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Alpha Gal

Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 05:33 PM

(Photo Credit: Amy Pearl)
Tuck your napkin under your chin.  We’re about to serve up a tale of love, loss, and lamb chops. 

For as long as she can remember, Amy Pearl has loved meat in all its glorious cuts and marbled flavors. And then one day, for seemingly no reason, her body wouldn’t tolerate it.  No steaks. No brisket. No weenies.  It made no sense to her or to her doctor: why couldn’t she eat something that she had routinely enjoyed for decades? Something our evolutionary forebears have eaten since time immemorial?  The answer involves mysterious maps, interpretive dance, and a collision of three different species.

Produced by Annie McEwen & Matt Kielty with reporting help from Latif Nasser

Thanks to our friends at The Sporkful, we encourage you to listen to them if you aren't already. 


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Graham Hickling, Amy Pearl, Thomas Platts Mills, Peter Smith and Sheryl Van Nunen


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Comments [98]

adri from texas

Meanwhile I'm just wondering what happened to the dog. Is it possible for dogs to get this meat allergy?

Apr. 19 2018 04:56 PM
Reed from Idaho

Great story!! Love the humor and the information. Very curious if this has led to any insights on Lime's Disease treatment?

Mar. 08 2018 09:11 AM
nick from california

intro is stupid, fix it.

Oct. 01 2017 06:54 PM
Jeremy from San Francisco

This my favorite Radiolab episode. Amy Pearl is SO FUNNY!

Sep. 30 2017 09:33 PM
Eric from California

Check out "The Final Nail" by Stanley Schmidt in the May/June 2017 issue of Analog. A science fiction story that uses this exact thing as plot device. There is also a science fact article about the story in the following issue.

Aug. 19 2017 04:09 PM
Angel Angel from Norway

Great episode Radiolab, I laughed while listening and running, which says a lot! I have also developed a kind of allergy to meat, but only pork and beef, so I can still eat chicken, turkey etc. My reaction to eating meat is more that I get stomach cramps, no hives or feeling funny, just feeling sick. As it turns out, I later also developed an allergy to bananas, and for sure, people think I'm a nut job. We have a lot of ticks in Norway, but I've yet to hear about other people having this kind of reaction from tick bites. Now I have simply stopped eating meat and bananas, and I certainly miss the bananas more than the meat. Amy should be aware of late reactions like arthritis, which occurred a couple of years after my first reaction to meat. All this makes ticks the most scary creature i know of, but yet so difficult to avoid when you love hiking.

Jun. 04 2017 12:46 PM
Katie from New Hampshire

I'm currently listening to this episode at work, and besides being an interesting topic, Amy is just making my day! I feel like I could listen to her read the phone book and find it entertaining! Thanks Amy!

Mar. 02 2017 11:10 AM

Would you please tell me what he music played at the end of this episode is? I really like it and would love to buy it.

May I also suggest you give credit to the awesome music you use in each episode? Seems like the most win-win-win way to go about it.

Thank you

Jan. 14 2017 08:02 PM
Dani Mision from Sydney, Australia

Great episode. Amy is a delight to listen to. As a vegetarian who grew up eating meat and has all the nostalgia and palette for it, this was particularly funny to listen to. Thanks Radiolab and thank you Amy!

Jan. 13 2017 10:22 PM
Andria Terry from Colorado

Amy Pearl is my new favorite person! She is funny, sarcastic and a wonderful storyteller. Amy needs her own podcast, please get on that, Radiolab.

Dec. 19 2016 12:42 PM
Azuan Zin from Malaysia

What a fun and uplifting episode to listen to, never mind the subject matter..More of Amy please!!

Dec. 17 2016 05:59 AM
Shaina from Denver, CO

Amy Pearl is by far, my favorite guest on the show ever! Her informational humor was infectious. Please have her back for something else.

Dec. 14 2016 04:04 PM
Kristine, RN from North Carolina

Last year I got bit by a tick. I suddenly started getting the strangest symptoms when eating meat. I did not put two in two together for a long time. I thought it was just some stomach flu etc. etc. I went to the doctor. Nothing helped. I work in the medical field and I felt like a crazy person! I knew I wasn't making it up but nothing was working, then my husband saw an article about sudden red meat allergy and I was like Holy S%%^$! Those are the exact symptoms I was feeling and it all started when I got bit by a tick. I am so glad there's actually a conversation about this.

Dec. 12 2016 07:12 PM
Anne Marie ONeill from Brooklyn

Please have Amy back she is hilarious. Or just give her a show.

