I just want to eat vegetables again.
September 3, 2011 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the middle of a tough transition: I'm starting graduate school and just moved far away from everyone I know. The problem is that I have had a near-constant nausea and aversion to many foods since I've been here (3-4 weeks). Any ideas for helping me to feel normal again?

First of all, I should note that I am not pregnant (I took a test, just to be sure), but I feel sick all morning long, have no appetite, and many things sound disgusting to me - especially vegetables. Which is unfortunate, because I really value eating well and taking care of my health, especially in stressful situations.

I suspect that this is anxiety-related - I have been nauseous/lost my appetite in times of stress before - but it has never lasted for longer than a few days. I am without my typical support systems and starting school has been VERY stressful. But at this point, I'm not sure what to do. I'm trying just to eat what sounds good when I can, but it's distracting and difficult to feel sick so frequently. Has this ever happened to you? What works for you to reduce this nausea-related anxiety?

(I should also say that I have an appointment at the counseling center, and that the times I've tried to meditate my nausea has gotten worse to the point where I think I'm going to throw up if I don't stop.)
posted by LizzyBee to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oops - make that anxiety-related nausea, not the other way around.
posted by LizzyBee at 6:04 PM on September 3, 2011

I'm not a doctor, and this may not help, but I'll throw it out there: have you tried exercising? I get nauseous when I'm anxious, and it can go on for days/weeks if I'm in a really stressful period (e.g. exams). Exercising helps me significantly. My guess is that it helps both because it helps regulate stress hormones (scientists - this is correct, right?), as well as because it burns enough calories to make me hungry. Obviously YMMV, but might be worth a shot!
posted by UniversityNomad at 6:05 PM on September 3, 2011

Ginger tea and candied ginger for the times when you're nauseous but can't make tea. What normally works for you when you're feeling stressed? Hard situation to be in but coddle yourself when you can - it's early in the term so there ought to be time in your day for things that will help you feel better like escaping with a good book or a long bath. Does your school have a health service where you can get medical care? A non-sedating anti-nausea drug like Zofran (expensive!) can help a lot if you're in a dire situation. And good luck - hopefully it'll get a lot better as you make friends and get more settled into your program.
posted by leslies at 6:06 PM on September 3, 2011

The symptoms are nausea, but the cause seems to be stress. The doctor should be able to help you with the former at least short-term, but you need to identify what's causing you stress and do whatever you can to reduce or eradicate them.

If it is the support network of friends, then get in touch with them, they're still there! Video-Skype, email, and share your worries and pains. At the same time, find out what events your school or course organizes and try your best to get involved, you'll slowly build a new support network. Make an effort to talk to the students either side of you in class, don't hide away. Remember that most people are in the same situation, moved away from home and are therefore more open then usual for meeting new people.

If it's school work, then study groups, and good ol' venting to friends should help. You're just starting the course, so the learning curve might be steeper then you're used to, but again, know that you're not alone in this-- look around your class find and find the lost looking souls, help each other out! It will get easy when you get your teeth sunk in.

If it's money, sit down and write out a budget, list everything, and put it all down in ink. If you know where you stand, and where you're going-- it should serve to calm you so you can at least think about the path to make things better.

And also, don't forget to treat yourself, you might not be enjoying food-- but you're not fainting yet, so you're clearly eating enough to get by. Take a day off, go to the movies, a stroll, read a nice book and watch the world go by, take a breath for yourself and bring a bit of peace into your schedule.

It will all get easier!
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:22 PM on September 3, 2011

I've had this before, and while I wouldn't recommend it long-term as a diet: Ramen noodles. Yes. Even Ramen noodles with an egg stirred in at the end of cooking (egg-drop Ramen). You can add veggies later on if they agree with you. Take a good B vitamin complex after your stomach settles.

Otherwise try some low sodium soups (I like Progresso Italian Wedding soup when I'm feeling down, don't ask me why), or even some low sodium chicken broth with crackers.

I've got some good herbal packs that I can heat in the microwave (to put on an upset tummy). You can also fill an old tube sock with dried rice or dried beans and do the same.

In a pinch, I will drink a little baking soda and water, then chill out for a while. It's the acid you're churning up. I also take a magnesium pill before bed during stressful times.

I used to eat a lot of carbs in the morning and now I start every day with a plain Greek style yogurt and a cup of blueberries (thawed frozen from a bag). I can eat it slowly and the yogurt doesn't make my stomach churn like a big ole bowl of oatmeal or cereal, and the blueberries are also low carb and not too heavy. I really limit coffee and don't drink any soda nor caffeinated beverages the rest of the day. I tend to eat my veggies later in the day. So you could try a little yogurt in the morning and then some soup or Ramen for lunch and some sort of salad with chicken for dinner or a wrap sandwich.

