Help me feel better!
February 8, 2019 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm nauseated all the time, exhausted, and sad. What can I do to feel better while I’m likely to be sick for a while?

For the last 8 weeks I have slowly been getting sicker. I am essentially always nauseous, but more intensely so after eating. It doesn’t seem to matter what I eat, and even small infrequent healthy meals leaves me essentially the same. I have varying degrees of stomach pain at most times. I become exhausted after any significant activity, more so soon after eating but to some extent all the time (e.g. after eating once I moved a basket of laundry from one room to another and had to rest for fifteen minutes, walked very slowly up a very small hill and had a heart rate above 130) I am having some combination of brain fog and/or depression, for which I am being treated for by a psychologist and psychiatrist. I’m now losing about 2 pounds a week. The more I eat, the sicker I feel, but I also feel bad when hungry.

I’ve been tested for a ton of things, tried a couple meds and seen doctors almost every week, and am now waiting for a referral to a GI specialist with no clear timeline for when I’ll see one. I’m in the middle of a change of antidepressants due to suspicion that one of them might be causing it but there’s been absolutely no improvement yet. I’m considering going to emergency to try to get them to help but suspect they won’t be willing to do much while I’m still waiting to see if the change in meds will help. In any case, going in is no guarantee that I’ll see any improvement any soon. I have various thoughts about what could be causing it but any of them will require more testing to find out.

For the last two weeks I’ve been half time at work but am thinking I will need to stop entirely because despite trying I can barely get anything done. I’m at an important stage in my career and hate the idea of being indefinitely on leave. I think not being at work probably is making and will make me more depressed. The inability to do much physical activity also makes things harder. I’m trying to see friends as much as possible which helps a bit. I don’t have much focus and can’t seem to do much more than watch tv to distract myself.

Does anyone have any ideas about what I could do to feel better (physically and mentally)? A hot water bottle seems to help. Gravol seems to make a small dent. I'm trying to go for walks and do a small bit of yoga when I can. I just feel gross and tired and kind of hopeless all the time! Would love any help anyone can offer. (If you think you have a particularly good theory as to what could be causing this feel free to throw it out there but I've been tested for most common stuff already and am waiting on an endoscopy, so that's not really the purpose of this question.)
posted by lookoutbelow to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not to alarm you, but please insist that your doctor consider the possibility of pancreatic problems, up to and including cancer. Pancreatic masses are notoriously difficult to pick up on imaging, so you should at least have an MRI.

I would try high-calorie liquid meal replacements to see if they are any easier for you to digest, or at least leave you with more nutrition in exchange for the same amount of nausea.
posted by praemunire at 11:49 AM on February 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

You’re definitely not pregnant? Because this sort of describes my very early pregnancy symptoms.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 12:16 PM on February 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Have they actually checked your heart? My dad discovered he had an arterial blockage when he was winded taking a short walk.
posted by radioamy at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2019

I hope you can find medical answers...that sounds serious. In the meantime, have you tried cannabis? A friend who had nausea because of cancer found CBD helpful.
posted by pinochiette at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Can the doctor prescribe a stronger antinauseant? Perhaps being able to eat and keep weight on would help you feel better overall. When I’ve felt nauseated for weeks due to a combo of migraines/GERD/IBS, I drink a lot of ginger tea and eat plain foods.
posted by epj at 12:36 PM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

You've probably had your hemoglobin checked, but my breathlessness was caused by severe anemia. (Nobody thought to check mine, which is why I'm bringing it up.)
posted by FencingGal at 1:05 PM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you been tested for celiac disease? Brain fog, depression, nausea and vomiting no matter what I ate, exhaustion, skin cracking and bleeding — I had these symptoms really severely on a daily basis for 8 years and nobody thought to teat me for celiac because I didn’t have diarrhea.

(Get tested before you try an elimination diet, you need to be eating gluten for the celiac test to work.)
posted by cnidaria at 1:25 PM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sorry I don’t have more useful advice on feeling better. :-( I had similar symptoms for almost a decade and I’m not sure I ever figured out how to feel better, other than being forced to respect my body’s limits w.r.t. energy. Cat, tea, book, and fireplace can help, and comfy blankets, but it only goes so far with shitty physical symptoms.
posted by cnidaria at 1:27 PM on February 8, 2019

My standard "cross this off the list" suggestion is electrolytes. Not just salt, and not this pickle juice nonsense the internet keeps going on about, but the kind of electrolyte supplement that's got nutritional information on it (so you can be mindful of potassium and magnesium intake but also get enough to feel the difference). I use a product called Lyteshow that can be added to water or other beverages (it has almost no flavor except a slight mineral note, I put it in water/tea/cocktails/flavored seltzer), I'm not sure what your options are if you're outside the US but look for something targeted to runners/athletes, something a little more serious than sports drink or electrolyte water.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:33 PM on February 8, 2019

If they haven't checked your gallbladder, please insist they do that. I know someone who had nausea and was sent for an upper endoscopy before they even tried an ultrasound. It did turn out to be gallstones in the end.
I feel sad and sometimes weak or foggy if I can't eat enough, so those symptoms could be secondary to the nausea.
posted by soelo at 2:36 PM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Checked your location, Canada - I don’t know how it is in BC, but in Ontario, you have to be ON them to make sure referrals get where they’re supposed to go. I’ve had referrals lost or needed ts not crossed more times than I want to remember. Call the GP’s office AND the specialist’s office as many times as you have to to make sure your papers aren’t on a desk somewhere (as mine once were for three months).

