July 8, 2019

Vegan Elimination Diet: Week 4

How to survive the fourth week of an elimination diet. Tips on making it through days 22-28 and what I ate each day of Week 4.

homemade coconut milk

I’m chronicling my elimination diet and have a Week 4 update for you. In case you missed it, last month I introduced the concept of a vegan elimination diet and talked about why you might want to do one yourself. (Check out my other elimination diet posts: Vegan Elimination Diet, Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3 updates.)

Technically I finished the elimination phase of my diet when Week 3 ended. However, my symptoms didn’t improve. So here we are at Week 4. My plan for this week was to ensure that I followed the low FODMAP serving sizes to a T. I also wanted to change my food timing habits.

In a previous post I explained that I practice intermittent fasting. I used to fast until noon and eat until 8. I like that timing but I thought that eating that late might be part of the reason why I was having so many symptoms. For Week 4 I planned to stop eating earlier in the day.

Day 22: I had trouble finding flax milk so I decided to try almond milk. Almond milk is low FODMAP in 1 cup servings. I use 1/4-1/3 cup for my overnight oats, so I figured that I would be fine. I also bought some almond yogurt (because I had trouble finding coconut yogurt, I’m sensing a theme here…). A couple spoonfuls of almond yogurt and felt fine. I had an idea for a recipe or two using plant-based yogurt so I was happy that the initial taste went well.

Day 23: I didn’t try anything new because I wanted to make sure the almond milk and yogurt were okay with my body. I ate some spaghetti squash with almond yogurt on top and it was delicious! I can’t believe how amazing a two-ingredient meal was. YUM. The only problem: I didn’t feel so good that evening. I realized that I ate a larger serving of almond yogurt and I also ate a larger serving of banana. I wasn’t sure which food caused my symptoms.

Pro Tip #1

It’s important to keep track of portion sizes. You might be able to tolerate a food in a small amount but not in a larger portion. If you notice a sensitivity, try testing larger or smaller portion sizes and note your symptoms.

Day 24: I needed to test which food affected me the day before: almonds or bananas. I ate no bananas and instead drank almond milk, used almond milk in my overnight oats, and made myself a large serving of spaghetti squash with almond yogurt. At the end of the day, I felt terrible. I might have found one of the foods that I can’t tolerate!

Day 25: To make sure that almonds really do affect me, I went the entire day without almond milk or almond yogurt. Besides the almond products, I ate the exact same meals I did on Day 24. At the end of the day, I felt so much better than I did the day before. I concluded that almonds are likely one of the foods that I can’t tolerate. This was a big revelation, because before starting the elimination diet, I used to drink almond milk every day. It’s very possible that I was having a continuous low-grade reaction to almonds.

Day 26: After learning that almond milk and yogurt had such a big impact on my body, I decided to do some more testing. I could tell that the almond yogurt really impacted me, but I wanted to see if almond milk caused some of my symptoms. After drinking some almond milk, I paid very close attention to my body. While I didn’t have a reaction like I did with the almond yogurt, I did notice that I had slight stomach pain and discomfort even after drinking a little almond milk in the morning.

Because almonds can be high-FODMAP in large quantities, I did some research on the types of FODMAPs in almonds to see what other foods I might be intolerant to. I also researched almond allergies to determine if I might be sensitive to other nuts. When I ate almond yogurt, I felt symptoms within a half hour. If I had an almond allergy, I would likely have symptoms immediately. If I had a FODMAP intolerance, it might be an hour or two before felt symptoms. I suspected an almond allergy, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

spaghetti squash

Pro Tip #2

Do your research! I didn’t know much about almonds (besides their amazing nutrition). But as soon as I realized that I could be sensitive to them, I scoured the internet for information. I learned about the two FODMAPS in almonds as well as nuts that I could be allergic to if I suspect an almond allergy. In a food sensitivity situation, the internet is your friend!

Day 27: I felt relieved to discover my almond sensitivity but didn’t want to try anything new. But at the end of the day I saw a delicious kombucha waiting patiently for me in my fridge. It was a Friday and I was very tempted, so I drank it. In hindsight, I should’ve let my body rest, but I didn’t feel ANY symptoms from the kombucha. I expected this. I first tried kombucha less than a year ago, so it likely wasn’t the cause of my symptoms.

Day 28: On the last day of Week 4, I finally had access to flax milk. In the morning I had a turmeric latte with flax milk in it. It was delicious, but I had slight stomach discomfort after drinking it. When I had my oatmeal, I drank even more flax milk and I felt even worse.

I remembered that a few weeks ago during Week 1 of my elimination diet, I added flax milk back into my diet on the day that I added flax seed. When I chose to add flax milk, I assumed that if I could tolerate flax seed, I could also tolerate flax milk. Maybe I was wrong.

I didn’t account for the additives in plant milks like flax milk and almond milk. To achieve a milk-like color and consistency, manufacturers add gums, pastes, flavors, oils, vitamins and tons of other things. I did some research and found out that people with IBS-like symptoms might have a stronger reaction to these chemicals. I also learned that consistent low-grade exposure to these chemicals can lead to larger amounts of the chemicals in your body.

My new hypothesis: these unnatural chemicals found in plant-based dairy substitutes caused my symptoms, not almonds.

Pro Tip #3

Never assume anything. Explore all the possibilities and keep track of ALL ingredients. I made a rookie mistake by not considering the other ingredients in almond and flax milk. Remember that any food or ingredient you put in your body could trigger a reaction. Suspect all foods until you prove them safe.

Overall, Week 4 was a very interesting one. I listened closely to my body to learn what caused my symptoms. When I thought something affected my, I dove deep into research about food sensitivities.

I’m so glad I decided to stick with the elimination phase for another week. Check back next week for what I did during Week 5.

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September 23, 2021
Tracy Henry
Hi Elizabeth, LOVE you recipes. Please keep them coming. :)I was wondering, can you share what is the vegan chocolate bar you used in this recipe?
August 28, 2021
Henry (Hank) Mader
thank you for the oil free recipe. I'm getting introduced to wild Bolete mushrooms here in Colorado, and everyone sautes Bolete's in butter or olive oil. I'm on a veggie, oil free regimen for heart health reasons. and your recipe suggestion may fill the bill. I can't wait to give it a try.
August 13, 2021
Lindsey Kuhn
This is so fun! Loving your creamy photography :)
August 13, 2021
Lindsey Kuhn
This looks incredible! So yummy and pretty photography