Eggs are very nutrient dense. As a result, if someone likes to eat eggs and can eat eggs without a problem then it makes sense for them to eat eggs. However, eggs are not part of an autoimmune paleo diet, which would suggest that those people with autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should avoid eating eggs. But why is this the case, and does this mean that people with these conditions need to avoid eggs while trying to restore their health back to normal?
Before answering this question, let’s look at the reasons why eating eggs might cause problems in some people with an autoimmune thyroid condition, as well as those people with other autoimmune conditions. First of all, regardless of whether someone has an autoimmune condition or not, eggs are a common allergen. However, most egg allergies are in infants and young children (1) (2), although overall most infants and children don’t have egg allergies. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a true egg allergy and an egg sensitivity. An egg allergy is usually IgE-mediated, but it’s usually not as serious as other IgE-mediated allergies such as peanuts.
Whereas IgE-mediated allergies are immediate, IgG egg sensitivities involve a delayed reaction. What this means is that if someone has an IgE-mediated egg allergy and eats an egg, they will experience a reaction almost immediately. On the other hand, someone with an IgG-mediated egg sensitivity can take a few hours or even a few days before having a negative reaction. And just because someone experiences a “negative reaction” doesn’t mean they will present with overt symptoms.
Why Eating Egg Yolks Might Be Better Than Eating Egg Whites
In addition to someone having a possible egg allergy or egg sensitivity, there are compounds in egg whites which can have a negative effect on gut health, specifically a protease called lysozyme. Sarah Ballantyne, author of the excellent book “The Paleo Approach”, has an article on eggs which discusses the problems with lysozyme. Lysozyme is a proteolytic enzyme with 129 amino acid residues, and it’s also produced in mucosal secretions such as saliva and tears (3). In her article, Sarah explains how “lysozyme has the ability to form strong complexes with other proteins”, and how it is “resistant to digestion by our digestive enzymes”. She also explains how when lysozyme passes through the intestinal barrier, other proteins can bind to it and pass through into the blood stream, where they shouldn’t be, and therefore can trigger an immune system response. So essentially the problem isn’t with lysozyme itself, but the protein complexes it forms, which in turn pass through the cells of the small intestine. Another disadvantage of egg whites is that it has a glycoprotein called avidin, which binds to biotin and can prevent its absorption (4) (5). However, this is only an issue when eating raw egg whites.
Although eating egg whites can be problematic due to the reasons just given, some people with autoimmune conditions such Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are able to eat egg yolks without a problem. The reason is because while some people still might have a sensitivity to egg yolks, the yolks don’t have compounds which will have a negative effect on gut health. As a result, if someone doesn’t have an egg allergy or sensitivity then they might be fine eating egg yolks, although they might not do well eating egg whites. I usually recommend for my patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions to completely avoid eggs while trying to restore their health, but if someone is struggling with the diet after one or two months I’m usually fine with them reintroducing eggs. As long as their health continues to improve then of course I have no problem with them continuing to eat eggs. And based on the information I presented in this post it might be best to start with egg yolks, although I’ve had patients eat the egg whites as well and still do fine.
Can One Test For An Egg Allergy or Sensitivity?
Some people reading this might wonder if they can simply do a test to see if they have an egg allergy or sensitivity. Without question this is possible, and if someone tests positive for an egg allergy or sensitivity then it probably is a good idea for them to avoid eggs. However, just keep in mind that even if someone tests negative for a food allergy or sensitivity, besides the fact that false negatives are always possible, one also needs to keep in mind that the compounds from egg whites can still have a negative effect on their gut health.
To try to make this easier to understand I’m going to briefly talk about almonds, which is another whole food that is excluded from an autoimmune paleo diet. Almonds (along with other nuts) can cause problems in those with an autoimmune condition because they have compounds (lectins and phytic acid) which can have a negative effect on gut health. As a result, it doesn’t matter if someone with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has an allergy or sensitivity to almonds, as if they are trying to follow a strict autoimmune paleo diet then they should avoid eating almonds, along with other nuts and seeds. Yes, I realize that soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds will help to reduce the negative impact these foods will have on the gut, but my point is that with both eggs and almonds, while it is possible to do IgE and IgG food allergy/sensitivity testing, a negative result doesn’t mean that the person with an autoimmune thyroid condition can safely eat these foods.
What’s The Final Verdict On Eggs and Thyroid Autoimmunity?