Dec. 12 2016 05:22 PM
dc from austin

Amy rocks! In a perfect world she and Sarah Vowell would be besties, with a killer podcast of course. I also love the fact that she craves meat but is also embracing her better, more ethical meat-free self.

I heard about meat allergies in 2014. I support the humorous theory from this blog about Mother Nature possibly restoring the ecosphere by plaguing humans with this allergy.

@Robert in Virgina: kudos to you for connecting this allergy to possible issues with a valve transplant... I'm sure this sort of allergy could cause strange complications with a number of medical treatments!

Dec. 10 2016 03:47 PM

"Florida man has sudden meat allergy" This is the best.

Dec. 10 2016 03:04 AM

I love this podcast.

Dec. 07 2016 11:26 AM
Ellen Wexler from Southold NY

Robert and Jad: Perhaps an update? We have over 100 cases being treated by local drs. of this tick-borne meat allergy on the East End of Long Island. As you said- it is life threatening. It is important to understand the life cycle of ticks and the role overpopulation deer in many parts of the country play. Since the 1990's less hunting resulted in over population and more deer are directly related to the our beautiful green grass backyards have thousands of diseases carrying ticks in them.
Adult ticks need a blood meal to reproduce- and here it is deer that provide that. (Our dogs have frontline medicines to repel ticks, so they are not the ticks source of he needed blood meal.) . In the 1980's we had a sustainable number of deer, 10 per sq mile, and never saw lone star nor black legged ticks here. We now have 100 deer per sq mile, and this overpopulation has both decimated our woodland due to over-grazing, but also increased the ticks to such an enormous number that every family here has tick related illnesses. Alpha Gal is only one of many serious illness carried by these ticks. Bottom line- our children do not play in the yard anymore, yet alone to into the woods. We do tick checks every night- but still miss some and get sick. And no public official has taken action to deal with this situation.

Dec. 02 2016 06:11 PM
Robert from Virginia

This is a great podcast. I do cardiac surgery research and wrote a paper about how this allergy can affect patients who have valve replacement surgery with a bioprosthetic heart valve. If anyone is interested here is the link: If you have alpha-gal you should know a tissue valve may not last as long as in a patient without this allergy. We don't know for sure, but it is worth considering having a mechanical valve instead.

Nov. 24 2016 03:11 PM
Jess from Portland, OR

Emily from Illinois, in case you ever come back -- I too developed an alcohol intolerance in adulthood (just this year). I have a VERY thorough and patient doctor who explained to me that the intolerance is not an allergy but a metabolic inability to process acetaldehyde (which alcohol breaks into). It's genetic. I asked, if it's genetic, why I hadn't struggled with it until this year, and she said that there's still a lot of burgeoning science about this but that genes can get switched on and off during our lives, and there are a lot of reasons they might be switched on. In my case, it was a severe infection I suffered early in the year. I can't drink now without getting, basically, a sinus infection. Your doctor is maybe just a little behind the times. I hope that's helpful! I had an allergist tell me that I CAN still have a glass of wine with dinner, I just have to take a decongestant first. I don't do that often, but I do sometimes. Best wishes!

Radiolab, thanks for this episode :)

Nov. 16 2016 02:50 PM
Heather from San Luis Obispo, CA

Perhaps it's time that more of us should develop a meat allergy. It's such a huge climate impact for Americans to keep thinking that they should be able to eat huge amounts of cow every night, not even to mention the health effects.
I love the connection you made with evolution. Do you have other examples of "voluntary" evolution?

Nov. 16 2016 09:13 AM
Emily from Illinois

This was such an EXCELLENT episode, and was really quite thought-provoking for my own plight. I also developed an adulthood intolerance, but to alcohol. My doctor has brushed this off, but I do wonder if there might be more to the story.

Nov. 14 2016 08:58 PM
Amy from Los Angeles

I am so ecstatic that Amy made the connection between animal agriculture to plate--- the horrendous strain it has on our planet, our health, and the cruelty it imposes on animals.

I think every omnivore needs a good tick bite in the ass.

Nov. 14 2016 08:23 PM
Faith from Vienna, Austria

When Amy was talking about eating meat, my mouth watered! I am just getting out of the first trimester of pregnancy and everything tastes horrible, except for meat- mainly bacon and beef! Amy is an excellent descriptive story teller and my mouth watered the whole time...mmm...

Nov. 14 2016 08:50 AM
Nadia from Omaha, NE

Amy Pearl is hilarious!!

