Is my furniture making me sick?
May 3, 2011 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Until recently, I have been a healthy, active, young male. Since several months ago I have started losing my appetite, especially at breakfast. I can barely eat a banana for breakfast. I wake up to nausea almost every day. Sometimes I throw up even if I haven't eaten anything. Could I be allergic to my new furniture? Are my symptoms even possible allergic reactions?

I'm still a young male, but I'm not so healthy any more. I know YANAD - I did see a doctor last week and he advised me to spend a few days at a friend's place, which I plan to do once I can find the time. The doctor thought I might have open paint cans or other escaping fumes from the garage below my bedroom.

While thinking about his suggestion, I realized that around the time my health deteriorated I had ordered a new desk and bookcases for my bedroom (from West Elm and IKEA). Coincidence? Looking at both companies' websites, I wouldn't think formaldehyde emissions to be an issue. The furniture was bought recently in California, so I would assume it adheres to the necessary environmental standards.

I have some elevated stress (work, strained relationships), but nothing that is beyond what I've experienced in the past.

Has this ever happened to anyone? Is this possible or am I crazy? The nausea usually fades a few hours after waking up. I do get plenty of rest, too (usually 8 hours a night).
posted by fenster_blick to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had persistent, pervasive nausea in much the way you describe and it ended up being GERD. That's gastroesophageal reflux disease, which generally manifests in acid reflux and heartburn. For me, though, I had no reflux and no heartburn -- just this awful, awful nausea in the morning. I spent MONTHS throwing up on my way to work, whether I had eaten breakfast or not.

My doctor scheduled a endoscopy to make sure there was nothing structural going on and prescribed Losec, which took care of my nausea immediately. (It's actually available over the counter in the US under the name Prilosec.) Good luck!
posted by kate blank at 10:20 AM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Those don't sound like allergies. Allergic reactions tend to involve itching, swelling, congestion, etc. Not nausea. It could be some other environmental exposure, but now we're talking about basically poison, i.e. a toxin which is bad for everyone, rather than an allergen, which is your particular immune system overreacting where others' might not. And while that's possible, it's really, really doubtful.

You've already seen your doctor, and if he thought that it really was your furniture causing these issues, he'd probably have recommended more immediate and dramatic steps. So by all means, spend a few nights elsewhere, but I'm betting the combination of stress and just getting older are probably what's responsible for these impressively non-specific symptoms.
posted by valkyryn at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2011

It sounds like reflux. Bad reflux. (GERD).

I rarely get "heartburn" but I have GERD and it mostly causes nausea and I can't eat in the morning, can't eat if I've had too much liquids, etc.

It's really common.

There are lots of things you can do like elevate your bed, use a wedge to elevate your upper body when you're sleeping, change your diet...

I love Prilosec and take it all the time. It helps immensely.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:24 AM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

This happened to a friend of mine who was diagnosed with GERD and Crohn's until they found he had a raging case of Celiac disease. Watch out for that gluten.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:31 AM on May 3, 2011

I also have GERD, and it manifests as nausea 95% of the time, not heartburn.

Try famotidine or omeprazole, assuming they are OTC where you live. Elevate the head of your bed about 6 inches or so on some bricks. Do not eat late at night, and don't lie down or even lean back much for hours after eating. Cut down on coffee, alcohol, and citrus for now. Probably most importantly, try as hard as you can to reduce the stress in your life.

By doing those things (for me, the critical piece was the meditation for stress reduction), I went from having fairly constant nausea every day, losing 20 pounds, and being completely miserable, to being fairly normal.

(For TWO YEARS I searched for a more obvious physical cause of my nausea and malaise. I just couldn't believe that my own stress was causing reflux that I couldn't really feel, but which was causing nausea. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and clobber my younger self for refusing to believe it was possible. But at least the experience taught me a lot.)
posted by Cygnet at 10:31 AM on May 3, 2011

Those were the symptoms I got when I had (undiagnosed) ulcers/pre-ulcers. All I could eat for months was yoghurt and watermelon, and not even that in the mornings. Treatment for that was much the same as young rope-rider mentioned for acid reflux--change sleeping position, change diet, prilosec/nexium.
posted by kittenmarlowe at 10:32 AM on May 3, 2011

Oh, and I should add that for me, GERD happened quite suddenly. Alarmingly suddenly. I went from experiencing no problems at all to feeling sick ALL THE TIME and being unable to eat in a day. And not at an apex of stress either.
posted by Cygnet at 10:35 AM on May 3, 2011

Nthing the GERD. Breakfast is a killer. By he time I was diagnossed I was barfing in the morning. Rough stuff. It can also lead to cancers so get yourself checked out.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:39 AM on May 3, 2011

IANAD. Just FYI, allergies can cause nausea. However, it would be very unusual as a reaction to something in the air such as fumes from furniture (as opposed to something you eat). How would the allergen get into your stomach? Airborne allergens are much more likely to cause itchy eyes, runny nose, swollen airways, or even hives - i.e. to affect the portions of your body exposed to air. And if you were having a systemic allergic reaction there would be many other symptoms as well. I do not think your furniture is the culprit. Nor allergies in general, since the nausea does not seem to correspond to consumption of any particular kind of food or beverage.
posted by unsub at 10:41 AM on May 3, 2011

I clicked on to say what everyone else did about GERD. The morning-nausea was the trigger for my diagnosis, too.

