Today’s question came to me from Sonia. She wrote:
Hello Nonie Nutritionista,
I came across some of your articles re meat/eggs etc. You have some insightful info, in my opinion, and I’ve enjoyed reading your Ask the Nutritionist articles.
My question is re eggs. I’m not a big meat eater; mainly only have chicken very rarely and fish very rarely. I am allergic to eggs - i.e. I have a bad stomach ache a few hours later, mainly if I eat them on their own. If they are in baked goods, they don’t bother me, and I have no allergic reaction.
About a year ago, I read that most people can overcome egg intolerance and that if heated/well cooked to a certain temperature or time, one of the allergy-causing proteins in eggs changes structure and no longer causes reaction.
I feel this is maybe true for me, and I’ve had some luck with eating hard-boiled eggs, but sometimes I still get a reaction which is always a really bad stomach ache. I find if I buy farm eggs from a farm instead of grocery store ones, I get more chance of a reaction, which is strange to me. We prefer buying eggs from our local farmers.
Given that I don’t eat meat much, I think eggs are an excellent source for me to have vital nutrients.
Are you able to advise on the below:
1. Any tips on how to wean off this intolerance further… How long does it take to cook an omelette or hard-boiled, for example?
2. Do eggs lose any nutritional value if I only get them from baked goods…?
If I can’t eat eggs on their own regularly, I’m considering increasing intake through healthy homemade bakes.
Any advice is appreciated.
To do justice to Sonia’s question, we need to break it down. There are a number of questions herein:
- Is this consistent with an egg allergy or intolerance?
- Can an egg (or other) intolerance be decreased?
- Does cooking eggs in baked goods change the structure over other cooking methods, such that an intolerance reaction would be less?
- Do eggs lose nutritional value if consumed in baked goods?
- If there is an intolerance, are eggs an adequate replacement for meat?
So let’s go through these aspects of the question systematically to figure out what’s going on here.
Allergy or intolerance?
I’ve written about this before, but allergies are not the same as intolerances. Allergies are an immediate reaction, often very strong and sometimes life-threatening. They are triggered consistently when exposed to the allergen - no matter the amount or what it’s in. Many reactions can occur, including swelling of tissues, hives, itching, breathing difficulties, and anaphylaxis. There are cases of people growing out of allergies, but these may be instances where the underlying issue has been healed, or the pathology has gone deeper. The NAET system claims to help people learn the steps to reduce or heal allergies and intolerances. I can’t speak to the efficacy or safety of this protocol, but I welcome feedback from readers who have.
In contrast, intolerances can be mild or extreme. They can be immediate, like mouth swelling or gastrointestinal distress, or delayed, like migraine headaches or diarrhea a few hours later. They can impact any system, creating symptoms like skin problems, digestive problems, sleep problems, mental health problems, and chronic fatigue and pain. They can mess with the thyroid and other hormones and cause hormonal health woes.
Intolerances (also called sensitivities) are less well understood and, because they are delayed, are often hidden. As an example, those who are intolerant to gluten can have a wide myriad of symptoms that make it really difficult to pinpoint the cause. They can react for very long periods of time after the food is ingested. If you have an unexplained health condition - especially something chronic - it’s best to get tested. This is something I offer in my clinic. For children’s behavioural problems and mood problems, it is the most important intervention, in my opinion.
It would seem that Sonia suffers from an intolerance, not a true allergy since she can tolerate eggs in some recipes without a reaction. This is likely not because of how the egg is cooked but because of the amount she is ingesting at any given time.
Can intolerances be decreased?
Yes, they can over time. The way this is accomplished is threefold: healing the gut biome, reducing inflammation in the body, and exposure to small amounts of the offending food in rotation. Some people choose instead to remove the food entirely to avoid being triggered, which will not help overcome the sensitivity but will stop the symptoms. However, eggs are very nutritious, especially for those whose diet does not afford ample other sources of B vitamins or complete protein. For Sonia, eggs are important. Reducing tolerance is preferable to removing them completely.
No matter how a food is cooked, if you’re intolerant, you’re intolerant. Ditto allergies. However, the amount you ingest can impact the severity of your reaction. Consuming a bit of egg in a homemade baked recipe is likely less provocative to the immune system than eating a whole egg, for example. However, baked goods are rarely as nutritious and usually full of sugar, vegetable oils, and grains - all of which increase inflammation in the body and damage the gut biome, further exacerbating any sensitivities that exist.
Eggs are a nutritionally complete food and are a great source of protein, B vitamins and choline. If red meat is not part of the diet, I always recommend eggs and seafood to ensure deficiencies don’t develop. A deficiency in B vitamins creates nervous system problems and emotional regulation disorders. The nerves can’t relax. A protein deficiency depletes the neurotransmitters (mental health) and muscles. And a zinc deficiency creates problems with immunity, digestion, brain health (learning and memory), our sense of taste and smell, and even sexual function. This is why it’s essential if following a vegetarian diet to get tested by a knowledgeable nutritionist or functional doctor yearly and to be diligent with supplements and menu planning.
In this case, eggs are triggering a reaction, so they can’t be included in the diet in a dose that would fulfil the dietary needs for B vitamins and protein. A diet without red meat would require supplementing to stay healthy and ensure protein intake is sufficient. I would recommend seeing a knowledgeable nutritionist to
Test for all intolerances and insufficiencies (where there’s one, there are often others.)
Build a healthy gut biome to facilitate healing intestinal permeability, which often plays a role in intolerances.
Thank you, Sonia, for writing in. As always, if you have your own health issue or question, just send me an email at [email protected]. And if you’re looking for more specific health information, check out my website at hopenotdope.ca.