Also, find a backup specialist in case this one doesn’t work out (or maybe another one has an opening sooner). Ask friends +go to and double-check names against your provincial college of physicians’ database (this will show any disciplinary actions).

If you have severe pain or a fever - or frankly, if none of the above work - go to the ER, it is sometimes the fastest way. If you’re female, bring a man (SO, brother, good friend) with you to back up your symptoms (not because it’s right and it shouldn’t be necessary but fucking annoyingly, sometimes it is to make sure you don’t get written off as having a “psychosomatic” problem).

Don’t mention the antidepressants until WAY way into any assessment.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:53 PM on February 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

(^Making sure a referral actually happens is what makes me feel better any time I’m waiting on one.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:02 PM on February 8, 2019

Have you been checked for parasites? If you've been camping or been in the tropics definitely mention this to docs. I hope this gets figured out soon.
posted by mareli at 4:32 PM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I marked a few best answers but this is all helpful.

Yes, I've been checked for parasites, gallstones (ultrasound), anemia, and am not pregnant. I've had blood tests for a broad variety of things. I'm getting checked for celiac shortly.

I've considered cannabis but I thought that might be counterproductive depression-wise? I'd appreciate any thoughts on that.

I think it is right that I'll feel better if I have a clearer timeline on the referral. I'll work on that some more.

If anyone has any thoughts on mental health while off work and with limited capacities I'd appreciate that as well.
posted by lookoutbelow at 6:17 PM on February 8, 2019

I’m not big on cannabis personally but my understanding is some people get symptom relief from CBD which isn’t psychoactive.
posted by Smearcase at 6:33 PM on February 8, 2019

I got mono and that turned into other things, and I was nauseated for a year. A whole year, feeling like I might puke at any time, but never actually puking! It left me with a phobia about puking, from spending so long on the brink of puking, but fortunately that seems to have faded with time. I haven't puked for many years and it's not something I dwell on. As awful as that year was, the nausea itself is kind of a vague memory now. That whole year is kind of a scar I bear, but how often do you sit around moping about your scars?

So, as terrible as you may feel right now, I'm here to tell you that you can spend a long time feeling like you're gonna puke and emerge on the other side without nausea being a huge deal in your life. You can find your way back to the Ordinary World. I'm really sorry you're going through this, and I'm glad you have supportive friends. Don't take them for granted!

Please ask your doctors about a mono test and a colonoscopy, if you haven't had them already.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:31 PM on February 8, 2019

A guy I know just spent about a year with similar symptoms, trying to find answers with the help of multiple doctors. He was finally diagnosed with celiac artery compression syndrome. Hope you find your answers soon.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 8:59 PM on February 8, 2019

Smelling isopropyl alcohol can reduce nausea. If it helps you, Dollarama sells bulk boxes of the little swabs that diabetics use to prep for needle sticks- might be worth carrying a few in your pocket if whiffing them helps you feel better.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:19 PM on February 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have a Zofran prescription and Sea Bands and all the rest, but I consider Gin-Gins ginger chews (they have to be the chews, not the hard candy) to be very effective at not only diminishing nausea but at delivering a little sugar/calories as well. Good luck during this process--it sounds very unpleasant, and I hope you find some relief.
posted by witchen at 9:26 PM on February 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

For the nausea, you can also get the Indonesian cousin to gin-gin chews, called Ting Ting Jahe. I find that they're stronger than the gin-gin chews, and often you can find bags of them at Asian grocery stores really inexpensively.

If you can't handle the candy form, you can melt 3-4 of the candies in 8pz of boiling water for a nice ginger tisane.

I nth in hoping that you find some relief soon.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:03 PM on February 8, 2019

have you been tested for gastroparesis yet? it is luckily one of the most painless and unintrusive of all possible gastro problem tests.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:23 AM on February 9, 2019

Personally, as a depressed person, I find that cannabis makes me more rather than less cheerful—both while I'm high, and to a lesser extent afterward for about a day or two. Anecdotally, that also seems to be the case with my friends and acquaintences who smoke. If using cannabis made me more depressed, I wouldn't be doing it.

Zofran is like magic for nausea and has few if any side effects. As your doctor for a prescription.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have no thoughts about what might be going on, but I do have a lot of nausea. Gin-gins are great, another ginger candy called Chimes, ginger tea, zofran or phenergan, and marijuana are all worth trying. If you try marijuana and feel that it doesn't work well for you, then you can stop using it and it won't have any long-term effects.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:42 AM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Note about phenergan: it can have some temporary side effects that zofran doesn't, so zofran may be a better place to start.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:43 AM on February 9, 2019

These symptoms describe my early pregnancy as well. You are not pregnant, but I wonder if this could be some other hormone issue. Can you see an endocrinologist?
posted by WeekendJen at 8:12 PM on February 9, 2019

Thanks again everyone!

I went again and got a prescription for a strong anti-nausea drug which does take most of the nausea off and allows me to better understand the other symptoms.

I am working through the rest of your comments and am going to try a bunch of them. Your suggestions on potential causes are going on the list to ask about as I go along.

All of your emotional support has also helped a lot. Just asking this question and hearing your thoughts has genuinely made me feel a lot better.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:50 AM on February 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'll throw in one more update in case anyone looks here. I got a specialist's appointment within a month after I made clear to my GP the constant nausea, inability to work, and weight loss. I then saw another GP for a PAP and they suggested a celiac test, which just came back positive for probable celiac. Feeling much better having some light at the end of the tunnel! Thanks again everyone.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:18 AM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

So glad to hear you’re on the road to feeling better! PM me if ever need to chat about celiac.
posted by cnidaria at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2019

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