Unveiling the Mysterious Alpha-gal Syndrome

Jun 09, 2023
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Unveiling the Mysterious Alpha-gal Syndrome

Alpha-gal? What's that?

Alpha-gal is a sugar molecule (galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose) found in four-legged mammals such as cows, pigs, and lambs. Humans do not produce alpha-gal. Studies have found that allergic reaction from this molecule is caused by tick bites, specifically from lone star ticks found in the eastern part of the USA and in other species of ticks found on other continents. These ticks get the alpha-gal molecule from sucking cows, pigs, or deer blood. When an alpha-gal-carrying tick bites a human, it injects the alpha-gal molecules which may cause the human body to develop allergic antibodies against alpha-gal.

When a person who's developed antibodies against alpha-gal consumes meat like beef or pork, they may experience the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Note that consuming dairy products and exposure to other mammalian byproducts may also trigger the reaction. Recent studies are also showing that alpha-gal allergy is also triggered by consumption or exposure to products containing carrageenan. Carrageenan is from some species of seaweeds that contains alpha-gal epitope. Carrageenan may also be found in some vegetarian/vegan products so that's something to watch out for.

That's scary! What are the usual symptoms if you have an alpha-gal allergy?

What sets this allergy apart from other allergies is that it would take a few hours (about 3 hours or more) after consuming/getting exposed to the products with alpha-gal before the symptoms kick in. 

Like other typical allergies, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Itchy rash
  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Swelling in the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

Note that allergic reactions differ from one person to another. If you think you have an alpha-gal syndrome/allergy, it's best to consult an allergist. Right now, the alpha-gal syndrome is managed by avoiding the products containing it and there is still no concrete cure. A lot of products in the market contain alpha-gal and because of this, the quality of life of people with AGS is affected. Current studies are proving that auricular acupuncture therapy is a promising complementary treatment for AGS. 

What is Auricular acupuncture? You're going to poke needles into my ear?

Auricular acupuncture treatment technique that focuses on stimulating specific points on the external ear. It is based on the system that the ear is connected to various organs and systems of the body. The needles are placed on certain points of your outer ear and it doesn't cause pain. Here at NYC Acupuncture + Wellness, Dr. Ting Wu uses the Soliman Auricular Allergy Treatment (SAAT) technique to treat various allergies including AGS. 

If you are looking for a treatment to help you manage your allergies, book an appointment with Dr. Ting Wu of NYC Acupuncture + Wellness. Book online or call (646) 883-8321



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, April 14). Alpha-gal syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/alpha-gal/index.html 


Liebell, D. (2020). Effect of Soliman auricular allergy treatment (SAAT) on IGE-mediated reactions due to exposure to mammalian meat oligosaccharide, galactose-α-1,3-galactose. American Journal of Biomedical and Life Sciences8(5), 189. https://doi.org/10.11648/j.ajbls.20200805.18 


Soliman, N. (2014). A comparison study of the effectiveness of Saat (Soliman’s auricular allergy treatment) approach and Nogier’s allergy treatment technique. Medical Acupuncture26(3), 167–172. https://doi.org/10.1089/acu.2014.1032