Egg intolerance is a relatively rare food sensitivity, but it is a difficult food allergy to live with because eggs are hidden ingredients in so many foodstuffs. Fortunately, there are now some great egg alternatives available, which we tell you about here. Avoiding these foods will help you to avoid egg intolerance symptoms.
This page is just an overview of the subject to help you to better understand the condition. Here we explain what causes this relatively rare condition, how to be tested for egg allergy, as well as give you some basic advice about living with egg intolerance.
We cover egg intolerance in adults as well as in babies and children. Egg allergy symptoms in adults are less pronounced than other food sensitivities, so they are relatively easy to miss.
The different kinds of egg intolerance explained
There are several different types of egg intolerance. Some people are allergic to all elements of the eggs. Others cannot eat egg yolks, but can eat egg whites. For other people, it is the other way around they can eat the white of an egg, but not the yolk. It is even possible to suffer from a duck egg allergy. People who suffer from this can eat chicken and quails eggs without any adverse symptoms, but have a severe reaction to duck eggs because they contain slightly different proteins.
Still other people are allergic to one or more of the proteins found in eggs. The four proteins are ovomucoid, ovalbumin, ovotransferrin, and lysozyme. Usually, if you have an adverse reaction to eggs you are intolerant of one or more of these proteins.
The symptoms of egg allergy
The symptoms of sensitivity to eggs are normally manifested within minutes of eating something. These symptoms can be mild or severe and include the following:
Egg allergy rashes
Vomiting and diarrhoea
Egg intolerance diarrhea
Egg intolerance stomach pain
If you have a full-blown allergy to eggs, you can go into anaphylaxis. However, fortunately, the most common adverse reaction to eggs is skin rashes or hives. Most of the time egg intolerance symptoms in adults start out mild, but they tend to worsen the more often you eat eggs.
Egg intolerance symptoms in babies are also hard to pin down. If you see any sign if egg allergy symptoms baby seek medical advice straight away.
Treating egg intolerance in children
Oddly, egg allergy is a big problem for children. It is one of the most common allergy-causing foods for children. Around 2% of children cannot safely eat eggs. In adults, the percentage is much lower.
The first reaction can be quite mild, but if your child is actually allergic to eggs, the next time they eat them the reaction could be far more severe and may include breathing problems. This is why you have to be very careful when introducing eggs into your child’s diet. If there is any sign whatsoever of an adverse reaction to eggs you really do need to get your child tested for egg intolerance, and do so straight away.
Most children will outgrow egg sensitivity symptoms by the time they reach adolescence. However, you will need to work with your medical practitioner to understand if, or when, it is OK to start re-introducing eggs into your child’s diet.
The underlying causes of a sensitivity to eggs
The cause of a bad reaction to eggs is normally an over-active or malfunctioning immune system. Both egg whites and yolks contain proteins that someone’s immune system can mistake for harmful proteins that need to be attacked when they are introduced into the body.
Allergic reactions to egg whites are more common
Some people discover later in life that they can safely eat egg yolks. This is because the protein contained in egg whites is different to that contained in egg yolks. More people are sensitive to the proteins in egg whites than they are to the proteins in egg yolks.
Egg white allergy symptoms
The problem with some food intolerances is that they can end up developing into a full blown allergy. So, you need to pay attention to how bad your symptoms are each time you eat eggs or products that contain them. If you find that you feel worse each time you are exposed to them you could be in danger of developing full blown egg white allergy symptoms.
