David L. Katz, MD
Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: I think I developed an allergy to red meat last summer. I break out in hives every time I eat it. Or could this be a reaction to the hormones or chemicals in the food?
— Anonymous

A: It's more likely that you're reacting to some of the extras in red meat—the hormones and antibiotics the cattle are fed—than to beef itself. Although 2 percent of adults and 6 percent of children suffer from food allergies, these are most commonly triggered by tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat; actual beef allergies are extremely rare.

To test the theory that your body is reacting to the substances that hitchhike a ride in beef, try organically raised, grass-fed cattle for a while. Livestock raised on many large farms are fed growth hormones and antibiotics for higher yield. (However, meat producers claim that only trace amounts of these substances end up in cuts we eat.)

Another option, if you're willing to be a bit more flexible with your diet, is to simply give up red meat and eat more plant foods. That will be good for you, allergy or no.

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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