Nov. 11 2016 01:05 PM

aaahhhh!!! Amy Pearl was amazing! Such a great personality. Can she have her own show?

Nov. 09 2016 05:22 PM
ben from Colorado

I'm almost certain I had this though I never was tested! I knew I had been bitten by a tick in the summer of 2015 when I saw a bulls eye spot on my neck. I don't eat red meat that often but a month later at a wedding I ate A LOT of pork appetizers. Later that night I had a major Alpha-gal reaction (hives, GI,cramps, raised temperature, hot flashes, etc). I didn't know what it was until eating mammalian meat again and then doing an extensive internet search. In summary, my first reaction was the worst (almost ER sending) and each time after was less intense. Over the course of a year probably less than six times, I eventually tapered down to have no issues with eating red/mammal meat (at least that I am aware of, though since getting Alpha-gal reactions I now have an active gluten sensitivity/intolerance (not Celiac) and maybe a nightshade allergy (still testing out the latter)). I wonder if these other food allergies were activated or caused by Alpha-gal?

Nov. 09 2016 03:32 PM
Angie R. from Portland

This episode is so interesting! I became aware that I am allergic to Chicken and Turkey in my 20s (20 years ago). I am yet to find a doctor who has any information on this. It is really, more like an intolerance because it seems to attack my nervous system, not my throat. How much I "accidentally" eat determines the severity of the reaction. It makes my nose, ears, hands and feet hurt and tingle like they are falling asleep and turn a little red. I wonder now if it has something to do with a protein allergy.

Nov. 08 2016 01:40 PM
Martin Webby from Melbourne , Australia

An Australian TV Science program Called Catalyst on Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV network, has just screened a segment about this subject on its program. Regards Martin Webby

Nov. 08 2016 04:25 AM
Marcus from Sweden

Loved Amy! Please invite her to join in future episodes. Such a fun storyteller and great comedic timing.

Nov. 07 2016 09:17 PM
Marianne from Oslo, Norway

Finally I got an answer to what happened to me. Up to February of 1998 I could eat any kind of meat, but after a two weeks vacation in the Philippines I could not eat beef for more than 15 years. I don't think anybody believed me, including myself, but my physical reaction was so strong. Occasionally I would check to see if the symptoms would change, but even the smallest piece would make me really unwell. As I said after 15 years I slowly got back to normal, but I don't enjoy beef as often as I used to 20 years ago. I don't know if I got bitten by a tick, and never got tested for Lyme disease, but what she was describing sounded like my story, it seemed to happen over night. Interestingly I never been to those ereas mentioned. But thank you:-) feels good to know I wasn't imagining things.

Nov. 07 2016 08:24 PM

My husband has a similar problem, but not red meat, it is chicken. He can't get any doctor to believe him, even when he ends up in the ER. After consuming chicken and now it has extended to chicken broth, within 12 hours his heart goes into A-Fib, beats extremely fast. Symptoms lasts for about 12 hours and then his heart finally settles down, although he is exhausted for about a week after these events. We live in MN and he was treated for lime disease from a tick byte about 8 years ago before this happened

Any idea who we can talk to get this confirmed or researched. Every Doctor we have visited has told us you can't eat Chicken your whole life and then get a sudden allergy. Thanks for sharing, we are all not crazy!

Nov. 07 2016 06:39 PM
kk from VT

This may have helped solve a little bit of a problem that we've had with our pup.

A couple of years ago, she got bit by a tick, followed by a really bad illness. I honestly thought she might die. The vet had no clue as to what was wrong.

She lost her appetite, so we fed her only the most stomach-friendly foods for a while - lots of fish, poultry, gentle grains.

Then began a whack-a-mole of trying to figure out why she would get sick every time she ate... or, ALMOST every time.

We finally narrowed it down to lamb and beef - two of her very favorite foods.

It has now been a year, and I wanted to see if she had recovered from whatever it was, since she had eaten everything just fine before the first incident.

I got her a beef rib last week. She was grossly sick again (lethargy, vomiting, panting).

I know that we're further north than the usual range, and that dogs probably don't get this very often, but the symptoms are too close to ignore - so, looks like little Pepper is going to be a chicken-and-fish-itarian and live happily ever after.

