trouble eating in the morning
April 5, 2019 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Hey, I'm having trouble eating in the morning, like my stomach just doesn't want to get with it and it's taking a long time. I'm looking for any suggestions on how to deal with this or something else I could eat. Details and allergy issues inside.

I've been eating Bob's Red Mill gluten-free instant oatmeal, usually the apple cinnamon flavor. I also have black tea with milk, and sometimes I have some fruit. Tea and fruit go down fine, but when I start eating the oatmeal my stomach is like "whoa hey there slow down, I don't want to do this" and it's getting to be a problem that occasionally makes me late for work.

First, I would love if this would just, you know, stop. I am on my state's cannabis program, but the side effects are such that I can't take it in the morning if I'm going to go to work. I am on a bunch of other medication as well, but have a solid sense of what I can and cannot take on an empty stomach so I am pretty sure it's not my meds. This started probably in December, when I bought a box of "gluten-free" Cheerios and found out that they were not in fact gluten free at all, though thankfully it is much, much less severe at this point. I have been under a lot of stress the last few months and also currently having a flare of my rheumatoid arthritis, but the problem was present before the flare started.

I am open to suggestions for other breakfasts, but I have some pretty serious constraints: for allergy and sensitivity reasons, I cannot have gluten, soy, or eggs. I can have baked goods that have a small amount of egg in them, but not like, scrambled eggs. I need a lot of carbs in the morning to get through the day. Fruit is great, but I can't have citrus and not much else is in season right now. I'm fine with corn and rice but already eat a lot of both, and I don't have a lot of time in the morning. I am not a fan of cold cereal and don't feel that it gives me enough energy.

Anything anyone can think of would be great. I am especially looking for answers from other people who have had similar issues, or similar disability-related trouble.
posted by bile and syntax to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you can have dairy, perhaps smoothies of some sort would be the answer? Lots of carbs, quick to make, and you could use berries that aren't necessarily in-season but tend to taste pretty good right out of the freezer and into the blender.
posted by xingcat at 6:31 AM on April 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

How do bananas treat your stomach? They tend to be pretty filling and have a good amount of carbs in them.
Can you cook up some hashbrowns? Are potatoes ok?
How about roasting up some chickpeas?

My mom really likes to eat Wasa crispbread in the morning with some pickled herring or smoked salmon or sauerkraut on top. It looks like they have two kinds of gluten-free crispbreads: original and sesame and sea salt.
posted by jillithd at 6:31 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Gluten Free Corn Muffins can be made and frozen, and you just take one or two out the night before and then throw them in the toaster or toaster oven in the morning. I'm not sure if this is too many eggs for you, though, or if you can use an egg substitute.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:33 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

A slice of gluten-free toast with peanut butter or sunbutter? Or avocado? Can you have dairy? Sliced up apples and cheese and almonds are filling (if you eat enough of them) and can be eaten while running for the bus.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:36 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My breakfast limitations seem a lot like yours? Here's my usual breakfast.

1 1/2cup almond milk + 1 cup frozen berries (they're cheap and always in season, see freezer aisle in grocery store) + tsp honey + dash salt => BLENDER smoothie (alternately, just put the frozen berries on your plate to thaw while preparing and eating other stuff)

1-2 oz cheese
1-2 oz cured meats (salami etc)
2-3 oz nuts (peanuts usually)
4-6 dried dates for SWEET FIBRE JOY

There's a lot of proteins and fats particularly in this stuff, which makes it nutrient dense and keeps your energy levels up until you get to lunch. I'm not a fan of carb-heavy breakfast because it just makes me crash mid-morning.

