Beef Intolerance Explained | Allergy Test

In the US, consumers spend millions of pounds on red meat a year, especially on beef. In 2022 alone, beef production in the United States is a whopping 27.17 billion pounds {1}. Meat is a common protein in most people’s diets except for vegetarians, vegans, and plant-based diets. For some people, meat is used as a key component in all meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, you may not realise that the meat on your meals could be causing you to experience intolerance symptoms.

Many people consume beef, besides its great taste, because of its nutritional value. Meat is an excellent protein source and contains other necessary nutrients such as vitamin B12 and zinc. You’ll find that while some people prefer consuming protein shakes, others choose to have lean meat with every meal to fulfil their protein needs. Meat is primarily the main food item for those following a paleo diet.

Beef is known as a red meat, which was named because of its red colour before it’s cooked. Red meat is also meat from non-fowl animals. For example, fowl or birds include chicken and turkey, which aren’t red meat but white meat. On the other hand, red meat consists of those animals like pigs, cows, sheep, and others. Besides the varying differences in meat depending on the animals they came from, we can also distinguish beef meat based on how it is raised and processed. These include:

  • Grass-fed meat: This describes animals allowed to forage and graze for food rather than being locked up and fed.
  • Conventional meat comes from cows raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also referred to as “animal farms”. These animals are confined and fed grain-based feeds. When buying beef, you’ll know it’s conventional meat if it isn’t labelled “grass-fed” or “organic.”
  • Organic meat: For meat to get the “organic” label, the cows need to be raised feeding on 100% organic feed and raised in a manner that allows them to graze and have other natural behaviours. These types of cows are also not injected with hormones and antibiotics.
  • Unprocessed meats: This type of meat is one that is minimally processed, like ground beef or sirloin. However, that doesn’t include heavily processed, cured, or smoked beef.
  • Processed meats: These typically come from conventionally raised cows and then undergo processes such as curing or smoking. Most processed meats include sausages, bacon, and hot dogs.

 

Red meat intolerance

Our Intolerance 63 Test Kit.

Even though most people find it hard to resist a nicely cooked piece of meat or hamburger, it can also mean trouble for your gastrointestinal tract. Red meat contains a lot of nutritional value, but its natural chemical toxins, saturated fats, and other elements make it naturally hard to digest. If you suffer from beef intolerance, it is likely that you also suffer from red meat intolerance through cross-reactivity. It is hard to know the cause of red meat intolerance or beef intolerance. However, it is common that food intolerances result from a lack of enough enzymes to digest proteins present in that food, such as red meat. You can also find that your body is reacting to beef and is unable to digest it. Often red meat intolerance leads to digestive symptoms. To know whether you’re suffering from beef intolerance or red meat intolerance, you can take an Intolerance Test that will check for all common food intolerances including beef.

 

Beef intolerance symptoms

Beef intolerance symptoms vary from one individual to the next. Some people experience severe (not life-threatening) symptoms, while others experience mild symptoms. Most of the time, the severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of consumption of beef. The more beef you consume, the more severe your beef intolerance symptoms will be. Common beef intolerance symptoms and red meat intolerance symptoms include:

  • Fatigue.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Constipation.
  • Skin problems.
  • Migraines.
  • Bloating.
  • Weaker immunity.
  • Bad breath or body odour.
  • Joint pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.

If you feel like these symptoms clearly describe how you feel every time you consume meat, then you can take an Intolerance Test to check if it’s beef intolerance that you’re suffering from or other food intolerances that you may not be aware of. Most of these symptoms always show hours after you’ve eaten the beef. We all know that beef, or any red meat, takes a long time to digest. So, you’ll notice these symptoms between a couple of hours to two days after consuming meat.

 

Beef Allergy

Beef allergies are caused by the presence of alpha-gal (a sugar molecule found in most mammals). Beef allergy is also referred to as an alpha-gal allergy. You will experience a beef allergy after consuming alpha-gal products or even after getting a bite from a lone star tick. Strangely, one will likely develop a beef allergy upon getting a bite from this tick. Some people also suffer from beef allergy because of carmine, a rare food colouring in beef. Unlike most food allergies, beef allergy takes time to show symptoms, typically delayed for 3-8 hours after consumption. The symptoms of beef allergy can be mild to severe.

The difference between beef allergy and intolerance is that an intolerance only affects the skin and the digestive tract, while a beef allergy involves the immune system. Because of this, a beef allergy can prove to be life-threatening, while beef intolerance can’t be. Unlike beef intolerance, beef allergy takes a shorter time to show symptoms. In the case of beef intolerance, the meat has to get to your colon for you to experience beef intolerance symptoms, and this doesn’t apply to beef allergy. You can read more about the difference between an allergy and an intolerance.

 

Beef allergy symptoms

A man holding leaning on his head with his eyes closed

Beef Intolerance can cause headaches.

