Early Satiety


Key Takeaways

  • Early satiety describes the feeling when you are unable to eat a full meal or feel very full after only eating a small amount of food.
  • Early satiety occurs when your stomach is slow to empty, a condition known as gastroparesis.
  • People may experience feeling full after eating small amounts of food, inability to finish a normal-sized meal, nausea and vomiting after attempting to eat a normal-sized meal.

early satiety

What is Early Satiety?

Early satiety is the feeling of fullness after only a few bites of food or before finishing a normal-sized meal. Early satiety can also cause nausea while eating a meal. In addition, it’s more common in women than men.

What a “normal-sized meal” may look like for you depends on many factors, including:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Genetics
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Previous meals or snacks
  • Number of meals eaten per day
  • Activity levels

For some, early satiety may make you feel full after eating only a small amount of the recommended serving calories, and for others, it may seem like a minor problem. If early satiety is an ongoing issue, it can lead  to nutrient deficiency, starvation, and poor wound healing.

Early satiety can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition, like ulcers, diabetes, or cancer. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to internal bleeding. Make an appointment with our board-certified gastroenterologists if you’re experiencing early satiety.

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Causes

Anything that keeps your stomach from emptying properly can make you feel full faster. This can include scarring, compression of your small intestine, or even poor posture. Some more severe causes include:

In addition, a chronic cause for your early satiety can include cancer.

  • Early satiety is a common side effect of both cancer treatments and cancer itself. Early satiety is one of the top symptoms of cancer, although it’s not typically included in most symptom assessments. 
  • Early satiety in those with cancer tends to be connected with weight loss, anorexia, and changes in taste. For some, early satiety and cancer may include varying degrees of tiredness, weakness, and dry mouth.

Please speak with your primary care physician or a Charleston GI doctor for proper examining, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of early satiety may include:

  • The inability to consume a normal-sized meal
  • The feeling of being full after eating small amounts of food
  • Nausea and vomiting that occurs when attempting to eat a normal-sized meal

Diagnostic Test

  • Blood test
  • Gastrointestinal emptying
  • Endoscopy
  • Stool tests
  • X-ray

When to See a Doctor

Schedule an appointment with our GI specialists if you continue to feel full after eating only small amounts of food, even if you don’t have any other symptoms.

Early satiety may indicate a medical emergency if it is accompanied by:

  • Vomiting, with or without blood 
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills and fever

What to Expect During Appointment

Early satiety symptoms, like bloating, abdominal distention, and loss appetite, can be similar to symptoms of other GI conditions as well. Since there are similarities, determining early satiety as the cause of your symptoms takes a process called differential diagnosis.

To determine if early satiety is the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will perform a physical exam, take a look at your medical history, and order blood tests to check your blood sugar and blood count. 

Depending on your symptoms, you doctor may also order any of the following:

  • Upper gastrointestinal series (UGI) - X-rays to check for signs of gastroparesis
  • Upper endoscopy to examine your digestive tract through a small camera
  • Abdominal ultrasound to take pictures of abdominal organs
  • Stool test to check for intestinal bleeding
  • Gastric emptying scintigraphy to track how quickly food empties into your intestines
  • SmartPill to view how quickly food travels through the digestive tract
  • Gastric emptying breath test, which calculates how fast your stomach empties

Treatment

How your doctor goes about treating your early satiety depends on the cause. Treatments may include:

  • Eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day
  • Reducing fat and fiber intake, as they slow digestion
  • Consuming food liquid form or pureed
  • Taking appetite stimulants
  • Taking medication to relieve stomach discomfort

Your doctor may also refer you to a dietitian, so you make diet changes to help you meet daily nutritional needs.

Other treatments

In more severe cases of early satiety, your doctor may recommend procedures, such as:

  • Gastric electrical stimulation, which sends electric pulses to the stomach to control nausea and vomiting
  • Feeding tube
  • Total parenteral nutrition (TPN), which is when a catheter is placed inside a vein in your chest to deliver liquid nutrition
  • Jejunostomy, which involves a feeding tube bypassing the stomach and directly injects nutrients into a part of the small intestine called the jejunum (For extremely severe cases).

Talk to your primary care physician or a Charleston GI specialist directly for proper treatment of early satiety. 

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FAQs


Does early satiety mean I’m deficient?