Just in case you’re still confused over whether or not you should eat eggs, I’ll give a brief summary of what I have stated so far. Even though eggs are nutrient dense, they are a common allergen, and the egg whites have compounds which can have a negative effect on gut health by increasing intestinal permeability. Because of this, eggs are not part of an autoimmune paleo diet. As I’ve discussed in past articles and blog posts, some researchers speculate that everyone with an autoimmune condition has a leaky gut, and while this is controversial, if someone with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is looking to restore their health then it might be best to avoid eggs until their health improves due to the reasons I mentioned earlier.
However, I also spoke about how some people with autoimmune thyroid conditions might be fine eating egg yolks while avoiding egg whites. And the reason for this is because while egg whites have compounds which can have a negative effect on gut health, this isn’t the case with egg yolks. As a result, if someone is following an autoimmune paleo diet and decides to reintroduce eggs, it might be best to start by reintroducing egg yolks. As I briefly mentioned earlier, I have had patients who reintroduced the entire egg (both egg yolk and egg white) into their diet and their health still improved, which proves that everyone is different, and also demonstrates that there isn’t a specific diet that is a perfect fit for everyone.
So hopefully you have a better understanding as to why eggs aren’t part of an autoimmune paleo diet. Although eggs are a healthy food, if someone has an egg allergy then this will result in inflammation, which in turn will have a negative effect on their progress. But even if someone doesn’t have an egg allergy or sensitivity, compounds in egg whites can affect the health of the gut. And since a leaky gut is a common finding in autoimmune conditions, and might be a factor in every autoimmune condition (even though I haven’t found this to be the case), those with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who choose to reintroduce eggs might want to start with egg yolks, and be cautious about eating egg whites.
There is a product my Naturopath uses called Nutricillin that works wonderful for viruses and bacteria. It has Lysozyme with Colostrum and olive leaf extract in it to help support the immune system. All my family members have used it and it has worked wonderful for us in many situations. I find that I don’t do the best with eggs but I have never seen negative consquences using Nutricillin.
I found this post very illuminating. My 16-year-old daughter has Grave’s Disease. She does not eat eggs, nuts or seeds. This post has helped me to understand what the eggs do in her system. Do you have an article that addresses the bio chemical reaction to the nuts and seeds? or can you direct me to that information?
Thank you for your information!
Dr. Eric says
I’m glad you found the information in my post to be valuable. Here are some journal articles which talk about the effects of some of these compounds:
You failed to make a distinction that there is a significant health difference between commercially produced eggs and family backyard produced eggs.
If you don’t know the difference you should do the research. People need to be made aware of what large corporate farming is doing to our food supply and why they are a major cause of Autoimmune related diseases.
Dr. Eric says
I’m well aware of the difference between commercially produced eggs and pasture raised eggs, and have mentioned in numerous other articles how people should eat organic eggs, preferably pasture raised. However, regardless of whether an egg is commercially produced or pasture raised they can still cause problems in people with autoimmune conditions, which is why I didn’t focus on the quality of the eggs in this post. But of course if someone chooses to eat eggs they should try to eat organic, pasture raised eggs whenever possible, and so thank you for bringing this up.
Laura L. says
I have Celiac Disease and have been gf for years but I still suffer a lot of problems, fatigue and pain, digestive distress, etc. I have had food allergy testing several times, and they have always been negative.
What company do you recommend for the “alternative” food allergy testing?
Dr. Eric says
Even though I briefly mentioned how one can test for an egg allergy or sensitivity, I’m honestly not a big fan of doing such testing. False negatives are definitely possible, especially if someone has a compromised immune system. I will say that Cyrex Labs has some nice panels, as besides having a comprehensive panel for gluten, they have a gluten cross reactivity test and recently came out with a multiple food reactivity screen.
I have an egg with a slice of turkey bacon, and grilled asparagus, every other morning. I have lost (25) pounds in the last 18 months, eating a protein enriched breakfast.
No allergies to eggs, and I was told to eat some form of protein, for breakfast, by my endocrinologist.
I take a 16 strain pro-biotic every day, along with specific supplements, that I researched through Dr Eric, and other Hashimotos books.
My vitamin D took a months to get back to where it should be. Once I got that back to normal range, the weight began to finally come off.
Of course I exercise, and I make smarter food and snacking choices.
The supplements for me, were “key” to making progress on weight loss.
Kristine…I have been looking for a diff. pro-biotic…for my Hashimotos…would you please share the 16 strain one you found that has made a difference. Thank you…B
I have the same question about your probiotics
Because I have graves and only on 5mg of methomazole, for my sleepless nights is it ok to drink a night tea of lavender or chamomile? Although my teas of choice say caffeine free, I am so afraid of any possible traces of caffeine. I just would love to sleep well again. As I write this I am fighting a sinus infection and on my second day of z pack which of course was after my natural remedies showed no relief and I had to visit my primary doc and of course I asked if z pack is safe to take with hyperthyroid. I’d like to think I have been taking good care of my food intake paleo style but perhaps. now I am developing allergies from sleep disruptions. I’m a bit scared of the sleeplessness. Any suggestions? Thank you for such awesome info
Kristine Blake says
I eat an egg 3 x’s a week with grilled asparagus in top of it!
