Monday, November 11, 2013

Gluten Sensitive – When is an Egg NOT Gluten-Free?



Eggs Are Totally Safe, Right?

Eggs are a nice source of protein, they are available pretty much everywhere and can be prepared a number of different ways, making them a pretty safe go-to when traveling. I always believed that if one wasn’t allergic to them, eggs were a very safe option for those on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet.

I don’t tend to eat many when I’m at home, but when traveling, some form of egg has been a common breakfast solution. After all, we’re not going to order the cereal, waffles or pancakes! Does this sound like you? Have you ever eaten eggs in a restaurant and felt like you had a reaction? If so, you’re not alone.

Just the Eggs, No Pancake Batter

Let’s review why eggs might ‘get you in trouble’.

       1.   It’s all in the preparation. If you’ve ever been to a breakfast buffet where they offered ‘made to order’ omelettes, you may have noticed that the individual making the omelette isn’t breaking eggs for you. Instead he or she is pouring from a pre-mixed contained of ‘eggs’ that may or may not contain dairy and gluten. 

You may be wondering where the gluten might come from. I too was surprised when I learned this. When it comes to ‘secret’ egg ingredients, I’ll have to admit that before becoming dairy-free the ‘secret’ ingredient in my scrambled eggs was some milk or, better yet, cream. (I’m sure a non-dairy milk, especially coconut milk would yield as good a result.) But what about gluten? Where does that come into the picutre?

It turns out that some restaurants (IHOP for one) add pancake batter to their eggs - that’s their ‘secret’ ingredient. That one I never would have guessed!

Rule #1 –make sure the eggs are broken fresh for you when you order any kind of egg dish. Don’t accept any pre-made egg ‘batters’.

     2. Where was the egg cooked? Much like anyone who is gluten-free knows to ask that pasta be prepared in its own water, rather than sharing water with previously cooked wheat-based pasta, so too one must be careful of where one’s eggs are prepared. While you may prepare your own eggs in a fry pan, many restaurants prepare scrambled eggs, fried eggs and omelettes on their griddle. That same griddle that they just cooked pancakes or French toast on.

Rule #2 – ensure that you ask for a clean pan for your eggs to be cooked in to prevent any cross-contamination. And remember that holds true for pasta water and French fry oil.

     3.  Have you ever been to a salad bar and noticed that the contents of one container had migrated to another adjacent one. In other words, there were pieces of red cabbage mixed with the lettuce? Well, the same thing can happen in a kitchen that is preparing egg dishes that contain a variety of ingredients. If the cook that just was grabbing some croutons next grabs some mushrooms to put in your omelette, cross-contamination is likely to occur.

Rule #3 – If you are ordering breakfast in a restaurant, consider getting an egg dish that just contains eggs. Ensure the waitperson appreciates your ‘allergies’ (you don’t actually have an allergy if you’re celiac or gluten sensitive, but it’s a word that people can readily understand) and the need for a clean pan, designated clean utensils and freshly broken eggs.

       4.  Eggs themselves are, as mentioned earlier, a common allergy. If you suspect that you are reacting to eggs, consider getting tested for a blood IgE  or delayed IgG test. Either, if positive would show that you are reacting to them. Scratch tests are not particularly accurate for food, therefore no need to put yourself through that procedure.

5. Eggs are a potential cross-reactive food. This means that the compromised immune system of a celiacor gluten sensitive person mistakes the protein of the egg for gluten and therefore reacts as if it WAS gluten. There is a blood test to determine if such a reaction is occurring in your case. Fortunately this is a temporary situation and once the eggs are removed for a period of time while building the immune system and healing the gut, these individuals can typically return to eggs safely.

What Did You Feed That Chicken? 

        6/  Finally, there was an interesting study in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry (2001)  entitled, “Transfer of soy isoflavone into the egg yolk of chickens” where the researchers proved that feeding chickens a great deal of soy was transferred into their egg yolks. This study has been seen as foundational research that may explain why certain highly reactive celiac and gluten sensitive patients can be found to react to eggs, despite having no egg allergy.

 The particular eggs that these individuals react to are those from hens whose diets are very high in glutinous grains. In the past we wouldn’t have ever thought that the feed of an animal would affect eating said animal, but these are eggs, not the animal’s flesh, and as mentioned above, the soy study gave credence to the fact that such a transference is very possible.

Now, I must caution you that the quantity of gluten that could be found in such a case is likely so small as to make the egg still pass a ‘gluten-free’ test – meaning it’s well below the 20 parts per million that would designate a level of gluten warranting a gluten label. We are only mentioning this in the case of those rare individuals we are so sensitive that literally ANY gluten is enough to cause their immune systems to react.

Don't Be Shy, Speak Up and You Won't Get Sick.... hopefully

I hope you found this helpful. I think some diligence when eating out should allow most of us to safely enjoy eggs without too much trouble. But if you don’t speak up and let the restaurant know what you need, you very well might have an exposure that really sets your healing and health status back. Not necessary, I assure you.

If your health is not to level you desire, consider contacting me for a free health analysis – call 408-733-0400. Our destinationclinic treats patients from across the country and internationally so you don’t need to live locally to us to receive care. We are here to help!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Awarded Gluten-Free Doctor of the Year 2013

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