Why can't I stomach non-bland foods sometimes?
March 17, 2014 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Every now and then, I'll reach a period where eating anything that isn't extremely bland, like buttered noodles, will make me throw up. It's happened often enough that I'm curious about what's going on with my stomach. Slightly TMI inside.

Sometimes, I won't be hungry for anything, and eating flavorful food is not at all appealing. In the past, when I've felt like this and forced myself to eat, I had to throw up afterwards.

On Saturday, I had what I thought was a mild bout of food poisoning--diarrhea (sorry) and watery gurgling noises but thankfully no stomach pain. I bought some Gatorade and apple sauce, since both are recommended for the recovery period. But after trying to consume a little bit of both today, I had to stop, because I couldn't stand the way they tasted. So I think I may have had some stomach unpleasantness in the beginning, which coincidentally got mixed in with another round of "dean_deen's stomach is going to be a prejudiced bastard again."

This has been happening to me a couple times a year, probably for the past two years or so. It lasts usually only around a day, so it doesn't concern me too much. YANMD, but I am wondering if anyone has some theories about what's going on, since it keeps on popping up. Has anyone gone through something similar? Could the fact that I have a somewhat limited, repetitive diet have something to do with it? (Being on a budget with little cooking experience, I've probably been cycling through like 10 or 11 dishes over the past few months). Also, any ideas for bland foods I can eat until my appetite is back to normal? I'm a little worried that I'm not eating enough. I have little desire to eat. But the physical signs of hunger (low blood sugar) are there. I've been eating what I can of pasta with butter and plain baked potatoes. Yet those can only go so far...
posted by dean_deen to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes, I won't be hungry for anything . . . when I've felt like this and forced myself to eat, I had to throw up afterwards.

Kinda simple for me. Don't eat when you're not hungry. Unless you know you have a weird medical thing going on, just listen to your stomach when you don't feel well.

It won't hurt you to fast for a couple of days, drink lots of water and clear fluids and think of it as a fast.
posted by arnicae at 12:57 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did check in your profile, but it's not listed - are you female? If so, sometimes your normal hormonal changes during your monthly cycle throw a bit of a monkey wrench in your digestion. (Ask me how I know. Go ahead, ask me how I especially know about that right now.)

I'd vary your diet overall - not only because it's a good idea, but also so that when you do have the days when all you can stand to eat is some plain noodles, it'll still be okay because you'll be changing it up again the next day when your stomach's better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

4 times over the past 2 years? Just sounds like you caught a virus. Wash your hands more often and stay away from sick people.
posted by desjardins at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2014

Please go see a doctor. My dad suffered from terrible stomach problems through much of his life, including periods when he was only able to eat bland foods like mashed potatoes. It turned out to be a Helicobacter pylori infection, and he got a course of antibiotics and Prilosec. He never became an adventurous eater, but he was able to eat a reasonably varied diet after that.

If this is not something you can connect with, for instance, a bout of stomach flu or food poisoning, it might be something a doctor can correct. Bacteria, food intolerance, who knows - but a doctor can help you.

Meanwhile, try the BRAT diet for a few days until you feel better. Saltines and apple juice are two things I like to eat when my stomach is upset.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2014

If I were in your situation, I'd check in with a doctor. Yes, it could just be bad luck on food poisoning/norovirus/whatever followed by conditioned food aversion, but it also could be a lot of other things.

On the plus side, if you can only eat one food for a couple of days, you couldn't do much better than plain baked potatoes. So that's good.
posted by pie ninja at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2014

You should probably go to a doctor, but have you tried a course of over-the-counter acid reducers like lansoprazole, the kind you take every day as a preventative? My acid reflux (diagnosed by an actual doctor back when Prevacid was prescription-only) causes indigestion and upset stomach more so than traditional heartburn. It also tends to not be a constant thing and just flares up from time to time - so often after going through a bottle I don't have to keep taking it. I also have to be really careful about too-tight waistbands on pants, tights, etc. - it seems to be a significant factor in the indigestion getting worse to the point that I feel sick or don't want to eat.
posted by misskaz at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2014

If it's only a couple times a year, I'd put it down to eating something a little off and forget about it. Or like EmpressCallipygos said, if you're female, the odd bit of digestive upset and strong food cravings/aversions at certain points of your menstrual cycle aren't weird enough for concern.

Also, something of a long shot, but did you eat a lot of dairy before these instances of stomach upset? You might be getting a bit lactose intolerant. There's a continuum of lactose tolerance/intolerance, and while you may be fine with most cheeses and the occasional latte or overindulgence in ice cream, a dairy heavy day could potentially be enough to upset your system.
posted by yasaman at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should see a doctor, but I'll share my experience.

I was an adventurous eater and then out of nowhere, anytime I ate BBQ or BBQ flavored things (like chips), I would get really bad gut pain. I thought I had some weird stomach thing, went to the gastroenterologist, had an endoscopy, and they found nothing but mild gastritis. Fast forward a year with the same issues until out of the blue at a work dinner, I got hit with bad gut pain and tunnel vision. Went to the hospital and one ultrasound later, I found out that my gall bladder was full of stones and infected. After gall bladder surgery, I was able to eat BBQ things again.
posted by msladygrey at 1:26 PM on March 17, 2014

I was also going to suggest lactose intolerance, if it's not a virus. The frequency of my episodes decreased by 80% when I quit dairy.
posted by desjardins at 1:27 PM on March 17, 2014

Nth-ing the suggestion for doctor.