Start cutting down on the things you shouldn't eat when you have GERD (really, it's just about everything worth eating, so YMMV), quit smoking, don't drink alcohol within a few hours of going to bed and try having a small, stomach-acid friendly snack (apples, rice cakes, pretzels) before you go to sleep. Or start taking an OTC for it.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:42 AM on May 3, 2011

I'm surprised to find so many people replying that they have had GERD diagnosed from the same symptoms. I thought I was the only one!
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:07 AM on May 3, 2011

Everyone here is saying it's reflux, but I had a similar experience in the last house I lived in (nauseous and sickly in the mornings) and it was especially bad when the weather was hot or humid. Sleeping with a dehumidifier in the room and keeping a window open helped, but not much. My roommate also had issues with the place. What fixed it for me was getting out of there.

Never figured out precisely what it was (air quality? mold?) but the fact that it coincided with moving in and ended when I left seems to me to suggest that it can indeed be an air quality or physical-space issue. Just to counter the GERD "narrative" that's going here.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 11:48 AM on May 3, 2011

Adding another voice to the reflux chorus. Couple months ago began have nausea and slight dizziness after eating particularly in the mornings, even on very small breakfast. No specific food correlation, any food cause the nausea.

This followed a bad cold and some life stresses. I actually already had been informally taking prilosec/omeprazole but only when I felt the classic heartburn symptoms, so maybe only 1-2x week.

Doctor diagnosed "temporary gastritis" and described it as inflammation of stomach lining due to overproduction of acid. Said I needed to try taking the prilosec every day. My mistake was thinking stomach acid would only manifest in outright heartburn.

Within a week of the daily omeprazole (generic), nausea and dizziness went away. Have continued on it for a month or so now and all post-eating symptoms completely gone, can eat anything again. Definitely worth pursuing.
posted by thebordella at 12:00 PM on May 3, 2011

Your furniture would certainly make me sick, and I do have celiac disease.

When I developed severe nausea a number of years after my initial chemical sensitivities manifested themselves (a drama in which a particle board bookcase played a starring role), the nausea turned out to be a symptom of a severe case of pernicious anemia that almost killed me (I had a hematocrit of 10 for at least a day, and probably a lot longer).

My nausea and anemia were caused by the vitamin B12 deficiency which is a central feature of pernicious anemia.

Both the nausea and the lack of red blood cell production were reversed by oral megadoses of B12 (10,000 mcg daily for a week, which is more than 160 times the RDA, along with a standard daily B supplement).

I suggest trying this regimen. If it gets rid of your nausea, as it did mine, go back to your doctor-- or, better, a hematologist-- and get tested for pernicious anemia.

PA is an auto-immune disease. I'd guess you do have a chemical sensitivity (not an allergy, but IgE-mediated like allergies) to your new furniture, and that getting that furniture ramped up the attack on the parietal cells in your stomach by your own immune system, which in turn caused you to develop nausea.
posted by jamjam at 12:53 PM on May 3, 2011

Thank you all so much for your timely responses. I want to give you all a big sloppy kiss on the foreheads, but my computer screen will have to do in its place. I just bought a pack of Prilosec for my lunch (which I can hardly eat!).

My doctor did not want to run any tests on me yet unless I had a desire - and I didn't know what I could be tested for. Hopefully the Prilosec and GERD suggestions work, but now I have more avenues to explore.

Someone else also gave me B-complex vitamins (includes B12) which I will try taking. If anyone has any more experiences or suggestions, I'm still open to hearing them.
posted by fenster_blick at 1:57 PM on May 3, 2011

Do you feel any better after you've been out of the house for a while? Doctor's right to suggest spending a night away if possible. When my friend's furnace had issues and she was nauseated for days (breathing fumes), the mornings she pried herself out of the house, she was usually feeling half-okay by the time she got home in the evening.
posted by aimedwander at 2:00 PM on May 3, 2011

I do generally feel better later in the day, which is when I'm out of the house. It's the mornings that are the worst. I also thought about my furnace, but I don't typically use it, and I have also been sleeping with the windows open lately.
posted by fenster_blick at 2:24 PM on May 3, 2011

Just as an outside chance, has your doctor tested your stool sample? Persistent giardia could do this, although diarrhea is more likely, but parasites are still an outside chance.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:00 PM on May 3, 2011

No, he hasn't - but that's a great suggestion that I will also look into further. I was in SE Asia about 6 months ago. I didn't link the two as the symptoms only showed up 3 months ago.
posted by fenster_blick at 7:18 PM on May 3, 2011

I had a very similar issue and finally tied it to my allergies. My doctor originally thought it was some kind of indigestion but even when I watched my diet and took the pills I'd feel ill in the mornings.

I've never really had "allergies" but over the last few years I think it has gotten worse. I noticed that the mornings I wake up feeling sick I also had a lot of mucus/post-nasal drip going on. I started to take a 25mg Benadryl before going to bed and now I wake up with no runny nose or nausea. When i forget to take a pill before bed I wake up feeling sick.

My theory is my allergies were kicking in at some point over night and the post-nasal drip was filling my stomach with mucus while I slept.

Good luck - I hope you can figure it out. I know I was stressed as hell when I didn't know what the hell was going on with me.
posted by TheDude at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2011

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