If Eating Meat Makes You Sick, Here's Why

If you love a good steak or chicken meal but have recently found yourself feeling unwell or somewhat "off" post-feast, you may be suffering from a meat sensitivity or allergy. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), meat allergies, although not a common occurrence, seem to be on the rise. As doctors and the public develop a better understanding of the symptoms, the condition has become easier to diagnose. You may have an allergy to meat if you get a stuffy or runny nose, break out in a rash, or become nauseous after your meal. You can develop this allergy at any age, and it can occur with any type of meat.

According to the ACAAI, once you develop the allergy, your body recognizes the particular meat as harmful and your immune system jumps to your aid by creating specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These connect to your body's immune cells and release histamines to protect you each time you eat the meat. The defensive response from your immune system can inflame the sinuses, airways, skin, or digestive system, causing discomfort after you've eaten (per Mayo Clinic).

When it's more than a food allergy

A more serious allergy to red meat, called alpha-gal syndrome, is thought to be caused by a Lone Star tick bite, and can be potentially life threatening (via CDC). Symptoms, which may include difficulty breathing, dizziness, or stomach pains, typically arise three to six hours after eating meat or other products with alpha-gal. A blood test can confirm this syndrome. Avoiding foods with alpha-gal, in addition to carrying injectable epinephrine, is the recommended course of treatment (via Mayo Clinic).

Do not rule out food poisoning if you find yourself randomly sick after eating a meal containing meat. Bacteria, viruses, or parasites in meat is a common occurrence and if the food is not handled, stored, and cooked properly, you can become sick (via LIVESTRONG). Hopkins Medicine reports that every year millions of Americans suffer from food poisoning, commonly from bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella. Symptoms, including stomach pain, diarrhea, fever, and aches, can last for a few hours up to several days. 

A meat allergy, intolerance, food poisoning, or alpha-gal syndrome are all cause for concern. No matter where your symptoms stem from, it is a wise choice to check in with your doctor if you find yourself sick after eating meat.