Living with Dietary Restrictions: Eggs

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When it comes to dietary allergies, eggs may be one of the most restrictive.   There are so many items that obviously contain eggs like most desserts/baked goods and noodles, but there are just as many, if not more foods that use eggs in a more veiled way.   Luckily, while eggs are harder to avoid than other food allergens, it does occur a little less often.  According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, “Egg allergy is estimated to affect approximately 1.5% of young children.”  The good news is that on average it is an allergy that can and will be outgrown.  However, it’s still smart to know what to avoid and the risks that an egg allergy presents.

EggsHow do egg allergies develop and can they be prevented?

Like most allergies, egg allergies are the body’s immune system attacking an element that it thinks is invading, in this case the egg protein.  According to the Mayo Clinic these attacks can manifest in symptoms including: Skin inflammation (most common), asthma, nasal inflammation, stomach issues and in severe cases anaphylaxis.  The reason for this allergy can range from a family history of the allergy and most often the immaturity of the digestive system, which is why the allergy shows up in children, but can be outgrown.  The Mayo Clinic continues to say those that suffer from this particular allergy are also more likely to suffer from other health problems as well.  These problems include other food allergies, hay fever, atopic dermatitis and allergic asthma.

As said before, many children do outgrow the allergy as their digestive system develops.  Kids Health says that an, “Egg allergy usually first appears when kids are very young, and most kids outgrow it by the time they’re 5 years old.”  However, it’s important to know that this is not always the case.   Allergic Child reported on a recent research study done on this topic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.   According to the study, “In what are believed to be the largest studies to date of children with milk and egg allergies, researchers followed more than 800 patients with milk allergy and nearly 900 with egg allergy over 13 years, finding that, contrary to popular belief, most of these allergies persist well into the school years and beyond.”

There has also been work done to help to actually prevent the allergy from appearing in the first place.  The study presented in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggested introducing eggs to a baby’s diet between the ages of four to six months.  While it’s not conclusive whether or not it actually prevents the allergy, it has been found that it at least does not increase its development.

What should be avoided?

With every food allergy, it’s essential to be aware of what a dish or product contains by reading labels and asking questions.  With eggs it’s also imperative to know the names of items that are egg related yet are not just simply called eggs.  The Mayo Clinic list these terms as the following: Albumin, Globulin, Lecithin, Livetin, Lysozyme, Simplesse, Vitellin, and words starting with “ova” or “ovo,” such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin.  It’s also a good rule of thumb to avoid certain foods in general, unless they are specifically noted as not containing eggs.  Some of these items are anything made with a mix or batter, mayonnaise and items that include this ingredient, marshmallows, salad dressings and most baked goods and pastries.   It’s also wise to avoid drinks like beer, lattes and cappuccinos that use eggs in foaming agents, anything glazed and even many shampoos which use egg proteins for strengthening.  A final item that might not be as obvious is the vaccine for the flu.  The reason behind this according to the Center for Disease Control is that the vaccines are grown on egg embryos, which means they’ve been mixed with proteins from the egg itself.  However, with this item it’s important to talk with your health service provider before making a decision as they will be able to tell you if your allergy is or isn’t severe enough to cause a reaction to the small amount of protein.

Egg alternatives and eating on the go

While there are some specific alternatives to cooking with eggs like Egg Replacer by Ener-G, there are also many items that you may currently have in your house that can be used in place of eggs as well.  PETA provides many detailed options on how and what to use to substitute for egg use.  Similarly, you can try these great options compiled by Calorie Lab:

1 gelatin packet, 2 tbsp. warm water
1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tbsp. vinegar, 1 tbsp. liquid (such as water)
1 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/2 tbsp. oil, 1 1/2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. yeast, 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 of a medium-sized mashed banana
1 tbsp. ground flaxseed and 3 tbsp. warm water
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp. xanthan gum
In place of an egg wash, use melted margarine.
*Note:  It is important to know that these alternatives may not turn out well when a recipe calls for more than three eggs though.

When eating out with food allergies of any kind, Eating With Food Allergies advises that it’s helpful to either eat earlier or later than the normal crowds (i.e. before 6 PM or after 9 PM).   Doing so will help in allowing you to get more attentive service both at the table and in the kitchen.  Another handy item to remember when venturing out to eat is a Kids Health great cutout for your wallet that lists different foods and ingredients to avoid.  In addition to this cutout, checking sites like Special Gourmets can assist you in making decisions on the most appropriate place to eat.  The search engine bills itself as, “The largest global guide to restaurants, shops & hotels with options for gluten-free, dairy-free & other allergen-free diets.”   Not only is this guide helpful when looking for new places to try or when out of town, but it’s also handy when your or others you’re with are allergic to more than one item since it allows you to check off multiple items for your search.

While you’re out, the most reliable dining option would be to find a specifically Vegan venue.  These restaurants are always a great option for those with egg allergies because Vegans do not eat products that come from animals like eggs and the food is unlikely to suffer from cross-contamination as well.  Unfortunately, Vegan based dining options can be few and far between.  If you’re on the go and looking for an often occurring fast option, check out Taco Bell and Dairy Queen.  Taco Bell is a helpful option because most items do not contain egg products and since most items that do contain them are not necessarily created on-site, the risk for cross-contamination is lowered a bit.  As for Dairy Queen, there are some great options for you to get your ice cream fix.  However, even on their website they do warn of cross-contamination possibilities and encourage getting an ingredient listing from that specific restaurant for extra safety.   For a sit-down experience, On the Border provides a viable egg free option.  Most items there can be enjoyed normally since most of them don’t use eggs, but often require requesting the item without sauce and/or sour cream.

Delicious egg free recipes to try at home

Oven Baked Eggless Zucchini Fries from Eggless Cooking

Sweet Potato Biscuits from The Sensitive Pantry

How do you or your family members deal with being Egg Free?  Please share your story. 

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