To help you to understand how things can progress here is a summary of the symptoms egg intolerance followed by the symptoms of an egg white allergy. Comparing them side by side like this should help you to recognize the progression :
Egg white intolerance symptoms
Digestive issues – including IBS, bloating, cramps or stomach ache
- Neurological issues – severe headaches, migraines and dizziness
- Skin problems – especially eczema, but also acne, itchiness and rashes
- Fatigue – extreme tiredness after eating,lack of energy, “brain fog” or lethargy
- Joint pains – persistent aches or swelling of the joints, especially the legs
- Psychological problems – like depression, anxiety or confusion
- Respiratory problems – especially sinusitis and rhinitis
Symptoms of an egg white allergy
- Wheezing often accompanied by difficulty breathing
- Swelling especially the lips, tongue and throat
- Rashes or hives that appear suddenly
- Sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose
- Severe stomach pain
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Full Anaphylaxis – a hypersensitive reaction, which can be life threatening
The connection between atopic dermatitis and egg sensitivity
Children with skin issues have been found more likely to have an adverse reaction when they eat eggs. Two studies into atopic dermatitis and egg intolerance have clearly shown that there is a connection between the two conditions.
A family history of asthma a sign or potential egg intolerance
If both parents suffer from asthma, there is a greater chance of their children being allergic to eggs. They are also more likely to suffer from eczema or hay fever.
Health issues related to egg intolerance
If you get an adverse reaction when you eat eggs, you are at a greater risk of several other health conditions. Here are the main ones:
Other food intolerances
Sensitivity to pollen, dust and pets
Respiratory conditions such as asthma
The diagnosis of egg sensitivity
The best and safest way to get the correct diagnosis is to do so with the help of a medical professional. You can buy home testing kits for egg intolerance, but it is hard to get the right results with this kind of test. Having a proper skin prick test carried out by an allergist is much safer and far more accurate.
If your child has problems when they eat eggs and needs testing the only safe way to do it is to get a medical professional to carry out the test. Doing your own food intolerance testing when there is a child involved could be very dangerous. It really is not worth the risk.
Before going for testing, prepare for the appointment. Your doctor will want to know which foodstuffs cause a reaction. Eggs are added to a huge list of foodstuffs, which is why your doctor will need to know exactly which products cause a reaction. You will also be asked to describe your symptoms. Your doctor will also want to know if anyone else in your family has egg sensitivity issues, so it is a good idea to ask around the family before you go.
Tests for egg intolerances
A food immunologist will take a full medical history. They may ask you to keep a food diary too and will carry out a basic physical examination to decide whether other medical conditions could be causing your symptoms.
They will use one of four diagnostic techniques:
A blood test
A skin prick test
A food challenge
An elimination diet
Many doctors will do all four to be sure. The last thing you need is to spend your life avoiding eggs if you do not need to.
On your return visit, they may carry out a skin prick test or give you a tiny sample of egg to eat to see if your body reacts. If the test results point to egg intolerance or allergy they will put together an egg free diet regime for you to follow.
Treatment of egg sensitivity
As we said earlier, many children grow out of sensitivity to eggs. However, egg intolerance in adults is not unheard of. Most adults find that the only way to live with the condition is to avoid eating eggs.
If they are just sensitive to eggs and inadvertently end up eating an egg related product the adverse reaction is normally mild. Often taking an antihistamine is enough to ease the symptoms. Sometimes antihistamine cream can help to stop an egg allergy rash from itching and help it to go down faster.
For those people who have a full-blown egg allergy the symptoms can be a lot worse. In some inadvertently eating egg can lead to anaphylactic shock. Those people normally have to carry an EpiPen or an Auvi-Q pen with them. These pens can be used to inject epinephrine into them if their body goes into shock. This life saving treatment controls the symptoms enough to allow the ambulance crew to get to them to the emergency room alive.
Egg allergy therapy
In the future egg sensitivity may be able to be treated using what is being called egg therapy. Researchers have completed a 22-month study and are in the process of developing oral imuno-therapy for egg allergies. The way it works is that tiny amounts of egg is gradually introduced into the diet of people who have problems when they eat eggs. If there is no adverse reaction the amount consumed is up ever so slightly. In the study egg white powder was used to gradually build up acceptance by the body of the proteins contained in the egg white.
The initial results were promising with 55% of the children in the study being able to once again able to eat eggs. None of the children in the placebo group was able to eat eggs without some sort of adverse reaction. They all still had a full blown egg allergy or egg intolerance.
