MPR News shared the story of Diane Van Eeckhout, a 40-year-old woman from Nisswa who just last year discovered she's allergic to a carbohydrate found in red meat that's known as "alpha-gal."

Symptoms started out as fatigue, stomach cramps, and even a rash on the bottoms of her feet,  palms, inside the ears, and neck. Doctors were baffled, and it wasn't until Van Eeckhout read a story of a woman in Duluth with similar symptoms that she got an answer as to what was happening.

The allergy is relatively new, only being diagnosed in the past 7 years. Of the several thousand cases that have been diagnosed so far, most are in the southeastern U.S. but it is spreading across the country. Initially, the allergy was linked specifically to bites from the lone star tick, which lives primarily in the southeastern United States.

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The lone star tick can be found in Minnesota, but it is much more common to see deer tick and wood tick. But as more people get the allergy diagnosis, researchers are starting to think that this allergy can come from more than just one species of tick. The link to other ticks hasn't yet been confirmed, nor has a clear timeline from tick bite to a first allergic reaction.

MPR reported that Diane Van Eeckhout is feeling much better now that she has cut red meat from her diet, which is the case with any sort of allergy or intolerance, and she hopes that sharing her story will create awareness.

As someone who struggles with food allergies myself, I can only imagine what Diane went through. I know how hard it is to enjoy something for years, and suddenly be unable to have it. The Minnesota diet and food culture can be very meat-centric, but with more and more people facing dietary restrictions, options have gotten much better in recent years.

This is a great reminder to do your best to keep ticks off your body. The Minnesota DNR has a great list of ways to keep yourself protected online.

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