I take my vitamins and meds with this meal and everything's fine.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:36 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I eat cottage cheese and canned fruit in the morning. It's a good mix of protein and carbs for me, and might also work for you. It doesn't seem as heavy as oatmeal.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:38 AM on April 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have recently switched to smoothies for breakfast. I thought I'd give some specifics on how I make it work in case you're interested. Mine are mostly greens with some fruit. I use water instead of milk. I also add two tablespoons of ground flax seed and a tablespoon of cacao nibs - I'm guessing the fat in those makes them filling. I make a really huge smoothie (6 cups of greens, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen fruit, 2 cups water), and it holds me until lunch.

It doesn't sound like we have exactly the same issues, but I'm on maintenance chemo, and I was having a lot of nausea in the mornings when I was eating oatmeal for breakfast. After doing smoothies for a few weeks, the nausea is much, much better. (Raw pumpkin seeds helped with the nausea when I was having it.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:38 AM on April 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have this same problem specifically with cinnamon flavoured oatmeal. Any other flavours are fine. I think cinnamon is a stomach irritant for some people. So maybe just try a plain or different flavour of oatmeal?
posted by fourpotatoes at 6:46 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I hate it when people answer unasked questions, so I understand if this gets deleted, but: is there a reason you must eat breakfast? That business about it being the most important meal of the day is a myth; lots of cultures don't eat first thing in the morning.

(The feeling you get from cereal not giving you enough energy could be just a sugar crash that the cereal is causing, rather than an energy problem the cereal failed to solve.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:05 AM on April 5, 2019 [14 favorites]

This is a reflux thing, elevating the head of your bed or sleeping on a wedge might help!

I find oatmeal much too thick and heavy first thing; a protein shake is just the ticket when my stomach isn't cooperating.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:20 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm here to suggest it may be acid reflux as well. If you take an NSAID for your RA, doubly so. Check in with your doctor about trying a two-week course of omeprazole (Zyrtec) to see if that helps. It's made a big difference for me.
posted by hollyholly at 7:35 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you considered having your oatmeal a bit later, after you get to work? Clearly workplaces vary but I make my oatmeal at work by pouring boiling water over it. I stir and wait a few minutes and have lovely oatmeal. No microwave, milk etc required just hot water. The only problem i have is that I am distracted by work and don’t always manage to finish it all whilst still hot.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:52 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not trying to threadsit, but to respond to some questions -

but: is there a reason you must eat breakfast?

Yes. I basically can't function in the morning without breakfast, I get depressed and cranky and anxious, and even if I could, I have to take meds in the morning that will make me vomit if I don't eat with them, or will tear my stomach up. Skipping breakfast is not an option if I want to do literally anything else in the day. I also cannot wait to eat until I am at work because I need the pain meds to kick in before I leave my apartment.

I can have dairy. I can have the eggs in muffins and frequently make muffins as a snack, and I used to be vegan so I'm good at making substitutions though it's harder now without gluten. I can have sun butter but not peanut butter (I can't digest peanuts, will spare you all the hideous details).

I cannot have Zyrtec, it gives me chest pain and makes it nearly impossible to get up in the morning. I'm up for checking into the acid reflux question though, I hadn't considered that because previously I've only had it when I eat too much millet.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:00 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Essentially my only symptom is what you describe --- my stomach just not "waking up" in the morning. Sometimes it's described as a feeling of fullness. Oatmeal doesn't actually give me reflux, it just feels like I'm way way too full to eat it, I think because it's so fibrous and thick.

I don't like taking reflux meds either (although sometimes I do). And especially if you're already taking a lot of meds I would agree with your wariness to add another which might affect how they're digested.

Non-med reflux treatment, the physical adjustments really have helped my reflux a lot (putting the head of my bed up and sleeping on a wedge). Also, to some extent, I just sort of put up with having a little reflux in the morning and have adjusted to having liquid meals for breakfast as a result.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:05 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I also have the thing where my stomach just doesn't wake up until around 10 am, and it's very frustrating. What helps (especially when I have to take meds with food) is to carry a banana and a Larabar in my bag and nibble on both/either as I go through my commute and the beginning of the workday. If you take dairy in your tea, I'd consider that a valid source of calories and energy as well.
posted by witchen at 8:44 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

could you do a banana with sunbutter? lots of nutrition; tasty; the banana should be easy to digest -- not sure about the sunbutter.

