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Early satiety is more common in women than men. Early satiety is when you feel full after a few bites of food or before you finish a normal-sized meal. You may also feel nauseous and want to vomit while eating a meal. What makes a normal-sized meal depends on many factors, such as:
Your activity level will also directly affect how many calories you need each day. If you’re a moderately active female who weighs 132 pounds and eats four meals, including snacks, a day, an average breakfast can include:
In the case of early satiety, you may feel full after eating only a little of the recommended serving.
Early satiety may seem like a minor problem, especially if you don’t have other symptoms. But ongoing early satiety can be unhealthy and lead to nutrient deficiency, starvation, and poor wound healing. It can also be a sign of serious medical conditions such as cancer, ulcers, and diabetes. Some of these conditions can lead to internal bleeding and a low blood count if left untreated.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you consistently feel full after eating only a little food.
The process of digestion begins when you start chewing food and continues until the food reaches the small then the large intestine. The stomach acid and digestive enzymes help digest the foods you eat while peristalsis helps move food through the stomach and intestines.
Problems that interfere with peristalsis and cause food to stay in your stomach can cause early satiety.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you consistently feel full after eating small amounts of food, even if you don’t have any other symptoms.
It may be a medical emergency if your early satiety is accompanied by:
In general, anything that impairs the emptying of your stomach can make you feel full quicker. This includes scarring or compression of your small intestine. Sometimes readjusting your posture to aid bowel movements can help with feelings of early satiety.
Gastroparesis is the most common cause of early satiety. People with gastroparesis have early satiety because food stays in their stomachs longer than it should. Most of the time, the cause of gastroparesis is unknown. But according to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes is the most common known cause of gastroparesis. It can cause damage to the nerve that regulates stomach movement.
Other causes include:
If you have gastroparesis, you may have other symptoms that accompany early satiety, such as:
It’s also common for people who with gastroparesis to have feelings of anxiety and depression. This is because gastroparesis can interfere with their normal daily routine and cause discomfort.
Early satiety is also a common side effect of cancer treatments and cancer itself. According to Nutrition and the Cancer Patient, early satiety is one of the top 10 symptoms for cancer, although it’s not included in most symptom assessments. Early satiety in people with cancer tends to accompany weight loss, anorexia, and taste changes. To a lesser extent, people who have early satiety and cancer may also experience vary degrees of tiredness, weakness, and dry mouth.
Another known cause of early satiety is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a disorder that affects your large intestines, or colon, and causes abdominal pain. You may also feel:
The symptoms for IBS can change from time to time. The difference between IBS and mild bowel discomfort is that IBS is ongoing or reoccurring.
Make an appointment with the doctor if you feel like you have early satiety and show symptoms of:
A combination of these symptoms along with early satiety may mean you have:
Early satiety shares many similarities with other symptoms such as bloating, abdominal distention, and loss of appetite. The process of finding out which condition is most likely the cause of your health concerns is called differential diagnosis.
To determine early satiety, your doctor will check your medical history, preform a physical exam, and order a blood test to check your blood count and blood sugar.
If you have other symptoms, they may also order the following:
The treatment of early satiety depends on the cause. Your doctor may suggest:
Your doctor can also refer a dietician who can help you make diet changes to meet your daily nutritional needs.
In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend procedures that require minor surgery such as:
Early satiety that’s ongoing or reoccurring can lead to insufficient calories and nutrients. When you eat too little, your body doesn’t get enough calories and nutrients. This includes, among others:
Without enough calories and nutrients, you may experience:
Not having enough of these nutrients can cause problems like anemia and osteoporosis, or weak bones.
To prevent a decreased quality of life due to these symptoms, it’s important to identify the underlying cause of early satiety. You may find it easier to consume more calories by pureeing your food into a soup or blending it into a smoothie.
Written by: Verneda Lights and Valencia Higuera
Medically reviewed on: Aug 18, 2016: Natalie Butler, RD, LD
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