Beef allergy symptoms can vary from mild to life-threatening. Conditions such as anaphylaxis, if not treated promptly, may result in death, and it’s best to carry an EpiPen if you have beef allergy just in case of accidental consumption of meat and anaphylaxis. In case of anaphylaxis, even after using an EpiPen, it is best to go to the emergency room for further observation since these symptoms often re-occur within a few hours. Most common symptoms of beef allergy include:

  • Hives, itching, or beef allergy rash.
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting.
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat, or other body parts.
  • Runny nose and sneezing.
  • Headaches.
  • Anaphylaxis.

If you have these symptoms upon consuming beef or red meats, it is recommended that you order an Allergy Test. Through analysing your blood sample, you will get an indication of whether you are allergic to meat or not. You may discover that you are actually allergic to one of the other 37 common allergens. However, if you’re unsure if you have an allergy, it may be beneficial to visit your doctor to check if there are any underlying conditions that could be causing these symptoms.

When suffering from a beef allergy, the best way to deal with it is by avoiding anything that contains meat through an elimination diet. The best way to handle this allergy is by either switching to a plant-based diet or only consuming white meat.

 

Milk and beef allergy

Most children who suffer from beef allergy also tend to suffer from milk allergy. The reason for this cross-reactivity is due to the BSA allergen that is common between these two. According to studies, 92.9% of children who are allergic to beef also suffer from cow’s milk allergy. Since cross-reactivity between these two food allergies is quite common, it is best to avoid dairy if you’re already suffering from beef allergy {2}. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) allergen is common in milk and beef allergy. It is hence safer to stay away from both.

 

Alpha gal syndrome

Alpha gal syndrome is a recently identified food allergen tied to red meat and other meats from mammals. The Lone Star tick bite can transmit the sugar molecule alpha-gal, which may trigger an immune reaction in some people. This reaction can cause mild to severe reactions in different individuals. It results in an allergic reaction to red meats like beef, pork, mutton, and others. The only treatment for this syndrome is the avoidance of all red meats in the diet. Compared to other food allergy symptoms, those of alpha-gal syndrome are often delayed and can take between three to six hours for symptoms to appear. All products from mammals can cause a reaction. Hence, it would be easier to avoid all these symptoms by sticking to eating either white meat only, avoiding dairy, or even adopting a plant-based diet.

 

Alpha gal medications to avoid

It can be hard to generate an extensive list of medications containing alpha-gal. When suffering from an alpha-gal allergy, you need to express this to your doctor so they don’t prescribe medicines with this molecule. The commonly prescribed medications with alpha-gal include {3}:

  • Acetaminophen.
  • Naproxen.
  • Lisinopril.
  • Clonidine.
  • Hydrocodone.

Consuming these can lead to anaphylaxis or other reactions in those suffering from alpha-gal allergy; hence one should state their allergies when getting a prescription from the doctor. The easiest way around this is to avoid medications containing animal products.

 

Meat alternatives

Once you discover that you can no longer eat meat, the first question on everyone’s mind is, how can you get enough protein in your diet? It is, however, easy to get an efficient protein quantity when you avoid meat. A balanced diet rich in fruits, grains, and vegetables is also healthy and will benefit you. Averagely, you only require 54 grams of proteins daily, which you can quickly achieve in a meat-free diet. Since plant-based diets have been on the rise in recent years, you will easily find great meat alternatives that are high in protein in your local grocery store. This way, you’ll keep healthy and free from beef intolerance or allergy symptoms. Plants rich in protein include:

  • Eggplant.
  • Tofu, tempeh,and edamame.
  • Lentils.
  • Jackfruit.
  • Mushrooms
  • Chickpeas.
  • Quinoa.
  • Walnuts
  • Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP).
  • Peanuts and almonds.
  • Spirulina.
  • Chia seeds.
  • Hemp seeds.
  • Beans.
  • Seitan.

Overall, meat allergy and intolerance should be taken seriously. In order to stop experiencing symptoms when consuming meat, it is best to avoid it altogether. Luckily, the popularity of plant-based diets means that you are likely to find meat alternatives in most grocery stores. If you’re unsure of whether you have a meat allergy or intolerance and would like to discuss further with an expert, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our helpful team members.

 

About the Author

Felicia Oladipo is our Laboratory Supervisor and joined in September 2022. She graduated from the Middlesex University  with an MSc in Biomedical Science (Clinical Biochemistry). Previously she explored techniques on Molecular Diagnostics during her time working in a COVID laboratory from 2020 to 2022. Within Healthy Stuff, Felicia works closely with the Laboratory Manager and strives to ensure that the laboratory runs efficiently. Check out her profile here.

 

References

  1. Statista (2022). Total beef production in the United States from 2000 to 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/194687/us-total-beef-production-since-2000/
  2. Martelli, A., De Chiara, A., Corvo, M., Restani, P., & Fiocchi, A. (2002). Beef allergy in children with cow’s milk allergy; cow’s milk allergy in children with beef allergy. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 89(6), 38-43.
  3. Slayden, T. A., Shakir, M., & Hoang, T. D. (2020). A BULL IN A PILL SHOP: ALPHA-GAL ALLERGY COMPLICATING TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR POSTPROCEDURAL HYPOTHYROIDISM. AACE clinical case reports, 6(3), e101–e104. https://doi.org/10.4158/ACCR-2019-0495