I also really like banana sliced up with cottage cheese and/or greek yogurt.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2019

I'm celiac and dairy intolerant and also have a lot of trouble getting a decent breakfast down.

Have you tried overnight oats? I find hot oatmeal really difficult to force myself to eat. But for some reason my body is pretty happy eating gluten-free overnight oats. Recipe:

1/2 cup traditional gf oats
3/4 cup hemp milk
1 mashed banana
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
1 tablespoon of maple syrup

I mix all the ingredients together in a jar and leave it in the fridge overnight. Sometimes I even eat it with a spoon at my desk if I'm having a particularly difficult morning stomach-wise, ymmv depending on your work situation.
posted by cnidaria at 9:05 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you have dysphagia in the mornings, that's something that can be treated by an ENT and/or a gastroenterologist. Check in with your regular doctor for a referral if you need one, but the key phrase you need to use to get the help you need is "dysphagia in the mornings."
posted by juniperesque at 9:08 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

(Also, I don't know anything about the efficacy of acid reflux meds, but just wanted to point out that omeprazole is not Zyrtec. Zyrtec is cetirizine, an antihistamine for allergies. Omeprazole is a proton-pump inhibitor with a variety of different brand names used to treat acid reflux.)
posted by cnidaria at 9:14 AM on April 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Can you wait til you get to work to eat? I can't eat first thing usually, but I keep oatmeal at work and when I get in I make my packet of oatmeal, grab a coffee, and go through my email. Obviously this doesn't work if you have the kind of job where you have to be on the go the minute you walk in the door.

And I think we're talking about Zantac, not Zyrtec.

I was prescribed a 2-week course of Omeprazole and it helped a lot, but the pharmacist specifically checked if I was taking other medications because it can affect absorption. In my case, he told me to take vitamin C with my iron supplements. He also recommended not eating for 30-90 minutes after taking the Omeprazole. (Also you can get it OTC in the same dose. But definitely would recommend checking with your doctor first.)
posted by DoubleLune at 9:21 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are there any favourite foods you eat for lunch and dinner that you can reheat and enjoy in the morning? Soups, leftover curry, casseroles? A small portion (to be polite to your stomach) plus fruit and tea might work.
posted by maudlin at 9:44 AM on April 5, 2019

You could take the opposite tack as they say. I have read that cayenne pepper is an anti inflammatory. I have used a teaspoon of Tabasco to stop nausea in its tracks. It works, it absolutely quells the gag reflex at the top of the stomach. I love the stuff and in the Latin cuisine where I live, they sell fresh fruit cups on the street with pepper sauce poured on top. You might go with plain oatmeal with blueberries and nuts but take some berries with hot sauce first. The stomach will wake right up and maybe be happy. Mexican markets are great with selling ripe, fresh fruit. Pineapples are on right now, all the markets have apples, fuji apples have a good snap, and you can make your oatmeal in the microwave from scratch, and put chopped apple on top while you cook it. You can use honey instead of sugar. Honey is a simpler sugar than white sugar and glucose/fructose is used as an anti nausea med. It stops the stomach from rolling. You might experiment with something like a half teaspoon of tabasco/ honey to start breakfast, chase it with warm cream tea. Sometimes people are so hungry at breakfast their bodies have a knee jerk reaction to food. So, if you give your brain and body an immediate down payment on gratification, it might be more ready, alerted to the fact that breakfast is coming. Some meds might give a body dysphoria in that they separate your senses from clear body awareness so food feels foreign. This is where ritual and acceptance comes in, hold your belly, give it a pat, sit and breathe, and let it, encourage it, to accept breakfast, give it time to do so.
posted by Oyéah at 10:12 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Many IBS folks report that time of day affects how much a meal will irritate their tummy. I can safely eat things at supper that I could never eat at lunch. The digestive system is a weird, weird thing. Oatmeal is pretty heavy in the tummy; your stomach may be telling you it just can't deal with all those hard to digest oats so early in the morning. Gluten-free breads also often contain grains that can be difficult to digest, and frequently are loaded with xantham gum, which is a known gut irritant. Maybe steer clear of grains in the morning and see how that works for you for a while? Try a banana or an apple slathered with natural peanut butter, maybe?
posted by backwards compatible at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there a chance that you have anxiety issues? when I had that problem, I couldn't eat in the morning. also have you tried protein shakes?
posted by evilmonk at 11:37 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oatmeal contains a protein analogous to gluten which some people with celiac disease react to as well.