Nov. 07 2016 05:33 PM
Jennifer from Tennessee

For those asking why Amy's dog didn't get the allergy, the problem for humans is that as primates we don't have alpha-gal and therefore don't recognize it as a "self" molecule. The immune system of a dog or other non-primate mammal would normally recognize alpha-gal as self. If it didn't the animal would have a massive autoimmune reaction because alpha-gal is found in its own body. Theoretically a meat-eating bird could have the meat allergy, although I doubt anyone has looked for alpha-gal IgE in raptors.

Nov. 07 2016 01:50 PM
Joshua Pickett

I think her comments about moral superiority were tongue in cheek. If she thought about it then she's already probably eaten way more meat than a normal person ever would. Also she doesn't cite true ethical reasons for not eating meat she merely cites resource concerns.

"Time and again we hear the claim that "meat takes a lot of resources", but the truth is meat protects our natural environment"

When you hear the claim that meat takes a lot of resources it's can sound like a new age, pseudoscientific idea akin to the law of attraction or universal consciousness.

It's actually more akin to saying 1+1=2 or E = mc 2 or water is one part oxygen two parts hydrogen. Albeit you would have to clean up the statement and be more precise than just saying (it takes a lot of land or resources) and say something along the lines of (eating meat is less resource efficient for obtaining calories than is eating some kind of plant for a given amount of fertile soil)

A pretty basic idea in ecology is that of trophic levels. You have producers and primary secondary and tertiary consumers. A pretty basic idea to trophic levels is that you have energy loss going up each level. When we consume domesticated animals we are consuming primary consumers. So it's at the first level where the animal is directly feeding on the producers. But even here there is significant energy loss.

The digestive process itself is not completely efficient, even with an adapted herbivore. But then add that to the energy burned off as heat and byproducts of digestion, consider the fact that the animal burns calories walking around grazing and doing other kinds of work. And then consider the fact that the fact that the animal grows many different tissues that are not edible, that are for the animals own convenience and survival. Bone, hair, Beaks, claws, hoofs and other tissues made of keratin, nails. And then all the different organs that people can eat, (some do) but generally choose not to. So there is a significant waste that is inherent to the practice of eating a consumer rather than a producer.

We don't want more grasslands we want more forests.

Nov. 07 2016 07:56 AM

Fifi, babies are primates.

Nov. 07 2016 06:27 AM
Vicious Vegetarian from MA

I was quite concerned when Amy mentioned that she may have found meat in her vegetarian entree at an Indian restaurant. If you have a meat allergy - you need to inform the server. I do know work in the food industry, but I am a vegetarian (by choice) and I will tell you, vegetarian food is not always vegetarian in a restaurant - - suggests vegetarian is open to interpretation. I choose to not eat meat, anyone who cannot eat meat due to this Alpha gal allergy, or PKU, or any other medical condition need to be very clear and very careful when eating at restaurants (exception being vegetarian restaurants).
I would rather eat at home - making my own food, knowing exactly what is going into my meal - than eat at restaurants. Some are good about accommodating vegetarians and actually I find Indian restaurants to have the most choices and have true vegetarian dishes because some Indians are vegetarians for religious reasons. If you have a meat allergy - be careful. I have at various restaurants, been served some less than truly vegetarian dishes, i.e. fajita vegetables with a piece of chicken, home fries cooked in the same location as bacon and therefore had bacon, and various soups with chicken broth. And probably more which I was not aware of.
This is a shout out to restaurants to have more vegetarian options and to ensure that they are actually vegetarian. For those who cannot consume meat and those who chose to not consume meat.

Nov. 06 2016 06:09 PM
Cole from Oakland, CA

I am now a 100% official Amy Pearl fan! She's amazing! It must have been a great time interviewing her. I fully support her spin-off podcast!

Nov. 06 2016 02:16 PM

Human babies ARE mammals, silly. Do not eat. Lol. Totally worth sticking around through the credits.

Nov. 05 2016 11:00 PM

How dos a doctor sound so proud of dismissing his patient's problems as made up? That's disgusting.

Nov. 05 2016 08:37 AM
Kelly House

I feel you!

Nov. 05 2016 12:29 AM

Like the other commenters, I must implore the powers that be to give Amy her own show! She is a wonderful storyteller and has a unique and terrific voice. We need Pearl of Wisdom the Podcast now!!

Nov. 04 2016 11:05 PM
susie from ct

Amy, You are the best. Hope they give you a podcast.

Nov. 04 2016 08:26 PM
Jake from Seattle, WA

Just wanted to say that Amy was HILARIOUS on this episode. Amy--time to get your own show.

