Whether you prefer them sunny side up, hard-boiled or scrambled, you may need to reexamine your relationship with eggs if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
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“Eggs can be easy for some but can be a trigger for some IBS symptoms in others,” says gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD. “It really depends on the person.”
Dr. Lee shares what you need to know about eggs and IBS.
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that may cause:
- Abdominal pain.
“Symptoms tend to come and go. In between episodes, there are times when you don’t experience any IBS symptoms, otherwise called asymptomatic periods of time. That’s the hallmark,” says Dr. Lee.
Common IBS triggers
IBS symptoms are unique to each person. “For some people, their trigger could be stress. In others, it could be a certain food, travel or certain situations” says Dr. Lee.
“And how symptomatic people are varies widely,” she adds. “It ranges from nuisance symptoms of gas and bloating to debilitating pain.”
Common IBS triggers include:
- Diet lacking variety and proper nutrition.
- Certain foods, such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, etc).
- Imbalance of bacteria in the intestine, which can happen after you take antibiotics or post-infection recovery.
- Microbes and toxins, such as salmonella or E. coli bacteria from tainted food.
- Stress or lack of exercise.
Do eggs cause diarrhea and other IBS symptoms?
Whether eggs are friend or foe depends on how IBS affects you.
If you have constipation
“If your symptoms lend toward abdominal pain and constipation, eggs can worsen IBS. Eggs are packed with proteins, which can exacerbate constipation,” Dr. Lee explains.
If you have diarrhea
According to Dr. Lee, “For someone dealing with predominant diarrhea (the fast transit type where they have loose frequent bowel movements), eggs can be a friend and help bind up the bowel movements.”
Fermentable carbohydrates are a type of FODMAP, a group of carbohydrates that can worsen IBS. They often cause your body to release more gas, thereby causing bloating and triggering symptoms. For some people, avoiding high-FODMAP foods can improve the condition.
“Egg is on the list of foods you’re allowed to have on the low-FODMAP diet. Eggs help because they’re rich in proteins and nutrients and very low in fermentable carbohydrates. This means they are less likely to cause symptoms,” Dr. Lee explains.
If you have an egg allergy
If you have an egg allergy, the answer is pretty clear-cut. “In people allergic to eggs, they obviously should not eat any foods that contain eggs due to concern for an allergic reaction to the egg protein,” Dr. Lee notes.
Bottom line: Talk to your doctor
If you aren’t sure where you stand with eggs, your doctor can help. A detailed medical history often reveals how eggs can affect your IBS symptoms. “It’s important to have a conversation with your doctor,” says Dr. Lee. “Often, patients will tell me things they don’t think are relevant but end up being vital in clinching the right diagnosis.”
Does it matter how you prepare eggs?
For runny egg yolk fans, Dr. Lee has some bad news. “Cooked proteins tend to be less offensive for people with IBS triggers. When it’s not quite cooked through, you run the risk of salmonella infection, which can make IBS worse.”
Salmonella infection usually happens within six to 48 hours of consuming the bacteria, depending on how much you ingest and your immune status.
The final word: Are eggs good for IBS?
Dr. Lee emphasizes that eggs can be an ally for most people with IBS, so try to incorporate them into your diet as tolerated.
“Eggs are a powerful, low-carb, protein-packed and nutritious food with good fats that your body needs. If they cause constipation, then add bran, prune juice or psyllium to your diet to off-set the constipation. It’s a small price to pay for the nutritional benefits,” she says.
“But,” she warns, “if you do have an egg allergy or eggs trigger your symptoms, then avoid them altogether and find a different source of protein.”