Do you experience stomach pain, bloating, or diarrhoea a few hours after eating an egg or foods that contain eggs? If you do, then you might be suffering from egg intolerance. With the help of a registered dietitian, you can manage these symptoms by eliminating eggs from your diet for a while and then reintroducing them gradually back into your system.
What is Egg Intolerance?
Egg intolerance is a digestive condition wherein the affected person has difficulty digesting the proteins in the whole egg, egg white, or egg yolk and experiencing discomfort after eating them. For some egg-intolerant individuals, it is the chicken egg white that triggers their symptoms, not the egg yolk or vice versa. It’s also possible for some people to eat whole chicken eggs without any adverse reaction, but have a reaction to quail, duck, or goose eggs because they contain different proteins.
What Causes Egg Intolerance?
When undigested proteins enter the bloodstream, your body may treat them as foreign substances or antigens. As a result, your immune system produces immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies to attack these antigens in question. Clinical observations show that excessive amounts of antigens in the bloodstream may trigger some adverse food reactions and exacerbate the symptoms of chronic intestinal inflammations, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
It’s not easy to live with egg intolerance since many common dishes and ingredients contain eggs in one form or another (e.g., powdered, dried, or egg solids).
To make things worse, some manufacturers use different names for eggs in their product labels. Thus, you must read the labels carefully. Other names that eggs also go by are:
- Lecithin (E322)
- Lysozyme (E1105)
What are the Symptoms of Egg Intolerance?
Egg intolerance symptoms may occur between 2 and 72 hours after exposure to eggs, but the severity may vary depending on your body’s tolerance level.
The common symptoms of egg intolerance include stomach pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. In some cases, it may also cause:
- Itchy skin, eczema, acne
- Throbbing headache and migraine
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Swollen joints
- Runny nose or sinusitis
- Depression or anxiety
Egg intolerance can last for years for some people. For others, it can be a life-long condition. It can also occur at any age so we recommend seeing your dietitian if you suspect that you or your child has an egg intolerance. They can rule out other food sensitivities or allergies and offer advice to manage your symptoms.
How is Egg Intolerance Diagnosed?
Some diagnostic clinics offer food sensitivity tests which involve a home-to-lab finger-prick test. With your sample, they might be able to determine whether or not your body is hypersensitive to certain foods that you’re eating. They can also tell whether your symptoms will show up immediately or not after ingestion. However, there’s no guarantee that the results are 100% accurate.
A more accurate solution is to track your symptoms using a food journal. Keep in mind that our reactions to the foods we eat vary greatly. An ingredient that triggers no symptoms for an individual could be the reason for the flare-up of another.
Therefore, listing the details is crucial in tracking the food and drinks you consume and how you react to it after ingestion. You must also take note of how immediate your symptoms occur and how long they last. The following are the other information that you should include in your food journal :
- Write down how your eggs or egg-containing foods were prepared (e.g., baked, fried, or broiled). Also include any condiments, salad dressings, sauces, or toppings served with it.
- Indicate the serving amount in ounces, teaspoons, tablespoons, or cups, if possible.
- Take note of the time you eat food. It will help identify potentially problematic eating habits like snacking past midnight.
- Jot down where you are eating, any side activity you’re doing while eating, who you are dining with, and how are you feeling while eating. These will help you and your dietitian better understand your eating habits and identify other factors that may influence your symptoms.
After three to four weeks, share this information with your dietitian to help determine if you have an egg intolerance or if your symptoms are caused by something else.
How to Treat Egg Intolerance?
If other causes are ruled out, your dietitian may advise you to start a food elimination diet. They may also prescribe you with food supplements if you are at risk for some nutrient deficiencies.
Food elimination is an effective way to experience relief from your egg intolerance symptoms. Depending on your tolerance level, your dietitian may recommend limiting the amount of eggs you consume each day or completely avoid eggs for six weeks.
Aside from egg whites, egg yolks or whole eggs, you may also need to say no to foods that are cooked or prepared with eggs. These can include but are not limited to mayonnaise, tartar sauce, Caesar salad dressing, baked goods, cakes, meringue and frostings, ice cream, marshmallows, breaded dishes, pasta, cappuccino (eggs are used to create the foam), meatballs, meatloaf, and soufflés. When dining out, ask the server which dishes on the menu contain eggs so you can limit your chances of experiencing adverse food reactions.
Upon completion of your food elimination, you may observe some improvements in terms of how you feel and see if you’re ready to gradually reintroduce eggs back into your diet.
Eggs provide a lot of nutrients that help keep your body healthy. However, when you eliminate them from your diet, it increases your risk for certain nutrient deficiencies, such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, selenium, choline, or lutein deficiency. Thus, incorporating egg replacements into your diet is important.
If you are reactive to either egg whites or egg yolks, consider the following alternatives:
Egg Yolk Substitutes
- Arrowroot powder, also known as starch, is one of the best egg yolk substitutes for baking and cooking. It is generally grown in North America and in the Caribbean, where it is dried and powdered. It has the same velvety texture as egg yolks but tastes less flavourful.
- Soy lecithin. Extracted from soybean oil, soy lecithin acts as a binding agent like egg yolks. 1 tablespoon of soy lecithin can replace one egg yolk in many recipes.
- Ground flaxseeds and chia seeds are also excellent egg yolk alternatives as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They also add weight and a nutty flavour to baked goods like cookies, muffins, waffles, and bread.
Egg White Substitutes
- If you are worried about baking without egg whites, simply double the amount of vinegar/apple cider vinegar to make the batter lighter and smoother in texture. You can also triple the amount of baking powder to add weight to your baked goods without using egg whites.
- Aquafaba. It is the boiled liquid leftover from cooked chickpeas or beans. It has the same consistency as raw egg whites, making it a good substitute for baking vegan or egg-free meringues, macaroons, nougat, or marshmallows.
- Avoid baking recipes (e.g., angel food cake and souffle) that require a high amount of egg whites for texture.
Additionally, tofu is often used as an alternative to scrambled eggs but it is best to avoid tofu if you have a soy allergy or thyroid disease.
Read more: Quick Healthy Breakfast Ideas
Living with Egg Intolerance
Living with egg intolerance can be challenging, but it shouldn’t be the reason for your reduced quality of life and nutrition. The most effective ways to manage your symptoms is by diligently writing in a food journal, consulting a dietitian, following their advice which may include an elimination diet and making sure that you still meet your recommended nutrient intake daily. With discipline, proper diet and eating habits, you can limit and better manage your adverse reactions to eggs.
Need Our Help?
Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, learn more about our food intolerances and sensitivities services.