Nov. 04 2016 01:24 PM
JG from RI from Rhode Island

Thanks so much for this episode! Mystery solved! I first experienced a severe red meat allergy in 1990, when I was living near Charlottesville, VA, and experiencing tick bites on a regular basis. I never imagined that there was a connection and guessed, instead, that my reaction had something to do with the hormones or antibiotics fed to cattle. I've had my share of people who have questioned the reality of this allergy (as if hives, stomach upset, and shortness of breath were all a psychological reaction). I haven't been able to eat red meat for the last 26 years--don't miss it anymore except for hot dogs! (like Amy). Thanks again for solving this long-standing mystery in my life.

Nov. 04 2016 06:13 AM
Marlene Culpepper from Richmond, VA

Thank you from an Alpha gal victim of almost 3 yrs. Enjoyed informative podcast.

Nov. 04 2016 05:50 AM
Jen from Texas

To Anna from Oklahoma: Sounds like it would be worth your time to get the Alpha Gal blood test. Even if you have had hives only once after your tick bite, your story still concerns me (a mom with a kid who has severe food allergies). Allergic reactions can be inconsistent, but almost always get worse with each exposure to the allergen. Anaphylaxis is serious, and worth preventing!

Nov. 04 2016 12:14 AM
Lisa from San Francisco

Mark Ostrander from NY NY I was wondering the same thing...if Amy's dog developed a food allergy as well since it was probably bitten by the same ticks. That also made me think of a This American Life episode where Ira Glass described his dog's crazy diet where he had to keep switching kinds of meat because the dog would develop an allergy over time. related? or totally something else?

Nov. 03 2016 06:23 PM
Mark Ostrander from NY NY

So, did Amy's dog get meat allergies as well?

Nov. 03 2016 03:47 PM
pablo velarde Diaz-pache from Spain

Amazing facts, But what amazes me the most is THE MORAL SUPERIORITY this lady feels over the rest of us just because she doesn't consume mammal's meat! (chicken and fish she ates, mind you.)
Is she for real?,Do diabetic feel morally superior because they can't eat sugar, lactose intolerance patiences ...oh, come on! how ridiculous can we get?

Nov. 03 2016 08:46 AM
Reba from Seattle

I just want to comment on the amazingness of Amy Pearl. She was so unexpectedly funny in her delivery. The story was very informative but her voice had so much character! SO FUNNY.

Nov. 02 2016 10:01 PM

I enjoyed the show, especially Amy! As a frugivore, I think of meat more like an addiction, and I don't agree that we've adapted to eat it. Personally, I don't think much of ticks, either.

Nov. 02 2016 09:46 PM
Alicia williams from Asheville, nc

Why is this reaction only beginning to occur now? Is it something in the meat, or something that changed in the ticks, or their environment, or in humans? Also does it affect dogs? Loved this episode!

Nov. 02 2016 06:17 PM
Johnathan from Kansas City

Amy Pearl for President... she at least needs her own Podcast or at the very least a reoccurring guest on Radiolab.

Nov. 02 2016 04:49 PM
Alison from Austin

I have Lyme Disease and it actually caused the opposite reaction for me: I can't eat any plant foods. All I can eat without pain is meat.

Nov. 02 2016 03:13 PM
Dan from Indiana

Everyone should be vigilant against ticks.
Lyme disease is spreading westward and
extreme red meat allergy with it. Since I've
got the allergy, (l have had it for 12 years, just
one bite and it's full on food poisoning for
minimum of eight hours) I eat a lot of seafood,
chicken and turkey. However, beware, smoked
turkey gets same result as redmeat. It's all pretty
weird but I get the same reaction from a gin & tonic.
Is alpha gal found in quinine?
Great show! Thanks for getting the word out!

Nov. 02 2016 02:12 PM
Kyle from Chicago

I loved this one. So funny.

Nov. 02 2016 01:27 PM
Yep from Florida

A husband and wife I know developed the meat allergy before anyone knew the cause (what made their situation especially puzzling was that the husband's mother got it too). They're outdoor enthusiasts so the tick explanation made perfect sense. The wife was semi-vegetarian already, but it was hard on the husband who, like Amy, embraces all kinds of foods.

Nov. 02 2016 12:26 PM
Adam from England

Here to agree with everyone that Amy Pearl is great, she's hilarious and I would definitely listen to her more. Love from England!

Nov. 02 2016 05:59 AM
RBKH from Stanford, CA

Please please get Amy Pearl her own Podcast. She is a comedic storytelling genius.

