Digestion Woes
June 5, 2007 11:54 PM   Subscribe

Why do I get full immediately after I start eating and feel so nauseous for so long after?

I'm a woman in her twenties who has been overweight her entire life. I also have a few endocrine issues, including a congenital adrenal imbalance and an inactive thyroid. I've been on dexamethasone for fourteen years and synthroid for about eight.

I've been having digestion problems for the past two or three years. Growing up, I don't recall ever being full after eating, and I could eat a lot at one meal. But, in the past few years, I find that I get uncomfortably full after eating a sandwich or a one-serving meal. I'm not overeating, and, in fact, I eat much less than what thin, healthy people are able to eat (I note this from watching my family and, also, observing people's eating habits in restaurants). And obviously I stop eating once I'm full. But, the point is, I'm getting full -- not a satisfied, happy full but a sickening, I-ate-too-much-at-the-buffet full -- from a ridiculously miniscule amount of food.

That's not the end of the story. For 2-3 hours (sometimes longer) after I eat these not-unreasonable portions of food, I feel NAUSEOUS. Like, I feel like it's going to come up. It doesn't, but I still feel wretched for those hours. I do tend to treat this with PeptoBismol, which probably isn't good since it seems to contribute to constipation (sorry, tmi?). I suppose there's a possibility that the Pepto really isn't doing anything but giving me some sort of 'psychological relief.' I've tried Tums, but it didn't provide the same sort of real or imaginary relief. And, of course, there's the possibility that my mind is making this much worse than it really is. Maybe it's just a minor digestive problem, and I'm making it into a serious one. I don't know, but I do reach this point of nausea, and it does last for hours. This is a daily occurance (almost every meal I eat), and this has been happening for a few years. As far as my diet goes, it's actually pretty healthy. I have determined that I have a problem with acidic foods and beverages (citrus, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate), so I don't consume most of them, and, when I do, it's not in conjunction with any other foods or beverages. So, I don't think that's the sole problem.

I can't really tolerate this anymore, so my question(s) (and I do fear the answers because WebMD hasn't been too kind): What do you suppose could be wrong? Has anyone experienced anything like this? Does anyone have any suggestions for how to treat this? (I suppose I'm *hoping* for dietary changes, natural/DIY treatments, or safe OTC meds rather than 'Get thee to a doctor!,' but I'll take anything at this point.)
posted by Mael Oui to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My money's on gastroparesis, which can definitely be caused by glandular problems and basically boils down to food loitering in your stomach for too long instead of moving down into your intestinal tract. Some things in the short term that should help include laying off fatty foods as well as stuff like cabbage, and other vegetables that have a lot of fiber and also cause a lot of gas. Eat cooked vegetables, not raw, and eat soups. Eat a lot of small meals instead of a few big ones.

Unfortunately, OTC medications probably aren't going to help much with gastroparesis, but it's possible that you need your thyroid medication adjusted.

Last but not least, there are a few scary things that can cause similar symptoms. Most of them would be quite rare in a person under 30, so don't be too afraid, but get to a doctor just to rule things out. There might also be some prescription medications that will help you feel better. Your symptoms aren't really rare, and your doctor should be able to help.

(I'm not a doctor, but my gastroenterologist is).
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:27 AM on June 6, 2007

Oh, I just noticed that you mentioned citrus and chocolate giving you problems in particular, which is a common symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or "heartburn" as they used to call it, even if you're not experiencing classic heartburn symptoms. If that's the case, and if your symptoms are anything close to being as severe as mine, Pepto-Bismol and Tums aren't going to do jack shit. Proton pump inhibitors are the only thing strong enough to help me, and fortunately you can now get Prilosec over the counter. It's expensive, but try it and if it helps, go to the doctor and get a prescription (the prescription version is actually cheaper if you've got insurance covering it). I used to get a lot of the symptoms you're describing from eating plain toast; now, thanks to generic omeprazole, I can eat pizza and Indian food (not at the same time, because that would be gross), hang upside down, and not get any symptoms at all. Again, see your doctor to rule out anything more serious, but some Prilosec and smaller meals should help in the short term.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:34 AM on June 6, 2007

Infinitywaltz has it just right. "Get thee to the doc" for some prevacid (what I take) or something similar. I know these symptoms well. I have a different medical history, but a pretty ugly one involving lots of meds that surely did my tummy no favors.

i have found ginger, yogurt (i try to eat two different kinds every day, and always start the day/prime the pump with the liquid dannon stuff), very small meals (which is a pain, but, well, with less pain) and fizzy water really helpful.

And if cigarettes, alcohol or caffeine are part of your diet, quit 'em. It'll be hard, but right now you are just fueling the fire.

Oh, and as a side note, because Pepto has an Aspirin related ingredient in it, it's actually pretty hard on your stomach in the long run. If you must do an OTC remedy, better it were pepcid or one of it's generic friends.

Good luck. Stomach pain is the pits, eh?
posted by metasav at 1:00 AM on June 6, 2007

(I suppose I'm *hoping* for dietary changes, natural/DIY treatments, or safe OTC meds rather than 'Get thee to a doctor!,' but I'll take anything at this point.)