As to dietary suggestions for nausea, try ginger ale to drink and a white diet otherwise. White ideas include:
- white toast with butter
- plain yogurt
- white rice
- chicken - white meat (get pre-cooked chicken breast, don't mess with raw meat if you're nauseous)
- plain chicken broth
- saltines
- bananas
- soft tofu

If you are feeling adventurous make a white soup by combining chicken broth with white chicken and white noodles.

You will need a way to get in some sodium and potassium. Saltines are good for salt and bananas are good for potassium. Other alternative sources of sodium and potassium include some sparkling mineral waters and unflavoured oral rehydration solution. In Canada adult rehydration solution is marketed as Gastrolyte, not sure what it's called in the US. You can also drink plain Pedialyte.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:12 PM on March 17, 2014

For me this is acquired lactose intolerance and hormonal stuff. I'm dealing with it right now. It's maddening. Touch base with your GYNO and an allergist if you can (unless you're male).
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:44 PM on March 17, 2014

I had similar episodes for many years. If food didn't sound appealing, I just didn't eat, but sometimes I'd be out for supper with family or friends and the first few bites sent me to the restroom to vomit. The feeling was burpy, gassy, and nauseous. When I began to have a gnawing pain in my back and had my gallbladder and stones removed (I also had pancreatitis), the stomach problem was much improved for several years. Recently the same type of thing has been happening and I've found that pancreatic enzymes straighten it out in a minute or two - in a flash - no matter how severe it is. I buy a bottle called Mega-Zyme online and when I feel that uh-oh thing going on in my stomach when I first start eating, I swallow two of these tablets and the problem is gone before I even get to the restroom.

I will say, though, that three times in my life my liver enzymes have been elevated, with no explanation, and each time my appetite was zero - the smell of food was revolting. I lost weight pretty dramatically and felt very, very sick. One of those times I was found to have a macrocytic anemia from many years of an anticonvulsant drug which had also affected my liver; another time the doctor decided it was a toxic liver exposure to a cleaning chemical I had been using when I was managing a motel; the third time I've no idea what it was, but each time my liver was enlarged and the enzymes elevated. I don't drink, other than a glass of wine a couple times a year, and there have never been any positive tests for any form of hepatitis. Still, the link between an absolute distaste for food in any form and liver problems is clear enough I have to mention it.

Definitely see a doctor and have some lab work done and your gallbladder checked. Good luck to you - hope you get it straightend out quickly. Eating good food should be a delight, not an unpleasant experience that must be endured.
posted by aryma at 3:24 PM on March 17, 2014

If you're in a position where you're physically hungry but it's unappetizing to eat, I think that's well worth going to the doctor. Doesn't mean it's anything terrible, but it doesn't seem like everything is signaling quite right, and it's entirely possible that if your stomach has gotten really sensitive, there's a reason. I fall into this pattern myself: either it's Something Terrible, or I should just wait it out. Often, you're in between -- the doctor can help set your mind at ease and maybe can make this ease up on you a little, even if it's something you could theoretically gut out, so to speak.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:38 PM on March 17, 2014

Pediatrician advised soda crackers (Saltines) and 7-UP for children's queasy stomachs. No reason that those could not help an adult.
posted by Cranberry at 4:10 PM on March 17, 2014

I have felt like that sometimes when I was very stressed, but didn't make the connection til much later.
posted by sepviva at 4:14 PM on March 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions, everyone. I am female and my menstrual cycle just ended, so hormones could be a factor. I'd like to see a doctor, too. So far, it sounds like the suggestions for the types of doctor I should see are an OB/GYN, an allergist...or a GP, right? My mom's a doctor, but she's not much help.

I often worried about getting sick during my younger years, and my mom, who practices internal medicine, told me I was fine whenever I brought something up. Which is fair enough--I was often worrying over nothing. But now I'm starting to suspect she mistakenly believes she could catch any health problems herself.

It was the same this evening, when I spoke with her on the phone and asked her about what could be going on with me. When she learned it wasn't that frequent, as in happening on a monthly basis, she said it was probably just my taste buds.

I've only gone to the doctor (usually one of her colleagues so that the visit wouldn't cost anything) whenever I needed to be examined before starting school. The only reason I would tell her about wanting to visit a doctor she's not affiliated with is so that she wouldn't get sprung with a surprise medical bill, since I'm still covered under her insurance. Is there any way to get the bill sent to my address, instead of hers? And to reiterate my now-buried first question, what kind of doctor should I visit?
posted by dean_deen at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2014

I would recommend starting out with a GP and then letting them refer you to someone else if necessary. If you don't already have someone you see regularly, you can get a list from your insurance company.

When you do go to the doctor, you should give them your own address as the billing address, and that way your mother shouldn't end up getting the bill. That's what I always did when I was covered under my parent's health insurance, and it never posed a problem.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:29 PM on March 17, 2014

I'll just throw this out there: is it possible you're a supertaster?
posted by desjardins at 8:02 AM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies. I just saw a doctor; she told me that since this is something that happens only sporadically, it isn't something to worry about. (I also mentioned the hormone theory, but she said it was probably not a factor).
posted by dean_deen at 12:45 PM on March 20, 2014

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