Nov. 01 2016 09:29 PM
Jarno from Finland

Amy Pearl was just a delight to listen to. She should really work in radio - she's got the voice and personality for it. I'd listen to her!

Great job again Radiolab. Thoroughly enjoyed the episode, and learned something new in the process.

Nov. 01 2016 05:57 PM
Christina from Redlands, CA

Is there a copy of the map online anywhere that you can point me to?

Nov. 01 2016 05:18 PM
Angela R from Washington

Wow! So this fall, I was diagnosed with Lyme's. I live in WA state, so completely rare around here. When Amy describes the sensation of feeling panicky, lightheaded, and that she felt she was going to pass out - I could relate. While I don't have the meat allergy, I had felt this way OFTEN and it was SO HARD to describe that sensation to anyone. My doctor didn't know what to make of it, but that panicky feeling is SO REAL. I also had hives all over my body, insomnia, muscle/joint aches, pains, spasms and headaches. I'm through a round of antibiotics and feeling somewhat better and see a specialist soon. Just wanted to tell Amy (if she's reading) thanks for sharing your story. Even though mine doesn't line up 100%, components of it do and it made me feel not so alone today. I especially appreciated her use of humor for what can be such a lonely and scary illness.

Nov. 01 2016 01:42 PM
Dr. Fenman from Utah

This is classic Radiolab, with a really good structure and interesting twists and turns. Great job!

Nov. 01 2016 10:56 AM
Claudia from Raleigh

Amy, you're a delight to listen to. You say out loud so many thoughts that go through my head. It's refreshing to hear it.

Nov. 01 2016 08:51 AM
Ken Lyman from Missouri, middle of

I've seen two patients for this very thing, the alpha gal allergy. Strange but its real. At least here in the middle of Missouri.

Oct. 31 2016 10:25 PM
Kevin from Missouri

I'm not alone! I developed an alpha gal allergy from a tick bite in 2014. My case seems to be a little less severe, and it's only really triggered by beef. Great episode—it's nice to see my freakish plight getting attention...

Oct. 31 2016 05:00 PM

I was going to change the podcast until I heard Amy. She has an amazing personality. It was a wonderful podcast. Thank you.

Oct. 31 2016 02:58 PM
Peggy from Seymour, WI


Meat has changed due to changes in cattle feeding practices.

Could be allergic to meat. Absolutely.

Oct. 31 2016 01:16 PM
Greg from TX

All I can say is that Amy and the doctor were possibly the most entertaining and engaging people I've ever listened to in a podcast! When she said she had a Luger's credit card, I was hooked. Jad, if you can get her in another show - DO IT!

Podcast gold!

Oct. 30 2016 09:50 PM
Jaimie Scott from Sacramento, CA

I can relate to Amy's desire to both eat meat and at the same time be vegetarian. I too would love to give up eating meat, but at the same time love eating it. On a related note, I was wondering if you might be able to tell Amy about a technique that uses acupuncture to permanently eliminate any allergy called NAET. This might be a topic for an interesting follow-up segment or show. The technique was developed by an Indian doctor named Nambudripad and I personally have used it to eliminate many allergies in myself including a sever allergy to bee stings and an allergy to tomatoes that was producing pain in the joints of my fingers. I came to find out after that last one that there is a pretty well-documented known causality between nightshade plants and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Oct. 30 2016 05:22 AM
Another Amy Pearl from Vermont

I was fascinated by this...not only because I have had the same experience but with chicken over the past several years and the doctors can't seem to figure out what is causing it. After a lifetime of eating, cooking, and loving chicken, I stopped eating it a year ago and haven't had a symptom since. But the other fascinating this is that my name is ALSO Amy Pearl. Huh.

Oct. 29 2016 10:06 PM

Loved this episode. As far as the ending goes, I don't think that there's anything wrong with Amy claiming that the allergy has helped her realize that red meat is really not a necessary part of our diet, and eating it might have some moral implications. I eat red meat, but I don't drink alcohol, because I'm allergic to it. When I was younger, this was a real bummer, but now that I'm older, I realize that it has probably kept me out of a lot of trouble!

Oct. 29 2016 06:56 PM
Uyen from Tampa, FL

I would totally hang out with Amy. She had me laughing out loud. Great episode. Damn those ticks.

Oct. 29 2016 12:54 PM
Molly from Cambodia

I am a long time listener and always love hearing a new Radiolab episode until................ the end of this episode.
Amy mentioned eating meat as taking up "resources" and claimed she could claim "moral superiority" now that she doesn't eat red meat.
I know it wouldn't really fit with the rest of the episode to have a rebutal for that comment, but I felt like including it in the episode without any other comments, Robert was agreeing with her.

