Most migraine sufferers will commonly identify “Cheese, red wine and chocolate” as the most common culprits to cause their problem. But in 1979 a surprising study on migraine in the renowned Lancet journal revealed that eggs are implicated as triggers(1).
In reality, eggs are a very common allergen. They are also one of the most reliable to test for – unlike some foods, an intolerant person will return a positive test, just like an allergic person, if a standard food skin test is given. Home tests are becoming popular despite the fact that they are not always reliable.
Unfortunately, egg is contained in many products from baked produce to cake icing, the belief that cooking renders it harmless is untrue! Children with migraines are commonly allergic to eggs and at least two other trigger foods, and can gain relief simply by cutting these foods out of their diet. However, as eggs are an important source protein, they should not be excluded from the diet unless you are sure they’re causing you a problem. A food intolerance test and trial exclusion for three weeks should give you enough evidence to have a meaningful discussion with your qualified health professional as to whether exclusion will be beneficial.
One surprising place where egg is common is in vaccines(2). Measures have been taken to combat exposure to egg by deriving the vaccines from embryos, but recent developments seem to show that even the slightest exposure to chicken products of any kind could be dangerous.
For those who are highly sensitive even inhalation could be a problem. Workers in a confectionery factory breathing the powdered egg white used in the decorative icing suffered asthmatic attacks, so exposure to an egg allergen is possible even if you are avoiding eggs like the plague(3)!
Egg white can even be found in vaginal suppositories or in nappy rash ointment, and if an allergic reaction as severe as asthma or anaphylactic shock is possible, why not a migraine?
The sad thing about small children and food allergies is their inability to get across the point that something is wrong. Also, misdiagnosis is common, due to the inability of parents or doctors to accurately track symptoms.
A child who has repeatedly suffered a migraine after eating ice cream, may be allergic to the eggs or milk in the product, so, a process of elimination is necessary to define which is the culprit.
Eggs are such a strong allergen that many doctors advocate not serving eggs to children under two, as once an allergen is triggered, the body can build up a memory around it and it may cause you more grief down the line.
There are several foods that if avoided or given very sparingly can prevent a red flag going up in a child’s immune system. Eggs are a bit of a conundrum, what with the yolk and the white – recently, studies have shown that while the yolk of the egg is high in cholesterol, the white contains the means to combat it.
With no adverse reaction after 12 months, foods can be introduced one at a time. Should the migraines return, it will be an indication of a major trigger, which you should then try to avoid.
Eggs are good for you – except when they’re not!
(1) Grant ECG, “Food, Allergies and Migraine”; Lancet, May 5 1979;966-969
(2) Pediatrics in Review; 2006;27:118-119; © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics
(3) Blanco Carmona JG, Juste Picon S, Garces Sotillos M, Rodriguez Gaston P; Occupational asthma in the confectionery industry caused by sensitivity to egg. Allergy 1992;47(2 Pt 2):190-191
Research by Grace Alexander