do with space, but galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose sounds like a it could be some cool little planet somewhere out there. Turns out it is a carbohydrate found in mammal meat. So instead, this blog post is about ticks. Maybe.
I remember it well, that little steak that made me feel like dying over 8 years ago. I had no idea what it was that made me so ill, but I woke up around midnight feeling absolutely miserable. My hands and feet felt as though they were itching under the skin, and my stomach felt like something out of Alien. Or Space Balls. Let's go with Space Balls because it's just funny...
Luckily when all this started happening, I was using Weight Watchers and tracking everything I ate. I had a doctor who wanted to take out my gallbladder, but before him I met a disgruntled ultrasound tech which turned out to be a very good thing. He told me how he was sick of listening to the doctors complain about all the patients while they were making boat loads of money from those very same patients. He scanned my gallbladder and said it looked perfectly healthy with no gall stones. His next sentence went something like this...
"The next thing they will do is an ejection fraction test. It will be a percent or two below what they hope to see. They will want to take out your gallbladder. Don't let them do it." Now, I'm pretty certain he wasn't supposed to say those things, but THANK YOU Mr. Ultrasound Tech! The doctor wanted to do exactly what the tech had said. I even went to get a second opinion and was told the exact same thing. Luckily between the two opinions, I began to realize that on the days I was feeling awful I had eaten red meat hours before the episode. I stopped eating it. I got better. I kept my gallbladder which is good because I'm pretty attached to it.
Fast forward 8 years later: That dreaded feeling began again but without the red meat! Or so I thought. Read a blog post down, and you will see a little trail run I did in Tennessee. After that trail run, I had bites all over my legs which I assumed were chiggers. Turns out, they may have been seed ticks. Recently researchers at the University of Virginia noticed that people in certain regions were turning up with adult onset allergies to ... wait for it .... red meat! Those same regions also happen to be where the Lone Star Tick likes to reside. (Tennessee does not sound good to me!) They have been doing more studies to see if ticks are in fact the root cause of this allergy that seems to be becoming more and more common.
It also turns out that pork is considered a red meat and contains the same carbohydrate, galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (aka Alpha-Gal) as beef, venison, and lamb. I had already managed to figure out that it was either pork or dairy causing my issue by food tracking and process of elimination (no.. not THAT kind of elimination). This little piggy went wah wah wah, all the way home. Luckily the pork issue combined with the trip to Tennessee which is where I picked up the initial beef allergy are what put me on track to put the puzzle pieces together. I found a local allergist who had written an article on the topic and went to have the Alpha-Gal IgE test. Results .35 and below are a negative test. My results came back at 18.5. Gee, I guess I really am allergic to red meat, or alpha-gal actually.
So what's the moral of the story? Ticks suck. Why yes they do, but that's not the moral. Allergies are serious stuff. People with this allergy have gone into anaphylactic shock. I joke, but this is serious business. I haven't had beef in over 8 years. While doctors can be great, we have to remember that they, too, are human. They make mistakes. Had I had my gallbladder removed, it would not have solved my issue. We are all an experiment of one, and the more you take the time to research your issues and track what is going on, the better chance you or someone else has of figuring out the problem. Oh, and, last but not least, if a few people act like you might be making up the physical problems you are having, it may just be that the medical profession will get it figured out in a few years. Don't give up!
Turkey burger, anyone?