Like many out there trying to be their healthiest selves, one of my main protein sources used to be eggs. Two eggs EVERY morning for 3 years! I was proud of it, too, because it was during this time I reached my leanest weight and had the highest levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
But then things began to change in my fitness journey. My goals shifted to building lean muscle mass and I became more interested in ways to increase my protein without the additional fat...enter egg whites!
Things were fine for a while, but then slowly I started developing a condition I hadn't seen since I was in high school...dermatitis on the backs of my arms. Yep...chicken skin! I chalked this up to my body no longer responding to my body wash (time to find a new brand...AGAIN!) and the fact that Jergen's stopped producing my alpha-beta hydroxy lotion. After many a lotion and body wash change and a year and a half later, I started developing eczema (hands, behind the ears, even sometimes on my face on the part of your cheek next to your nose) on TOP of that dermatitis.
"Okay, guys...this is no longer funny."
I was starting to feel out of control of my body, and I had no idea what to do about it.
Then my journey changed again as I continued my studies in Integrative Health and Nutrition...this time with an interest in gut health. I learned quickly we may think we are eating healthy so long as it's "organic" or tauted as a "fitness food" and hits our "numbers or macros", but could in fact be doing ourselves damage due to our bio-individuality. Also, sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Eggs, for many, is one of those things!
It turns out, if you over-consume eggs, you could actually build an intolerance to them. An intolerance to ANY food creates inflammation as the body decides that food is no longer welcome. Two very common reactions to egg intolerance are through your skin and excessive bloat/discomfort.
But it's not necessarily the WHOLE EGG, that could be the problem. It could be just one component. Most people with an egg intolerance are actually reacting to the egg white, while the yolks tend to be tolerated by most just fine.
"So what's the deal!? It's just protein, right?!"
It is indeed, but it's a protein made up of many parts. These parts are a variety of different enzymes that work together to protect the yolk against microbial attack (because in case you forgot, yolks turn into baby chicks once fertilized). These enzymes work as a team to break down proteins from bacteria that threatens to enter. One enzyme in particular, lysozyme, seems to be the head party-crasher here, however, responsible for generating the inflammation that may build up in the human body over time.
Enzymes that break down protein bonds are known as proteases. Lysozome is one such protease that is found in eggs. Ionically enough, lysozyme is also found in the human body for the same reason...to protect us against bad bacteria! How cool!? Because our bodies naturally make lysozyme enzymes, and their role is deemed as beneficial for survival, they are resistant to digestion and pass through into the intestines. This is where things get tricky...
In order to break down proteins, a protease enzyme needs to bind with the proteins of bacteria. Therefore, as lysozyme moves into the intestinal tract, it brings other egg white proteins and bacterial proteins with it. Since lysozyme cannot be digested, it get assimilated through the intestinal wall and absorbed into the blood stream. With it goes it's little buddies riding on it's back...and THIS is where we have a problem.
This leak allows foreign particles that shouldn't be in our blood stream to get in there. Our body responds appropriately (here comes the bouncer!) with various anti-bodies to get rid of the intruders. But just like being at a club with the wrong friends, lysozyme gets kicked out of that party, too. If this happens too often, lysozyme particles also get labeled the bad guys...and the body will begin to react to them every time.
This is where more sensitive people (or people that over-consume eggs or their whites) may begin experiencing skin rashes, eczema, bloat and discomfort, and even bowel movement changes....unpleasant ones. The party is OVER!
So if this is you... if you've recently increased egg whites in your diet, or if you've been eating eggs/egg whites for a long time, it may be time for a switch up. I for one switch to ground turkey now in the morning...and I don't miss the eggs one bit. Throw a little fennel seed in there, and it is "mmm mmm...good!". So give your body a break for a month or two. Bring it back in occasionally, and see if that helps. Abs mean nothing (and are harder to see!) if you're feeling terrible, after all!