Ongoing or recurring early satiety can lead to insufficient calorie intake and nutrient deficiency. Nutrients that can become deficient include:

  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium

Without enough calories and nutrients, you can experience:

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Impaired brain and organ function

A nutrient deficiency can result in problems like anemia and osteoporosis, or weak bones.

Does cancer make you full after eating a small meal?

A tumor in one of your abdominal organs can be a cause of early satiety. For example, stomach cancer may cause early satiety, along with severe indigestion, nausea, vomiting and bloating after a meal. A tumor in the small intestine may also cause early satiety, and other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, weight loss, and intestinal bleeding.

Speak with your doctor directly for proper medical examining, diagnosing and treatment. 

Does gastritis cause feelings of early satiety?

Early satiety and a lack of an appetite can both be symptoms of gastritis. 

Symptoms can occur when your stomach lining gets word down to the point where it cannot defend itself against its own acids and enzymes. The acid can cause indigestion which can cause stomach ulcers.

Speak with your doctor directly for proper medical examining, diagnosing and treatment. 

Does IBS cause early satiety?

IBS sufferers may also experience symptoms similar to early satiety. For example, feeling bloated is a symptom of IBS which can cause your abdomen to feel fuller and rounder than normal. 

Speak with your doctor directly for proper medical examining, diagnosing and treatment. 

Do ulcers make you full after eating small meals?

When a peptic ulcer occurs, it can interfere with normal digestion. During a flare up, you may experience symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or feeling full. The most common symptom of peptic ulcers is pain. This pain may occur:

  • In the upper-central part of your abdomen
  • In your back
  • As a feeling that worsens on an empty stomach and sometimes improves with eating
  • When you try to sleep at night
  • As indigestion or heartburn

If ulcers aren’t properly treated, they can damage your gut lining or wear away at the wall of a blood vessel until it bursts. That is a medical emergency, so if you are having a painful episode, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Can acid reflux cause you to feel full after eating a small meal?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can cause feelings of early satiety. Certain foods or your stomach acid can sometimes flow back up your esophagus, causing acid reflux. 

The most common GERD symptom is heartburn, especially after a big meal or certain foods. You may also experience:

  • A bitter or sour aftertaste
  • Chest pains (If you experience shortness of breath or pain in your jaw at the same time, you should get immediate medical attention, as these symptoms can point to a heart attack.)
  • A dry cough, hoarseness, or sore throat
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing

Speak with your doctor directly for proper medical examining, diagnosing and treatment. 

Does gastroparesis make you full after eating a small meal?

Gastroparesis can cause feelings of fullness after a small meal. With gastroparesis, your stomach cannot contract properly and digest as it should, so food builds up instead. Gastroparesis can be a result of diabetes, cancer, or other diseases, infection, or surgeries. 

What does satiety mean?

Satiety is defined as the state of being completely full. This refers to the satisfied feeling of eating enough and feeling full without discomfort.

What is early satiety? 

Early satiety refers to the inability to consume a full normal-sized meal or feeling full after only a small amount of food. Early satiety may be the symptom of a variety of different GI issues, so talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of early satiety.

What causes early satiety?

Generally speaking, anything that disrupts the emptying of your stomach can result in feeling fuller quicker. This could include compression of scarring of the small intestine, gastroparesis, diabetes, peptic ulcers, and sometimes cancer. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing early satiety to receive proper treatment and diagnosis.

How serious is early satiety?

Ongoing early satiety can lead to nutrient deficiency, starvation, and poor wound healing. In addition, it can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, like ulcers, diabetes, or cancer. Some of these conditions can cause internal bleeding or low blood count, so talk to your doctor if you are dealing with signs of early satiety.

How do I get rid of early satiety?

The best way to get rid of early satiety is to talk to your doctor about possible treatments. Your doctor may recommend a diet low in fat, eating smaller portions, and eating more frequently throughout the day. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication, but it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis to ensure you are receiving proper treatment.

What can I drink for satiety?

Drinks such as green tea, coffee, ginger tea, and high-protein drinks can help boost your metabolism, decrease hunger, and increase satiety. These beverages also contain beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and compounds that can be of help when you’re dealing with early satiety. 

What is the best food for satiety?

  • Whole Grains
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Avocado
  • Oatmeal
  • Red Chili Pepper
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

 

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