I am such a person, and I think you might try something rice-based for your mornings.
posted by jamjam at 11:42 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you ever had, Bircher muesli? Here in Switzerland it comes in many iterations. You can make it as light or as heavy as you want. There are always grated apples and oats but after that seasonal fruit is great, yogurt as dairy works well, some people add nuts, others don’t. The oats are not the main player here so the consistency and texture are very different from oatmeal and you may find you can tolerate it more easily. Even if you can only tolerate a bit first thing it is extremely portable and a few spoonfuls ought to go a long way towards protecting your stomach from the meds. People here make a few days worth and keep it in the fridge.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:47 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe a different hot cereal would do the trick? I'm one of those celiacs that can't do oats, so I have creamy buckwheat in the morning. I also like their Mighty Tasty cereal but try to skip it because I also rely so heavily on corn and rice in my diet. Extra bonus about the buckwheat is that you can make it in the microwave in three minutes!
posted by purple_bird at 11:59 AM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, when I started having nausea at odd times when I ate things that didn't contain gluten, that turned out to be the first sign that I had developed pernicious anemia, which is something you really do not want to allow to progress untreated.

So I suggest getting tested for PA at your first opportunity.
posted by jamjam at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Slow-cooker congee came to mind for me. But what about a sweet potato hash that you heat up?
posted by warriorqueen at 12:32 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

If possible with your meds, I’d experiment with your PM eating and sleep schedules to see if you stop eating earlier in the day / go to bed earlier, your body is more comfortable with eating in the morning—you might be hungrier? You could try waking up earlier and giving your appetite make time to wake up before work?
posted by sallybrown at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Please read my whole answer! I was also going to come on and say to skip breakfast or move it later but I read your update. I don’t enjoy breakfast or breakfast foods. Sometimes I like breakfast food for lunch. But I still have a couple ideas.

- do you not get hungry for a certain number of hours after waking? Might you wake up early and eat a few raisins or something, go back to sleep and perhaps the sugar in the raisins would get you started and the blood sugar would need topping up with breakfast and trigger some hunger. I hope that makes sense?

I have a feeling if you ate a small cookie or small glass or orange juice upon waking that you’d be hungry in 45 minutes and might tolerate your proper breakfast then.

- Can you do a strongly creamy coffee or tea? (I get at least 200 calories from mine) that’s enough for energy, but maybe it’s not good with your meds?

- soup? I add a baked sweet potato to soup and that gets me through really well. You could make a sweet potato smoothie.

As a confirmed breakfast hater who isn’t hungry in the morning- this is what I tend to eat, although still a bit later:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Brie or other cheese on flatbread, smoked mackerel, peanut butter on toast... almond butter works too.

Now, I also had an epiphany while writing...