Get thee to a doctor may help get you the right dietary changes, natural/DIY treatments or safe OTC meds if those are appropriate. And they're much more likely to be effective coming from someone who knows what questions to ask you and can run some tests. Find a doctor you like and work with him or her to figure it out.
posted by judith at 1:07 AM on June 6, 2007

Hi, I too had this problem and went through dozens of doctor visits, ultrasounds, CT scans and even a gastroctopy (camera down my throught). It came to a head with two trips to the emergency room.

The docs came up with nothing. No drugs were working. IN the end I did several things:
Cut out all fried junk food (a staple of my diet since i worked there years ago)
Cut out all excess fat and oil, and salt (not completely but just added)
Increased my diet of fresh vegies, fruit and good quality red meat
INcreased my breakfast amounts (was somewhere around nothing before)
Started taking something called "Inner-health plus". This is available in Australia (not sure what it would be elsewhere). It is the equivilant of 20 tubs of yohgurt in one tablet and balances the good germs in the stomach.

I have been great for six weeks now, can eat and drink as much beer and wine as I ever could and feel great.

I am still extremely stressed in work, still extremely active and dont get enough sleep (all the possible contributions) but am healthly again.

Hope this helps. Matt
posted by mattymoo at 1:54 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

I knew a woman who had that once. She died.
No, actually, she turned out to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm and was fine after surgery. She was a lot older than you are, but the point here is you really should probably show that to a doctor. (Her only symptom was she couldn't eat much.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:12 AM on June 6, 2007

lay off the pepto, for one thing, because it can really jam you up.

i once had to be on a prescription that unfortunately caused really bad constipation, and had the same symptoms. (a few times i felt so full i could only manage a cup of tea all day long).

if you're really constipated, you might try (eww, i know) an enema followed by a course of stool softeners (like philips milk of magnesia or something containing docusate sodium). don't take stimulant laxatives like ex-lax--they will make you miserable for a day.

but go to a doctor, definitely.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:29 AM on June 6, 2007

I'm tempted to say GERD as well. I had similar symptoms for a long, long time... the acid reducers / proton pump inhibitors seem to work well for me. You can get the generics for very very little, give them a try, and see if they help.

Of course, this is what you do while you are waiting for your Dr's appointment. You will find no more common consensus than that.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:18 AM on June 6, 2007

What you're describing sounds like what one of my cow-orkers has. It was finally diagnosed as Celiac disease (gluten allergy). Any gluten at all would make him feel pretty sick. Time to see a GI guy.
posted by plinth at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2007

See a gastroenterologist.

Feeling bloated "full" and/or nausea after a small meal definitely sounds like something isn't performing correctly.

I would suggest you have them test you for Gerd (prevacid will help that) and you may want some liver function tests too - also, lay off the salt big time and see if that helps.

I had early satiety(sp?) and kept eating soup (not realizing its sodium content) thinking it would help (bland diet) and it was a combo or salt and liver issues that was causing it.
posted by clanger at 9:35 AM on June 6, 2007

If you try fixing it with diet, try an elimination diet; I had most of the symptoms you're experiencing and had a lot of diagnoses and a lot of treatments, and what it boiled down to is that I can't eat corn. Those corn sweeteners do me right in (so the doctors' bland diets, which included ginger ale/sprite in their "clear fluids", didn't help). I eat small amounts of popcorn when I go to the movies, and my body reminds me for a couple days that that's a bad idea.
posted by Cricket at 12:16 PM on June 6, 2007

Nausea goes along with adrenal insuffiency...

You may want to pay a visit to the endocrinologist pretty soon.
posted by Budge at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2007

Early satiety like you are describing can be a warning sign of a more serious health issue than garden-variety acid reflux. Keep a log of your diet and your symptoms, and bring it to your primary care provider.
posted by tuff at 6:24 PM on June 6, 2007

Wow, thanks for all your responses!

infinitywaltz: Thanks for that gastroparesis link. Hadn't heard of that before, but the symptoms on the page are eerily familiar. I did consider something like acid reflux but had previously ruled it out since everything was staying in the stomach area. That shows how much I know!

metasav: I've actually been thinking of trying a yogurt regimen. I know you can buy acidophilus in pill form, but I don't know how beneficial that may be. Luckily, I'm not complicating things with cigarettes and alcohol, but, yeah, caffeine remains a tough habit to break! Also, interesting info about Pepto. For some reason I always thought of it as a gentle, friendly treatment (possibly because of the cheery color), but it's good to know that I should cut way back on it!

mattymoo: See, I fear all those inevitable tests! 'Inner-Health Plus,' that sounds interesting. I wonder if acidophilus pills are the same thing? This must be it!

thinkingwoman: On a side note, your comment will come in very handy!

And, to all of you who said to visit a doctor (all of you!), as well as talk to my endocrinologist, you all get 'best answer.' Seeing that so many other people have dealt with similar issues has given me a bit of courage to face the unknown and find a gastroenterologist. You've all given me a lot to look into (and a lot of things I never considered, like abdominal aortic aneurysms and looking into elimination diets). In the meantime, I'm also going to read up on GERD and Celiac disease, look into Prilosec and Prevacid, and keep a diet/symptom log. Sorry for this gigantic comment, but I really appreciate all your suggestions! Thank you again!!
posted by Mael Oui at 1:14 AM on June 7, 2007

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