Living an egg free life
Until effective treatments are developed, the only safe approach is to avoid eating eggs. It is relatively easy to avoid eating whole eggs, but you have to also be aware of egg that is hidden in other ingredients.
We cover this subject in detail here, but here are the main foods you need to check for eggs or egg derivatives before consuming them.
Hidden egg ingredients
Egg derivatives are ingredients that are made from egg whites, yolks or proteins. For example, Vitellin is made from egg yolks. Because new derivatives are being developed all the time this may not be an exhaustive list, but it does contain the most important hidden egg ingredients.
If you see ‘ova’ or ‘ovo’ at the beginning of an ingredient name there is a good chance it has something to do with eggs, so double-check those.
Some egg substitutes
Certain medicines and vaccines e.g. the measles and most flu vaccines
You also need to keep an eye out for the obvious things like egg wash, dried eggs and eggnog. It is surprising how often people miss the fact that these are in products. We have known cooks to take the care to produce an egg free pie than egg wash it before putting it in the oven so it has a nice shiny top, so you do need to be careful. Egg intolerance is a tricky food allergy to live with because egg is hidden in so many products.
Egg free recipe resources
If you are looking for egg free recipe, here are a few links to some of our favourite egg free recipe books below, you may also want to take a look out our eggless recipes section:
If you do not always cook your own food, the following two sections will help you. They tell you all about hidden eggs in food, which will really help you if you are eating out or with friends.
Foods that contain hidden eggs
If you cook your own food you can normally find an egg free recipe that works for you, so avoiding eggs in home cooked food is not that difficult. However, once you start eating processed foods you have to be a bit more careful. Here are the main food products that contain eggs:
Most mass-produced baked goods
Some commercially produced breads
Supermarket or restaurant macaroni cheese (mac and cheese)
Crab sticks and other surimi or artificial crab products
Some dried and fresh pasta products
Some sauces and salad dressings
Most shakes especially protein shakes
An alarmingly long list of sweets
Processed veggie foods, again look out for burgers and sausages
Most ice creams
Processed meats especially burgers
Breaded products often contain an egg in the coating
Some pizza topping (especially fake cheese)
Again this is not an exhaustive list and you have to mind that any meal or food that includes one of these would also be a no go option for you. For example, if your local Chinese restaurant only uses egg noodles instead of rice noodles you could not order any noodle items from them. Again, it sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many people forget this and inadvertently order a dish, which makes them ill, which is why we mention this.
Tips for eating out with egg intolerance
For anyone with a food allergy or sensitivity eating out can be a bit of a nightmare. To help you with this we have put together an eating out page. There you can find resources to help you to find restaurants that serve egg free food.
Egg free foods
If you know where to look you can find alternatives that fulfil most of the functions eggs do when you cook with them. Eggs help certain foods to rise. They add texture, flavour and moisture as well as an emulsifier.
Fortunately, there are some egg alternatives or egg free foods that allow you to continue to eat all the foods you love. Here are a few of them.
Vanilla essence – surprisingly vanilla essence can give an eggy flavour to most foods, but make sure you buy and use a good quality version. You will not need much, so you can splash the cash a bit.
Baking soda – often eggs are used to help something to rise or give volume. Baking powder, dry yeast and cream of tartar are all great to have in your pantry.
Coconut oil – it is hard to underestimate how much moisture eggs add to your food, fortunately you can add moisture back into a recipe in many ways. You can use puréed apples, pears and bananas in some recipes, while vegetable oils are better for other recipes. A great vegetable oil everyone who has to live egg free should have in his or her pantry is coconut oil. The coconut oil that this link takes you to is high quality, which means that it is not going to be contaminated with egg derivatives.
flaxseed – often eggs are used as a binding agent. flaxseed, soy flour and potato flour can all be substituted to produce egg free dishes.
Well hopefully, this page will prove to be a useful resource for you if you need to follow an egg free diet. If there is anything missing or a section you want us to expand please let us know by leaving a comment below.