Unfortunately, the “signature” Paleo breakfast of eggs and bacon is not for everyone. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed food allergy, perhaps you’ve noticed nausea, bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, or constipation shortly after consuming your scramble, indicating a food intolerance or sensitivity. Originally you blamed it on last night’s cocktail, insufficient water intake that day, or a random case of indigestion; over time, however, you’ve begun to notice that after breakfast, these symptoms tend to creep in and linger through the next several hours.
The difference between an egg sensitivity and an allergy is the same as for other foods: sensitivities are slower, milder reactions, typically presenting as digestive distress. Thus, those with egg sensitivities who continue to consume eggs often develop chronic, low levels of inflammation and gastric distress.
So what makes eggs so inflammatory to some folks’ GI tracts?
Potential reasons include the following:
Egg Whites Only, Please
Remember the days when “egg whites only, please” was the “healthy” thing to do? Thankfully, we know better now; in fact, the whites of eggs are actually cited as the primary culprit for intolerances. Egg whites are comprised of albumin, a protein with which some folks’ bodies disagree. In addition, lysozyme (an enzyme found in egg whites) can also be disturbing to many people’s guts, since it is a protease inhibitor and can pass through the gut in large complexes with other proteins. Lastly, egg white is also known to initiate histamine release (and thus inflammation), which may explain the “intolerance” symptoms you experience when eating eggs (i.e. histamine intolerance). Experiment with just eating the yolks, and see if you notice any changes in how eggs make you feel.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In the relationship of increased intestinal permeability to egg sensitivities, it can be tough to clarify which problem arose first. Was the gut already leaky due to other factors, like eating too quickly, eating under stress, or insufficient chewing, or in reaction to grains, dairy, processed foods, or medications? Or did consumption of eggs first irritate the gut, causing it to become hyperpermeable over time? Regardless of the cause, such leakage means that various food proteins can enter your bloodstream intact via that breach, resulting in unpleasant side effects.
One more point: typically, when you embraced a real-food (i.e. Paleo) approach, chances are that you not only incorporated more eggs into your diet, but also removed old “food offenders”. This transformation not only helped you begin to feel better, but also gave your digestive tract the opportunity to begin healing. Consequently, as your gut health and immune-system function start to normalize, it’s not unusual to find that your gut reacts much more strongly than before — especially to certain foods, like eggs.
What kind of eggs do you purchase? Pasture-raised, healthy eggs with brilliant golden yolks, laid by free-roaming hens, or coop-raised, pale-yolked, hormone-infused, 99-cent specials? The quality of your eggs could also be a culprit in your reactions to them. Even if you buy “cage-free”, “omega-3-enhanced”, or brown-colored eggs, they will never match the look, taste, and health benefits of a pasture-raised egg. For instance, the term “cage-free” merely means the chicken wasn’t raised in a cage (but it could still have been raised in a smelly, dirty, overstuffed chicken pen). As for 99-cent specials (conventionally-raised eggs): for all you know, you could be eating rat pellets, since that laying-hen’s diet is what you are eating, too.
How do you like your eggs prepared? Over-easy? Scrambled? Hard-boiled? Poached? Fried? There are myriad ways to cook your eggs, and not one technique tastes, or digests, the same way as another. Hence, your egg-preparation technique could be the all-determining factor in how eggs make you feel. For some, the more undercooked the egg, the more potent the irritants, and the more difficult to digest it will be. If you’ve found yourself prone to “egg belly”, a general rule of thumb for reintroduction is to avoid eggs for at least 1-4 weeks to give your belly a break. Then, when you are ready, start with well-cooked, hard-boiled eggs, moving on later to more softly cooked, and finally runny, eggs (over-easy, poached, or fried).
Sometimes, egg sensitivities stem from the principle of “too much of a good thing”. In other words, an intolerance develops from overconsumption. This can happen with practically any food. The sages didn’t say, “Variety is the spice of life!” for no reason. Our bodies need a diverse mix of foods; otherwise, with too much of the same thing in our system, our guts can eventually reach a point where they see these foods as invaders to attack.
So What the Heck Do You Eat for Breakfast If Eggs Are off The Table?
These 12 egg-free breakfast ideas will help get you started and keep you well-fueled!
- Green Smoothie
- Sweet potato hash with ground meat, sausage, or bacon
- Butternut squash skillet with pulled pork
- Meatballs over zucchini noodles with homemade pesto
- Chicken sausage patties, avocado, and sautéed power greens
- Pulled pork with plantains (fried in coconut oil) and roasted broccoli
- Turkey burger with roasted sweet potato wedges and asparagus spears
- Green-tipped banana with 1-2 tablespoons of almond/sunflower seed butter, plus turkey sausage
- Chili with guacamole
- Rotisserie chicken over mixed greens, topped with pumpkin-seed oil and 1-2 tablespoons of dried cranberries
- Bowl of berries mixed with organic, full-fat, plain yogurt
- Organic chicken thighs with baked apples and roasted Brussels sprouts