Living with a Meat Allergy
Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode #176
Helping Those Living with Alpha-Gal Syndrome Better Navigate Life
The number of confirmed cases of meat allergy — Alpha-Gal Syndrome — has risen from only 12 in 2009 to 34,000 in 2019.
Unlike other food allergies, alpha-gal symptoms can occur HOURS after eating meat, making the diagnosis a very tedious and lengthy process.
Candice Matthis and Debbie Nichols know this all too well. It took Candice 15 years, including multiple trips to the ER and flatlining to be diagnosed. Debbie’s symptoms continued for 10 years. While she had connected her GI pain and red meat, she had not heard of Alpha GAl Syndrom until Candice was diagnosed. She had to insist that her immunologist test her for it.
Together Candice and Debbie are known as Two Alpha Gals and are on a mission to help others live fully with Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS), also known as alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy, is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms of AGS arise after a person eats red meat or is exposed to red meat by-products or other products containing alpha-gal. It can have life-altering effects, as described by the two guests on this episode of Eating at a Meeting.
Listen as Tracy, Candice, and Debbie talk about what foods and products meat is hidden in and how to best feed guests with a meat allergy.
Candice Matthis and Debbie Nichols – Two Alpha Gals
Debbie — Co-Founder of Two Alpha Gals, Food Allergy Mentor, and Mom to 2 from Blacksburg, VA
Candice — Co-Founder of Two Alpha Gals, Food Allergy Mentor, and Mother of 3 from Christiansburg, VA.
What do safe, sustainable, and inclusive food and beverage experiences look like to you?
A safe experience means that we can avoid any of the many allergens that could trigger a wide range of reactions. This means a kitchen needs to take even further precautions than they would for someone with a single allergy. Inclusivity is another difficult issue when it comes to food allergies because individuals with allergies are often singled out to be removed from situations to avoid danger rather than changing the situation to include the person with allergies.
Do you have an example of a situation that negatively affected you and other individuals or groups’ food and beverage experience?
We have plenty of our own close-call experiences, but a broader example would be one we heard on a national morning show this past summer. The co-hosts were answering questions from the audience, including one about an individual with allergies wanting a friend hosting a birthday party to change locations for her safety. The co-hosts rolled their eyes, laughed, and suggested: “packing food, ordering zucchini noodles, or just not going.” We understand it might be a lot to ask someone to change a plan, but we also need to amplify the voice of those in the food allergy community that this is not a choice. We were devastated to see them mocking an entire community of people instead of educating them.
What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe, sustainable, and inclusive F&B experiences?
We designed our Stick-It-To-The-Ticket Notepad to use in dining experiences. These sticky notes list out the alpha-gal allergens with the option to circle those that would affect the guest and/or add additional allergies. This allows communication deeper into the restaurant staff and provides an additional level of protection (and hopefully education!).
What do you wish people knew about what you do?
All of the information that we communicate through our website, social media channels, podcast, and blog is designed to help those living with Alpha-Gal syndrome (or other allergies and conditions) better navigate life. We also offer a Food Allergy Mentorship Program, a customized, individual six-week plan to work directly with those looking for additional support.
Just for fun…What are your favorite food and drink?
Debbie — Food – Sushi; Drink – Gin & Tonic
Candice — One of my favorite dishes is Authentic Pad Thai and I love a Gin Martini, extra dirty with olives.