That was disturbing to me as I consider Radiolab to be a program that values scientific facts and enjoying debunking popularly held myths. So to hear Robert agreeing with Amy on that point, wow!

There are no vegan systems in nature. Grazing animals serve an extremely important function in their natural eco-system which is grasslands/savannahs. Mismanagement by humans has led to dessertification of most of the earth's savannah, but many farmers and ecologists have demonstrated that the only way to reverse the effects of desertification is through holistically grazed livestock. By purchasing this type of meat, the consumer is contributing to healthy grasslands which results in more carbon being stored in the soil and not in the atmosphere. Buying beef from grain fed cows in fed lots, that doesn't have a positive environmental impact, but supporting regenative agriculture could be one of the easiest ways to fight climate change.
Anyone interested in the subject, check out Allan Savory's inspiring ted talk:

Oct. 29 2016 12:31 PM
Alana from Vermont

Amy needs her own show. I would subscribe in a heartbeat. Thanks for the adventure and introspection.

Oct. 29 2016 10:09 AM
Channen from Chesapeake, VA

Loved this episode! Amy is awesome!

Oct. 29 2016 09:47 AM
Thad Humphries from Charlottesville, VA

A foodie friend was diagnosed with this allergy last year, so I could spot where y'all were going early on. He probably picked up his tick while working his organic pepper farm. It's an interesting story, and y'all told it well told. I think Robert Krulwich and Joel Achenbach (of the Washington Post) are the best science reporters today. Thanks.

Oct. 29 2016 09:34 AM

I really enjoyed this story! Amy shared her experience in such an engaging way.

Oct. 29 2016 01:47 AM
Roi James from Austin, Texas

Great program and very interesting story. The thing that came up for me immediately was how the immune system was reprogrammed to go after the Alpha-Gal via the tick spit. Perhaps there might be a way to harness this reaction positively, similar to the way the HIV virus is being used to program the immune system to target cancer. Might there be a way to use whatever it is in the tick spit to program the immune system to fight an illness or condition that the immune system ignores?

Oct. 28 2016 11:42 PM

Like everyone else, I came here to beg Amy Pearl for more. Where have you been hiding her, WNYC, and what do we need to do to get more of her on-point delivery, hilarity and charm?

Oct. 28 2016 09:18 PM
Charlene Goodman from Carlsbad CA

Love Amy. Get a podcast.

Oct. 28 2016 08:13 PM
Sophy from Massachusetts

Thank you for this story! There is nothing more satisfying than hearing Robert and Jad tell me I'm not a freak of nature! I developed an allergy to pork, peas, and carrots at age 25. I was sick for almost a year, had every test under the sun, lost 30 lbs, and then finally as a last ditch effort my doctor recommended an allergy test. Lo and behold, I'm allergic to the typical English dinner. It was fascinating to hear Amy's story... I was hoping it would align with my own and I would get some answers, but alas, I can enjoy a hamburger with no problems so I don't think I'm a victim of the Lonestar Tick. Listening to the doctor in the beginning basically say she was insane made me grimace, I have to admit. It just goes to show how little we truly know about our own bodies and physiological reactions.

Oct. 28 2016 08:11 PM
Aiysha from Savannah, GA

This is a fascinating episode. My sister in law always claimed that she was allergic to lamb and I never really believed her until she ate lamb infront of me and then broke into hives within the evening. However, she eats beef and nothing of the sort happens. How is that?

Oct. 28 2016 08:08 PM
Joanie from Idaho

This story was so fascinating, but I have to say Amy Pearl's story telling, delivery and side bar comments are hilarious. Her concern about her possible need to survive in the woods had me cracking up. She is an engaging personality!

Oct. 28 2016 07:37 PM
Anna from Oklahoma

I loved this story... especially because just a few months ago I went hiking in southwest Virginia with my husband and my dog, and we came upon a lone star tick nest. We only realized this after a few seconds when we noticed tons of tiny little black dots around our ankles and socks. We had been walking through tall grass and they had totally invaded both us and our dog. A few days later after we thought everything was in the clear, I found one on my side and pulled it off. Only after hearing this podcast am I remembering that later that week I had a bunch of hives on me and had no idea why. That said I've had red meat since and have been fine. Who knows?! What a crazy story Amy has!