Perhaps you need to get the right ratio of carbs and protein and fat for your particular life and body. It was life changing for me to learn that your basic body functions (like beating your heart and pumping your blood and breathing) use protein and fat, activity (waking, writing, whatever) uses carbs. (I read this in women’s health and it made so much sense and changed my life!) so, figure out how much protein and or fat your body needs in the morning and find a fat or protein you like... then add in your carbs to cover the mornings activity. I’m not very active in the mornings, maybe that is why my fat bomb coffee works for me. Before I go out with the kids I have protein or fat served on a small bit of carb (that’s where I have smoked makeral or cheese or peanut butter on a cracker or toast or sweet potato) do you see what I mean? Just understand that you have to feed the bodily functions first- just carbs is like putting diesel in a regular petrol car- you won’t feel great because your body needs more. If you get the ratio right for you you will probably feel much better.
posted by catspajammies at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm not hugely hungry in the mornings either, so I've started drinking kefir (which is like a yogurty drink with a lot of probiotics) mixed with some sort of crunch (chia seeds and granola for me, you could try gluten free oats in there) and whatever fruit is available. It's light enough to convince my stomach to accept it, but filling enough to get me through till lunch.
posted by thebots at 2:54 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of allergies and sometimes allergies beget allergies. Is it possible you’re developing an allergy to oatmeal or one of the other ingredients in the Bob’s Red Mill cereal you’re eating? I’d try a gluten-free, oat-free cereal for a few days and see if the feeling of whoa hey, I don’t want to do this lessens.

You have my sympathies. Needing to eat and not being able to is a very specifically frustrating thing.
posted by kate blank at 3:22 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sorry for the omeprazole derail. The brand name is Prilosec. (I also take Zyrtec, which is possibly why I typed it)
posted by hollyholly at 7:35 PM on April 5, 2019

Seconding what evilmonk wondered about anxiety issues. I had experiences very close to what you described, when I was undergoing significant and chronic anxiety (occurring due to a multitude of issues). Treatment for the anxiety helped. No entirely, but significantly. Also I find that not rushing when I eat in the morning, and -- surprisingly, very importantly -- not being mentally "somewhere else", made a big improvement in my early morning ".eating capability"
posted by armoir from antproof case at 8:19 PM on April 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's the same for you but the only thing that's made me occasionally made me able to stomach breakfast and therefore have a better day (a day where i can take meds, feel energized and like I actually have a metabolism) is to wake up hungry... and this is counter intuitive, but the only time I wake up hungry is if I've eaten rather close to going to bed. I'll wake up feeling hungry and energized, instead of sluggish and nauseous until 11 am. It's hard to overcome the years of being told I'm a fat monster who gets fatter for eating late at night but it's made my life better. Maybe give it a shot, just don't eat anything acidic or spicy.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 1:08 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hi everyone - thanks for all the thoughtful answers! I wanted to answer more questions and post an update.

As stated above, I can't function if I don't eat breakfast.

I do have anxiety, it does impact my stomach, and when it's bad, it's bad in the morning. This doesn't feel like other times I've had that problem, and I've previously had it so bad that I would vomit.

I am sensitive to acidic foods, as this is part of the RA package deal. This is dose-dependent, but the impact is bad enough that I avoid things on the list. I do love spicy, but whether I've been eating spicy or not has no impact here.

I had a smoothie this morning and it went down just fine, so there's definitely something about what I'm eating that matters here.

I'm checking in with my brother about pernicious anemia, because DO NOT WANT.

Thanks again!
posted by bile and syntax at 1:16 PM on April 6, 2019

I also NEED breakfast but struggle to eat, especially before my early-morning weightlifting sessions. I am getting by just fine with a Vega Sport Protein shake - it appears to be soy and gluten free and it is vegan. I won't say it's the most tasty thing in the world but all I do is shake it up in a blender bottle so I'm not really putting much effort into it; it could be made more tasty by blending with ice, some added fruits and veggies, etc. I just kind of down it and don't think about it, and I can deadlift over 200 lbs a half-hour later so it definitely gets me going.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:29 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like Vega too. I like orgain aa well and it’s also soy free and vegan. I sometimes react to Vega, maybe because there are more veggie/fruit ingredients? Either way they’re both good soy free options.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:50 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

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