Everything You Need to Know About Egg Intolerance

Egg intolerance is a digestive condition that occurs when a person has difficulty digesting egg whites, egg yolks, or both. This intolerance may develop at any age, last several years, or cause a person to struggle their entire life.

This article will discuss the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of egg intolerance and explore common foods that contain eggs and egg-free alternatives.

Hard-boiled eggs laying on a counter cut in half
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Egg Intolerance vs. Egg Allergy

An egg intolerance shouldn’t be confused with an egg allergy. An egg allergy involves the immune system and can be life-threatening, whereas an egg intolerance is more digestive and is usually not life-threatening. 

Egg Intolerance

A food intolerance, or food sensitivity, occurs when a person cannot properly break down certain foods.

Many experts believe the egg white is often responsible for triggering the intolerance. However, a person may also have trouble digesting egg yolks or whole eggs.

Because a person can often tolerate small amounts and symptoms may not appear right away, many people may not realize they have an egg intolerance.

Egg Allergy

An egg allergy occurs when a person's immune system overreacts to proteins found in egg whites, egg yolks, or both.

When a person with an egg allergy consumes an egg, their body sees the protein as a foreign invader and releases chemicals to defend against it. The release of these chemicals is what causes symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening and usually appear within a few minutes to a few hours after consuming (or touching) eggs.

Symptoms

Symptoms of an egg intolerance often affect the digestive system and can last for hours or days. They can also vary by individual and the number of eggs eaten.

Symptoms of a food intolerance may include:

Complications

A true egg allergy can be severe and trigger a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention because it impairs breathing and can send the body into shock.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

Diagnosis

Diagnosing an egg allergy is usually pretty straightforward because several reliable testing methods exist. However, diagnosing an egg intolerance can be more tricky.

Food intolerances are typically identified through an elimination diet or trial-and-error, which usually includes keeping a food diary.

A food diary is an easy way to help identify if eggs are triggering your symptoms. It should include information about everything a person eats and drinks and any symptoms.

A person may also be asked to follow an elimination diet where eggs are eliminated from the diet for a certain period to see if symptoms resolve. If unpleasant symptoms return after eating eggs again, it may suggest an intolerance.

Treatment

Currently, there is no treatment for an egg intolerance. The best way for a person with an egg intolerance to minimize and prevent uncomfortable symptoms is to eliminate eggs from their diet. This includes avoiding any dishes or foods that contain eggs.

The good news is that an egg intolerance may not last forever. Children often outgrow egg intolerances and allergies. Nearly 70% of children with an egg allergy will outgrow the condition by age 16.

Foods to Avoid With Egg Intolerance

To avoid eggs altogether, carefully read food labels. Foods and ingredients that may contain eggs (egg whites and yolks) include but are not limited to:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Powdered eggs
  • Albumin
  • Eggnog
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Flavoprotein
  • Globulin
  • Meringue
  • Simplesse

Egg Substitutes

Egg substitutes are generally marketed for people looking to decrease their total cholesterol intake rather than for those who can't have eggs. Most egg subsites contain eggs and should be avoided by someone with an egg allergy or intolerance.

To ensure a product is egg-free, you can choose certified vegan products, which will not contain any eggs or animal products.

Risks of Egg Intolerance

Eggs are high in protein and other key nutrients that many American diets lack, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and choline.

If a person eliminates eggs from their diet, they should speak with a healthcare provider or dietitian to ensure their daily recommended nutrient needs are met.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If an egg intolerance is suspected, it's important to speak with a healthcare provider. They can recommend additional testing to determine if eggs are causing unpleasant symptoms. A healthcare provider may also suggest an elimination diet to further pinpoint food intolerances.

Additionally, symptoms of an egg intolerance can be similar to those associated with other health conditions. Visiting a healthcare provider can also help rule out other potential underlying conditions and get to the root cause of a person's stomach problems.

Summary

Although an egg intolerance is not a life-threatening condition, it can cause digestive discomfort. Avoiding eggs and foods that contain eggs while following a well-balanced diet is the best treatment for an egg intolerance. When cooking, reading food labels and using vegan egg replacements can also help a person avoid eggs.

A Word From Verywell

Egg intolerances can cause a great deal of physical discomfort. The best treatment to alleviate unpleasant symptoms associated with an egg intolerance is by avoiding eggs altogether. Because food intolerances can be tricky to diagnose, it's important to visit your healthcare provider if an egg intolerance is suspected. If you experience difficulty breathing or swallowing after consuming eggs, seek medical attention immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can adults develop egg intolerance?

    A person can develop an egg intolerance at any point in their life. The reasons for the development of sudden egg intolerance often varies.

  • Is egg intolerance temporary?

    An egg intolerance may last for years, or a person may struggle to eat eggs throughout their life.

  • How common is egg intolerance?

    Egg allergies are considered to be one of the most common food allergies. Food intolerances, such as egg intolerance, are also very common. An estimated 20% of the world's population is affected by a food intolerance.

  • Why do hard-boiled eggs cause gas but scrambled don’t?

    A boiled egg's internal pressure increases and pushes the hydrogen sulfide gas from the egg white towards the yolk, which may cause gas for some people.

  • How can you tell if an egg went bad?

    One of the best ways to tell if a fresh egg went bad is by placing your eggs in cold water. If it sinks, it's still fresh. If it floats, it isn't good and should be discarded.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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