Alpha-gal Syndrome and Acupuncture-How does it work?

alpha-gal allergy acupuncture franklin tn

Alpha-gal syndrome is the development of an allergy to red meat, which includes beef, lamb, venison, and pork.  This bizarre allergy has stumped western medical doctors for a decade, before discovering that this allergy is triggered by a tick bite.  The lone star tick, which also spreads Rocky Mountain Fever causes a change in the body’s immune system, which then causes a meat allergy which can take up to 3 months to develop.

Often people bitten by this tick start to feel sick with symptoms of headache, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, indigestion, runny nose and nausea.  Yet, many people do not know they have been bitten by a tick or that the tick could cause such a reaction.

The alpha-gal allergy was not recognized until 2006, based on the work of Dr. Sheryl van Nunen of Australia, who had documented a number of cases in Australia, where this allergy has become more prevalent.  In the United States, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills began studying the alpha gal allergy and came upon this information by accident.  He was studying allergic reactions to a specific medication in cancer patients.  The medication contains a protein obtained from mice, which also has alpha-gal molecules.  Alpha-gal had been known to trigger an enhanced immune system reaction.  The most current research suggests that lone star ticks have alpha-gal molecules in their saliva and gut, which they obtain from biting or feeding off other “mammals”.  When they bite a human, they inject alpha-gal into the bloodstream of a human.  The alpha-gal injection triggers a cascading immune reaction of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE).  Alpha-gal allergy cases have now been reported throughout the world.  Lone star ticks can thrive in many different environments.

It will typically take 2-8 hours for a reaction to develop after a person has eaten red meat.  Typically, a large enough quantity of meat must be eaten.  This is different than other food allergies because usually allergic reactions to shellfish, nuts, and gluten will begin immediately.


A patient is typically diagnosed by a medical doctor after telling the doctor or allergist that they have suddenly become allergic to red meat.  The patient will typically report a sudden onset after not having had a reaction to red meat prior.  A blood test is typically then ordered which then shows alpha-gal antibodies.  Skin allergy tests can also confirm this, as a doctor will pierce teh skin and expose it to extracts of red meat.  A hive or red bump will then form if the alpha-gal allergy exists.

What is Alpha-gal?

Alpha-gal is a sugar.  This sugar does not exist in the cells of humans, and most apes.  The injection of this sugar into the bloodstream by a tick can create this immune response.  Animals that already have alpha-gal in their system do not have this type of reaction.  When this foreign antigen invades the body, the immune system recognizes it and develops antibodies, which are specialized proteins that work as a memory system for the body to signal a defense, should there be future exposure.  Because only “mammals” carry this alpha-gal sugar, a person is not triggered by eating seafood, chicken, turkey and fish.


This allergy has been difficult for western medicine to treat because there is no vaccine or medication available.  This allergy can also be life threatening, so many with it have needed to avoid red meat.  Some individuals can reintroduce meat slowly back into the diet.

Acupuncture works for this by inserting one very think sterilized needle into the skin of the outer ear.  Because the ear has many acupuncture points on it and connects neurologically to the body, utilizing acupuncture points on the ear can help to treat many different disorders.  For this allergy treatment, your Acupuncturist will pinpoint one spot on the ear that correlates with the liver.  This tiny sliver of steel, which is a very small acupuncture needle is placed specifically and is covered with a piece of surgical tape.  This stays on for 3 weeks.  Research and clinical results have shown that this stimulates the point and the allergy goes away on its own.  Acupuncture for alpha-gal using this method is quick, effective, inexpensive and the results are long-lasting.