“You’re never going to believe this.”
Candice is the only other person in the world who I knew would understand.
“My blood test returned positive for alpha-gal.” Alpha-gal syndrome, an allergy to mammal products that develops after the bite of a Lone Star tick, was something that Candice and I suddenly had in common.
I faced my diagnosis with head held high, even though it meant stepping away from many of the meat products that I enjoy. No more loaded hamburgers? Totally okay if it means no more late nights certain my gut is splitting in two. No more bacon? That one hurts a little more, but I can live with it if it means no more waking up from a deep sleep gasping for breath I can’t seem to catch. No more rice crispy treats? WTF???
That’s right. Marshmallows — one of the main ingredients in the world’s easiest, most wonderful dessert — contain gelatin, which is made from hoofed animals. Mammals. It turns out that mammal products are hidden in all sorts of things that I consumed frequently.
I can’t count all the times over the last few gluten-free years that I’ve relied on the ever-faithful rice crispy treat. Guess what is incredibly easy, cheap, and quick to make in a pinch? Rice crispy treats. Guess what most coffee shops carry alongside their flaky pastry and gluten-laden goodies? Rice crispy treats. Guess what goes amazing with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio after eight hours of preparing, cheering, and recovering from middle school cross country meets? You got it – rice crispy treats.
Somewhere in the midst of mopping my tears, I realized I needed a solution. It arrived in the form of a bag of vegan marshmallows from my very own Alpha-Gal-Pal Candice. It turns out, vegans like rice crispy treats, too.
I bet you can guess what we did with said bag of vegan marshmallows.
We attempted a modified recipe using the vegan marshmallows. Since we both have to be extremely careful of what we eat, we played around some by removing additional allergens. Using vegan butter or coconut oil with the vegan marshmallows, we can now make rice crispy treats that even our dairy-free gals can eat! In a blind taste test using our mammal-eating husbands, our vegan treat even outshined the original as softer and more marshmallow-y.
So if you find yourself facing alpha-gal or other issues that prohibit you from eating a multitude of allergens, you’ve landed in the right place. We’re here to make sure that those of us with tick-borne illnesses have suffered enough. Together, Candice and I are finding ways around the things we miss without feeling deprived. It’ll be a journey for all of us, but we’re determined.
Stay tuned for more tips and practical resources on navigating alpha-gal and living mammal-free.