Published Feb 22, 2021
Many people struggle to properly digest eggs. But just what are the symptoms of egg intolerance and what makes them different to an allergic reaction?
For many of us, eggs are a tasty breakfast staple and hearty baking standby. But for some less fortunate folks, they are also a recurring source of upset stomachs and other unpleasant symptoms.
If you have an intolerance to eggs your body has trouble digesting egg whites, egg yolks or both. Like other intolerances to food, the symptoms can come and go, suddenly appearing and disappearing for no obvious reason, or they may linger on for years. For some people it is a lifelong condition.
Allergies vs intolerance
Although the terms ‘allergy’ and ‘intolerance’ are often used interchangeably, these are two quite distinct reactions.. Allergies involve the immune system: they are, in fact, an inappropriate immune response, in which your system actually attacks certain substances as though they were pathogens. Some allergies are mild – you may just develop a rash or or an area of itchy skin – but others can be serious, even life-threatening.
Intolerance, by contrast, involves reactions by the digestive system. Everyone is an individual and our bodies respond in different ways to the foods we eat, but typical egg intolerance symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
Even so, symptoms such as stomach pain can overlap with mild egg allergies, so if you regularly develop indigestion after eating eggs, or foods cooked with them, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor to rule out the possibility of an allergy which might require medical treatment.
But if doctors rule out an allergy, then an intolerance of some kind is the likeliest candidate. Unlike allergic reactions, which are almost always immediate, symptoms of intolerance can take hours or even days to appear – a culprit that can make tracking down the culprit foods a challenge.
One way to explore the possibilities is to keep a food diary, jotting down what you eat each day alongside any symptoms you experience and how long these last. But there’s another, altogether easier method: a do-at-home DNA-based intolerance test. Just take a cheek swab, mail it back and you will soon receive a detailed breakdown of your body’s individual reactions to food.
Unfortunately, as with other sensitivities, there is no cure for an egg intolerance other than avoiding eggs and devising a diet without them – at least for a while. The good news is that allergies aren’t necessarily permanent: they can and do come and go. If you are struggling with eggs, try avoiding them for a few weeks – that may be all it takes for your body to ‘reset’, after which you can gradually start to enjoy eggs and baked goods once more.
It is not uncommon to have an intolerance to several foods at once – you may, for example, also be sensitive to the protein gluten, found in bread and wheat products, or lactose (milk sugar). If so, you will certainly need to make changes to your diet. But the pay-off for your efforts will be the disappearance of your discomfort.
For the first time, perhaps ever, you will be in control of your symptoms – you will know just what triggers your body has and will be able to plan a fully personalised diet plan for optimal wellbeing. Remember to try and ensure that the nutrients you previously obtained from eggs – for example, vitamin D, omega-3, and selenium – are all slotted in elsewhere. As ever, balance is the key!
Written by Bev Walton
Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician
A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.