No problems at all.
Dr. Eric says
That’s great Kristine! I find that many people can safely eat eggs, although not everyone.
I have Hashimoto and I eat eggs daily. Is this going to cause a problem for me with losing weight?
I was diagnosed couple years ago with Hashimoto, my nutritionist introduced me to AIP diet which states no egg no nuts no chocolate no coffee an lots of other No. I told her if you analyze my DNA you will see that half of it is chocolate and the other half is eggs. So anyway I followed the diet for couple of month and my bloating was resolved and I lost some pound too. Now for past few month I have nee feeling some palpable lymph nodes on the left side of neck close to the jaw, Fist I thought it could be my dental implant acting up, x ray showed nothing. Then I thought it has to do with my ear, I saw the ENT and the CT didn’t show anything. In meantime I have been having knee and elbow pain too. Today all of a sudden I thought; oh my god it could be the auto immune and my Hashimoto that is causing all these inflammation. So I decided to restart my AIP diet. I know it will be hard, but this may be the only solution. I don’t have any sign of hypothyroidism at all. I was wondering if I should take some natural thyroid supplement or not, anyone has a suggestion?
My worst allergen (IgG reaction) is chicken eggs, and quitting them was depressing. Recently, I discovered that I’m not allergic to duck eggs. They cost more, and I’m careful not to eat them more than 2-3/week, but so glad I can enjoy eggs again!
Barbara Martin says
I love your articles..I have had Hashimoto’s for over 3 months, stopped eggs after reading your articles..I have 2 brain injuries as well…Cannot afford integrated or holistic doctors so I seek natural things from reading, natural supplements, foods..The change of diet to a very strict lower than Paleo Autoimmune, to just meat, fruit and veggies with cooking in coconut oil and finding the right combo of digestive enzymes and probiotic strains, it is starting slowly to turn..But as I tell my support group, that gut, Brain relationship and being aware of your body..Ihave felt my brain come back in each little segment..Now I am caught between a world of brain injury, seeing my injuries fully, and non brain injured, the wanting to take a step out..and it is strange, but the healing still needs to happen..So the reading continues and the sharing continues..Iam watching now the BROKEN BRAIN..MarkHyman..fascinating..Thank You for all you do..
Dr. Eric says
I’m glad you love my articles…thank you so much for reading them! That’ great about making the dietary changes, and it sounds like you’re enjoying Dr. Hyman’s Broken Brain Documentary. I just watched episode #2 yesterday.
MATTHEW W GRUBER says
Eating 4 eggs a day, no more methimazole! 4-26-18 i started 4 eggs a day, on sale $1/dozen. This is part of my new diet to correct prediabetes. Since my graves was under control with methimazole i decided to lower my glucose from 115, and my triglycerides from 161. After a few days my pulse was lower, so i stopped the drug. Today is my 14th day totally drug free. I credit the eggs, as my dad ate 2 eggs a day and lived to 96, no
heart disease. Will never know for sure what chased away graves (got it 12-15-17). But it is easy and cheap to test this egg theory out. If someone gets sick eating eggs, don’t eat them! (no problem with me)
Catherine Clark says
I have reacted to chicken eggs in the past, so stopped eating them. Duck eggs do not seem to elicit the same response, so now I am using duck eggs in moderation, and not every day. It seems to be working well for me, and works very well in recipes that call for eggs.
IV been reading your articles and find them very informative. I am a vegetarian of sorts meaning I eat cheese eggs nuts quinoa, oatmeal, some fish and lots of veggies I also eat gluten free. According for your articles it seems that there is very little I can eat. I have graves disease and I know I am under weight so please tell me what can I eat. I am very interested in your response thank you.
Dr. Eric says
Doreen, I would read the following article I wrote, which hopefully you’ll find helpful:
Linda Fairbrother says
Hello, back in January I decided to become vegan for the month. After the month my T and TSH levels went back to normal. I was amazed how the diet change impacted my health, even though I was eating seeds.
In February my levels were still correcting themselves, I was still eating seeds, and introduced eggs and meat. By the end of February I was hypo, then I cut down my medication with the endocrinologist’s advice. My levels Stabilized and I am continuing to eat egg.
Is it ok to still it eggs and seeds? Would it affect my progress?