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Unable to eat (going days without any food) due to illness: what should I do?

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Old 07-24-2010, 09:20 PM   #1
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Unhappy Unable to eat (going days without any food) due to illness: what should I do?

(Sorry if this is a bit lengthy -- wanted to include all the details for more knowledgeable responses)

In mid-June I underwent foot surgery and apparently had some sort of bad reaction to the general anesthesia...what resulted was a non-specific nausea which STILL has not gone away. It's dormant most of the time now and the nightly vomiting ended some time around the 4th of July but symptoms of it still remain. For example, as soon as I come into contact with any even remotely foul-smelling odor I'll gag and sometimes throw up. This never happened before. Also, I'll experience a sort of "dehydrated" feeling on a daily basis, even when I make a point of drinking a lot of fluids. My mouth will still feel dry and I'll gag if I breathe in too fast or something.

However, the worst part and the part that brings me here is that it has totally obliterated my appetite. I will often go the entire day without eating anything more substantial than small snacks and sometimes I'll even forget to eat those. I know that this is not good, but eating food, or sometimes even smelling its aromas, will bring back the nausea full force and I'll feel like throwing up. It is very difficult for me to eat any sort of full meal because of this. I believe this situation is made even worse by my depression, which I've always had a problem with but has been particularly bad lately due to recent (unrelated) personal events.

I do still occasionally have an appetite, but it will be rare and fleeting and, unfortunately, will almost always come about right before I go to bed. I don't know why this is, but just as I'm getting into bed is when I'll realize that I could eat something or that i WANT to eat something...then I'm conflicted with the decision of either taking that rare opportunity to go and finally eat while I'm able to get foods down or avoiding it because of the health risks associated with eating before bed. Sometimes I'll avoid it, sometimes I won't...when I'm faced with this situation again, what should I do?
I've lost 22 pounds since the surgery 6 weeks ago, which in theory is great because I've been pretty chubby over the last year and could stand to lose a few, but I'm pretty sure that the type of weight loss I'm experiencing is not at all what I want physically since my fatty areas actually seem MORE fatty after the 22 pounds of weight loss...and it also concerns me as to where this weight is being lost from since it doesn't appear to be coming from the fat at all.

Now, I've seen several doctors and even went to the ER and got a myriad of tests done and none of them have any idea what's wrong other than that something about the surgery, most likely the anesthesia, did not agree with me. All the tests came back completely normal so there is nothing to treat but the nausea itself. However, the anti-nausea meds are really only for taking episodically during bouts of sickness, not an every day type thing...especially not since more often than not they'll make me fall asleep for 15+ hours no matter what time of day it is. So whatever the nausea problem is, it doesn't look like there's much that can be done about it other than waiting it out and hoping it goes away with time.

Focusing on the reason why I'm posting here though...I definitely know that I need to start eating healthier and just plain start eating period. But I'm not sure how to do this or what would be best to eat in the rare times when i DO have an appetite or at least feel like I could get something down okay. I can drink certain things and have been making a point of drinking a lot of fluids. For some reason, I feel like I can tolerate only certain drinks though. For example, plain water will often be hard to swallow without gagging. But other drinks like chocolate milk, iced tea, sobe "lizard lava" and ginger ale seem to be fine most of the time. Gatorade is slightly tolerable but not all of the time. The same thing goes for foods...ocassionally I'll feel an appetite but will only be able to eat very specific things (sunflower seeds and popcorn are two examples) and eating anything else will bring on that same nausea again.

So ideally, what should I be doing here? If I had to eat very sparsely, what would be the best thing for me to eat during those rare occasions? Anything liquid-form will probably be a lot easier to get down than most foods. Also, would any supplements help me with improving my nutrition, my general health or maybe even with redirecting the weight loss from whatever it's currently eating away at (muscle, I'm assuming) to fat?

Thanks in advance for any help or advice, it's much appreciated.

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Old 07-25-2010, 11:20 AM   #2
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Re: Unable to eat (going days without any food) due to illness: what should I do?

I do not know if we have the same problem, but some of what you are saying is similar to what I went through. I will explain what happened to me and maybe it can help you get on the right path to health.

I found out that I had severe reactive hypoglycemia. So, whenever I go without eating for any length of time, such as when fasting for surgery, or getting anesthesia it can act up. Then, if it progresses, my appetite goes, and that makes it even worse. Stress also makes it worse, and things like surgery are very stressful.

This part you may not relate to but I will include it to be thorough. I have fibromyalgia and was taking an SSRI, an antidepressant that helps keep serotonin circulating in the brain, and I had stopped taking that when I was hospitalized, and also just recently had tapered off. This, along with dieting, eating sugar- laden foods, taking a decongestant, and drinking lots of caffeine, my autonomic nervous system went wild. The sympathetic nervous system (the fight/ flight portion) went on overdrive and the parasympathetic (the calming portion) took a back seat. This caused all sorts of problems.

When my appetite was gone, I couldn't eat, so my blood sugar went low. When I could stomach something it was sugar- laden and my blood sugar would rebound even lower, causing a vicious circle. At one point, I couldn't even swallow my own spit and lost 25 pounds. Once I found out my problem, I was able to get better. This is what I had to do to get back on track.

1. I ate every two hours- even if it was broth, (nothing with sugar or high fructose corn syrup) and high in protein. Spoonfuls of peanut butter (low sugar) worked well. I read that plain yogurt is a good snack but I'm lactose intolerant. Sunflower seeds, nuts, cheese, and lean meats (grilled chicken was a favorite). I ate a few fruits, but none at first, and then ate them with something with protein. I ate a snack before going to bed and as soon as I woke up. If I woke in the night, I ate several spoonfuls of peanut butter.

2. I wasn't able to find a nutrition drink without sugar, but did find one with high protein, and drank that in small amounts to boost my calories. (I wouldn't recommend this because if RHG is your problem, it could cause a blood sugar rebound.)

3. I began an SSRI (antidepressant) again, slowly (the increase in serotonin can cause nausea) and increased it according to my doctor's instructions as I could tolerate it.

4. Took a stress reduction meditation class. It includes mindful eating, and works for people with eating disorders. It relaxes muscles including the stomach and intestines and gets the parasympathetic nervous system back on board. My body reacted to the low blood sugar, very violently. My SNS was so hyper it got my blood sugar so low it was causing my adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline to bring it up. That took away my appetite and made me nauseous. It also brought up my blood pressure.

5. I started taking an over the counter stomach acid reducer. It decreased the acid so my stomach could repair itself after being empty for so long. I made the mistake of taking sugar- laden antacids. Not a good idea.

6. I began taking a lactobacillus pill (plain yogurt will work) to get my gut back on track. Antibiotics, stress, high sugar foods, etc. can cause an imbalance in good bacteria in the intestines. Also, with the okay of my doctor I stopped taking medications that upset my stomach. Pain relievers are really upsetting to the stomach, esp. if its empty.

7. I took a test to confirm RHG. When I suspected the RHG, I asked my doctor if that was a possibility. He was open to it, and ordered a glucose tolerance test. Sometimes, your blood sugar can rebound and go back up so quickly, that it isn't caught, but I was lucky. The test results confirmed my suspicions. My doctor said my blood sugar went so low, I should have been in a coma.

8. Found out about my condition and how to keep it under control. And, am still trying to stick to the diet. Apparently I was eating a lot (craving sugars) and gaining weight because of these low blood sugar levels. I'm told my weight should improve once I am faithful to the diet.

Don't know if this is your problem, but what helped me might get you eating again.
Best Wishes,

Last edited by Sunsetnan; 07-25-2010 at 11:44 AM. Reason: added info

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