Along with milk, eggs are on the list of the top eight food allergens. Symptoms of egg allergy usually occur within minutes of eating eggs or food containing eggs, but they can take up to a few hours to appear. Symptoms typically disappear within 24 hours (usually much sooner). They can include hives; swelling around the mouth; abdominal cramping; diarrhea; vomiting; sneezing; coughing; difficulty breathing; and itchy, watery eyes. In rare cases, egg allergy has caused anaphylactic shock.
In Chinese medicine, eggs are thought to contribute to excess mucus in some people, which, according to Paul Pitchford, author of Healing With Whole Foods, can lead to gall bladder obstruction and impaired liver function. Indeed, research indicates that eggs may worsen gallbladder disease. One common theory: Allergenic substances in eggs cause inflammation in the bile ducts, reducing the flow of bile from the gallbladder and contributing to the formation of gallstones.
A study published in the February 2009 edition of Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, found an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes among men and women who ate eggs daily.
Although the incidence of salmonella in eggs is quite low, eggs are so prevalent in the American diet that it's still a major problem, resulting in 79,000 cases of food-borne illness and 30 deaths every year. Healthy people who contract salmonella poisoning usually recover quickly. However, elderly people, babies, and those with compromised immune systems (such as cancer or HIV patients) face greater risk. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. To avoid salmonella, keep eggs refrigerated, discard eggs that are dirty or cracked, and cook eggs thoroughly—salmonella bacteria is killed by cooking. Also avoid products that contain raw eggs, such as cookie dough.
What you can do: There are a number of excellent egg-free substitutes that are widely available, depending on your needs.
- For baking: Substitute one small banana, 1/4 cup applesauce, or 1/4 cup pureed prunes for one egg.
- For scrambling: Sub 1/4 cup firm tofu for one egg.
- For general purpose: Sub equal parts egg replacer for eggs. Commercial egg replacers work well, but check the ingredients to confirm that the product isn't made with eggs. Egg Beaters is one brand that's made from egg whites.