Oct. 28 2016 07:30 PM
Devin Kinney from Berkeley, CA

Thanks for putting this show together Radiolab. Amy, if you're reading these, you are a natural radio personality and sound like someone I'd want to kick it with - thanks for sharing your story so eloquently with just the right amount of self-deprecation and hilarity.

Oct. 28 2016 07:15 PM

I really enjoyed Amy's storytelling--very funny but informative as well. I immediately looked for more stories from her, but I couldn't find any. Can we get her more airtime please?

Oct. 28 2016 06:36 PM
Chorizo from San Diego

Amy's ideas are intriguing to me and I would like to subscribe to her newsletter. I don't know what would be the best format for her, but get he in front of microphone telling anecdotes or providing commentary on a topic. Like Mystery Science Theater 3000 but audio.

Oct. 28 2016 05:33 PM
JLynn from California

Amy's tick story gave me chills. Summer 2016 while hiking in Europe...forests, orchards, countryside...I saw a tick on my arm, so I yanked it out, no big deal. A couple weeks later I felt horrible. Weird random painful joint and muscle aches roaming all over my body, headaches, really foggy headed as if my brain shut off, and insomnia. On facebook I asked friends what they think this is. One friend asked me if I was bitten by a tick. It turned out I got Lyme Disease, which I learned is very serious and often misdiagnosed. If left untreated, it can ruin one's health for life. I got treated in time and am now fine. No more Lyme. Who knew some stupid little tick could be so insidious?

Oct. 28 2016 03:09 PM
Michelle Hennessy from Delaware

Loved this episode! Amy is so funny, and I enjoyed her story. Thanks!

Oct. 28 2016 03:03 PM
Nublet from NC

I could listen to Amy talk about anything for hours. Please start your own podcast, Amy.

Oct. 28 2016 01:51 PM
Lora from San Diego

Amy is hilarious while still being able to tell an on-point story. Give that woman a podcast. I'd tune in for sure! Loved this episode.

Oct. 28 2016 01:50 PM
Ryan from New Jersey

I first read about this tickborne meat allergy back in 2012 when I was working as a forest researcher and was constantly paranoid that I'd acquired some new illness (Google Powassan virus). So as soon as Amy mentioned that she had foraged for ramps, I figured it out.

For years I've half-joked that it's only a matter of time before some radical vegetarian group weaponizes lone star ticks. Of course there's the ethical dilemma of using insects to save animals, but I think they would ultimately find the utilitarian argument compelling enough.

I work alone with plants, so I have lots of quiet time to overthink absurd hypotheticals. Fortunately, podcasts calm the mind. Thanks Radiolab.

Oct. 28 2016 01:14 PM
Dr Lui from Danville VA 24541

Very good report. I loved Amy's jovial account of this very serious problem. Unfortunately there are still many doctor out there who are not aware of this problem. For those interested, there is an allergy injection treatment that will reverse this effect. Although we need higher numbers and are still researching. Preliminary studies show 60% of people can go back to eating meat within a year.

Oct. 28 2016 01:05 PM
RM Ranch from Colorado

This episode was enjoyable and humorous for the first 30 minutes, but I was disappointed to hear at the end of it a lot of misinformation about meat production and the supposed "factory farming". Time and again we hear the claim that "meat takes a lot of resources", but the truth is meat protects our natural environment. I grew up in the city listening to the propaganda and claims about animal agriculture and in my 20's was able to get to know actual ranchers and farmers. I married into the business and now get to see every day that beef is one of the greatest resources for keeping natural grasslands natural. Yes, our ranch uses 25 acres to raise one calf and that 25 acres remains natural grasslands that produce O2 and keep the land preserved. When I look out at the miles of land that surrounds us I feel morally satisfied that we are doing what is right to protect the environment. It is so frustrating to hear this false narrative about meat ruining the environment. People need to know the truth that eating beef is one of the best ways to preserve the natural environment and protect our native grasslands. If you don't believe me, then I challenge you to go find a local rancher in your area and see for yourself the vast amount of the environment that beef production protects.

Oct. 28 2016 12:48 PM
Paulina from California

Very interesting. I have a similar situation. I was born and raised in Mexico. I moved to California 20 years ago. About 10 years ago I became allergic to pork, but only if I eat it in Mexico. It's a good feeling knowing that it's not "that weird" to develope an allergy at 40.

Oct. 28 2016 08:48 AM
Bernadette from Belgium

Amy is delightful! I applaud her sense of humor in the face of a situation that could make others feel depressed.

Oct. 28 2016 08:33 AM

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