If it persists, see a doctor. They might want to put you on antacids like Prevacid or some other medication to help.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:27 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

This happens to me the moment the semester begins and lasts much of the way through it. It's not anxiety for me-it's being totally stressed: I work full time at a job with a great deal of responsibility and go to law school 4 nights a week. Feeling like I'm sucking at work and school stresses me the hell out-zaps my appetite, makes me nauseated, and skipping meals [that I don't want to eat] means more time for work or school. [Uh, not advocating any of that]
So-some solutions/workarounds that I found helpful:
-vitamins! Obviously multivitamins are not a substitute for food, but at least you're covering some bases.
-Make eating your job. Plan out what you're eating [taking into account whatever will go down easiest even if it's not appealing] and then eat it. Or as much of it as you can. It's not an awesome food adventure, it's another to-do on the list.
-luna/kind/cliff/whatever bars. There were times that the most I could choke down was 1/2 a bar, but usually I could shove one down my throat before I realized I was eating.
-running/exercise helped me relieve some of the stress ["run it out" became my trademark phrase for a while], but didn't help make food any more appealing.
-Let your friends bug you about it. I told my close friends that it was their jobs to bug me about eating.

I had the "cushion", but in my first year of law school, I lost 65 lbs [I started at 190], and while some of that was excessive, I'm pretty sure the concomitant hair loss [it's growing back!!] says that a lot of it was this eating problem. Don't do that.
On the plus side, after forcing food on myself and continuing my workouts, I'm doing better this semester. It's still a chore to eat, and I have to remember/force myself to do it, but I'm doing it. So, there's that
Yeah, though-if you can't get it under control, etc, see a doctor.
posted by atomicstone at 7:02 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mom and I were talking lately and both had the kind of aversion you're describing - in both our cases it turned out to be hepatitis A (separately be several years). I thought it was anxiety too - so maybe talk to a doctor to be sure.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 7:05 PM on September 3, 2011

Have you moved to a higher altitude, by chance? If so, you could be suffering from altitude sickness.

Also have you been getting adequate fluids? Does water stay down/feel ok? Dehydration could be a factor as well.

Hope you feel better soon.
posted by pupstocks at 8:12 PM on September 3, 2011

Honestly, I would go to a doctor. This happened to a friend of mine, and it turned out to be H. pylori; a course of antibiotics + PPIs later, she was totally fine. Who knows what it is in your case, but there are a few causes of nausea that are readily treatable and I'd hate for you to be suffering needlessly.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:54 PM on September 3, 2011

When I started grad school (teaching for the first time in my life, and responsible for my own classroom, not just a discussion section) I was so nervous I could barely eat for a month. I lost a good 7 or 8 pounds. Unfortunately, the only thing that cured it was time and acclimation. I wish I had gone to counseling sooner, so, good on you for being proactive on that front. I mostly ate really simple things like yogurt and Clif bars... and it was like I had to keep the eating sessions small enough that I could sneak it in under the nausea's nose. Not the most nutritionally varied stuff, but it got the job done until I settled down.

I'd second the suggestions that you reach out to your old support network, distant as it may be. I felt the best when I just reached out and talked a little. I never expected it to help as much as it did, but it really helped as a pressure release valve. I'd second the advice to see a GP just to be sure there's nothing physically wrong. I don't know if this happens to you, but my anxiety likes to manifest as hypochondria a lot of the time, and sometimes it's a relief to know that it IS just anxiety.
posted by Kosh at 10:27 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh dear, I do feel for you! I get anxiety-related IBS and I find that really what works for me is MINT. Peppermint or spearmint tea. Eating really bland things for a while - but including peas and runner beans etc, not baked beans and broccoli or other "upsy" things. And I make sure I eat something regularly, otherwise I can get myself to pain and vomity stage very easily.

I have found a bland food that has carbs, sugar and some dried fruit in (in my case, hot cross buns) and I can always force those down when I need to eat something.

Meditating doesn't work for me - pilates and a class called Body Balance that you get at the gym do help (although the relaxation bit at the end does make me sob sometimes).

Feel free to drop me a memail if you just want a chat -- after all, we're near name-mates!

Take care - this will get better and you'll learn to manage it.
posted by LyzzyBee at 12:28 AM on September 4, 2011

I hate to be that guy who flippantly says "smoke weed," but unless you're the type who gets super paranoid or self-loathing upon the inhalation or ingestion of cannabinoids, the anti-nausea, appetite-inducing, calming effects of marijuana suggest that you may benefit from smoking weed.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:15 AM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went through a similar transition last year (and added living with a new partner - after many years of living alone - to the mix). I agree with above statements that you might want to get a check up to rule out any major health problems. If it is anxiety causing your nausea, find a mild exercise that helps calm your mind and stomach and boosts your appetite (hatha yoga works well for me). I also splurged on a high quality protein powder that contained most if not all of my daily vitamin needs. It was difficult to choke down on some days, but it made me feel better that I was getting some green nutrients in my body and it helped my energy levels (which can be low if you aren't eating properly).

Is it possible that sitting down with the intention to meditate actually results in your stressful thoughts spinning, making you more nauseous? If you can find time in your day for non-school related stimulation, maybe try getting really cozy and watching a light movie that suits your tastes - I found that at the end of a stressful week, this was a good way to escape my busy mind and give my nervous system a rest. You may also want to look into supplements (a good B complex is important during stressful times) that support your adrenal system - and fresh ginger tea will help your stomach. Get away from your books once in a while to get some fresh air and clear your head.

The beginning of a transition like yours is bound to be stressful! Maintain contact with good friends (skype is free and easy - arrange a time to have a glass of wine/tea with a friend) and trust that things will get easier as time passes. Grad school can be hard on one's confidence at first, but after you get into it you'll see what you have achieved and the stress will lessen.
posted by sassy mae at 2:02 PM on September 15, 2011

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