Egg Intolerance Guide

Egg intolerance is caused by the body’s inability to digest the proteins present in eggs, egg yolks, or egg whites. Egg intolerance isn’t life-threatening, but it can easily make you uncomfortable by causing gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea. An intolerance to eggs can include egg white intolerance or egg yolk intolerance. In both cases, one isn’t able to consume all parts of an egg.

Even though some people experience egg intolerance after consuming either egg whites, egg yolks or the entire egg, there are people whose bodies are different and can only react to certain types of eggs. These could be chicken, quail, goose, or duck eggs. It is possible for one to eat chicken eggs without any reactions but experience egg intolerance to the other eggs.

 

Egg intolerance symptoms

Egg intolerance symptoms mostly affect the gastrointestinal tract and these symptoms often start showing between 2 to 72 hours after consuming eggs or their byproducts. Egg intolerance symptoms in adults and children may include;

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Even though the above egg intolerance symptoms are the most common, there are other uncommon symptoms like;

  • Itchy skin, skin rashes, eczema, acne
  • Headache or migraine
  • Lethargy, fatigue, or tiredness
  • Swollen joints or joint pain
  • Respiratory complaints like runny nose and sinusitis
  • Depression or anxiety

 

The difference between egg intolerance and egg allergy

An egg intolerance means the body is unable to digest eggs, so it ends up resulting in digestive problems. Alternatively, an egg allergy means that the body is reacting to egg proteins resulting in an attack on the body’s immune system. When one has an allergic reaction to eggs, it means that the body is mistaking the egg proteins for harmful substances thus releasing chemicals like histamine which can end up causing severe symptoms. In rare cases, it can be life-threatening.

Most of the time, egg allergies cause symptoms like hives, trouble breathing, runny nose, among others. These symptoms tend to vary from egg intolerance symptoms which mostly show up as digestive issues. When it comes to food intolerance symptoms, it takes hours or even days to show up. On the other hand, allergy symptoms can show up in a very short time, as little as 30 minutes. In severe cases, there are people who get egg allergy symptoms merely by touching eggs.

Even though both conditions are reactions to eggs, an allergy is more severe and could even be life-threatening compared to an egg intolerance.

 

Foods to avoid with egg intolerance

There are many foods and products that use eggs or yolks to bind or thicken them. The most popular foods that contain eggs, egg yolks, or egg whites include;

  • Quiches
  • Desserts
  • Ice cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pancakes and Yorkshire puddings
  • Cakes and bread
  • Sauces and spreads
  • Some meat products

Of course, the above list isn’t entirely exhaustive. Whenever you’re visiting a friend or eating outside, ensure you ask if any eggs were used as ingredients in meals so as to avoid the symptoms that come with egg intolerance. Asking whether meals contain eggs can be easy, the hard part is finding eggs in packaged foods. Normally, you’ll find eggs under different names like;

  • Lecithin (E322)
  • Ovoviltellin
  • Lysozyme (E1105)
  • Ovalbumin
  • Albumin
  • Globulin
  • Egg derived lysozyme (E1105)
  • Ovomucoid
  • Livetin
  • Egg whites, dried eggs, egg yolks, or powdered eggs
  • Apovitellin
  • Livetin
  • Ovoglobulin
  • Ovotransferrin
  • Ovovitelia
  • Silicialbuminate
  • Simplesse
  • Vitellin

A huge number of people experience egg allergies, so the Food and Drug Administration ensures all manufacturers list them on the labels {1}. This list can be a bit too long for you. If you feel so, you can take the short way around all this by always checking for products that are vegan certified. Vegan products aren’t made of any animal products and you will be sure not to find any eggs with a hidden name in those packaged products.

 

Egg substitutes for egg intolerance

One egg meets around 15% of the daily protein requirement hence showing how important eggs can be especially for those following a vegetarian diet. To ensure that you still consume whatever nutrients eggs were provided to your health even when omitting them, you can switch them for the following foods:

  • Animal proteins like milk, meat, and fish
  • Legumes and beans (by-products like tofu are also rich in protein)
  • Nuts and seeds

When looking for binding and thickening agents to replace eggs when baking, you can use;

  • Pureed fruit (like banana)
  • Flax or chia seeds
  • Aquafaba
  • Cornstarch
  • Avocado

 

Egg intolerance treatment

The most efficient egg intolerance cure is avoiding eggs and their products. A doctor will advise you to keep away from anything with eggs for upto six weeks and it’s only then that you both can decide to start adding eggs back into your diet gradually. Avoiding eggs will help keep away egg intolerance symptoms. Once you’ve stayed away from eggs for as long as your physician has advised, you both may decide to add eggs back into your diet gradually.

Most children outgrow egg intolerance eventually. Around 80% of children outgrow egg allergies by the age of 16 {2}. If your doctor is worried that you might be missing some major nutrients by eliminating eggs from your diet, they will prescribe some supplements.

 

Egg yolk intolerance or egg white intolerance?

Even though some people are generally intolerant to the whole egg, it is possible to either be egg yolk intolerant or egg white intolerant. Knowing whether you have an egg yolk or egg white intolerance can make your life easier. If you’re only intolerant to a part of the egg, that means you can still have eggs minus the yolk or egg whites, which is really good as you’ll still get the important nutrients.

 

Egg yolk substitutes include;

  • Arrowroot powder for baking and cooking
  • Ground flax seeds or chia seeds (binding agents rich in omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Soy lecithin (binding agent extracted from soybean oil)

 

Egg white substitutes include;

  • When baking, you can double up the amount of apple cider vinegar or vinegar. Alternatively, triple the amount of baking powder.
  • Aquafaba (liquid leftover from boiled chickpeas or beans)

 

Egg intolerance test

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Our Allergy Test Box Kit

Even though egg intolerance symptoms are mild compared to egg allergies, they can still disrupt the quality of your life and cause discomfort, unlike allergies which can be life-threatening. You can talk to your GP and rule out any serious underlying conditions then obtain yourself an Intolerance test kit from Test Your Intolerance.

On ordering your test kit, you will take a prick-test at home, send the sample back to the lab, and receive your results in a week’s time. The simple prick test will determine whether your body is producing IgG reactions to foods you’re consuming. Besides the intolerance test checking for egg intolerance, it will also look for intolerance against other common culprits.

 

About the Author

Kate Young is a clinical bio scientist and embryologist in both clinical NHS hospitals and private laboratories in the UK and Japan. She graduated with a BSc in Human Biological Studies from Leicester University, moved to Japan in 2006, where she specialized in IVF and embryology.

The early years of her career included Lab supervisor at Nottingham City Hospital’s Sperm Bank and Product Research and Development Technician at Boots PLC in Nottingham, testing sunscreen SPF’s and non-irritant baby products before focusing her expertise in ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) and Genetics, which became her passion. You can find more about Kate, Healthy Stuff Lab Manager, here.

 

References

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Allergies. Available Online {Source}: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/food-allergies
  2. Kara Wada MD. How to know a food allergy has been outgrown December 1, 2017. The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center. Available online {Source}: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/how-to-know-youve-outgrown-a-food-allergy#:~:text=Egg%2C%20milk%2C%20soy%20and%20wheat,do%20so%20by%20age%208.
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