When you feel full, it’s usually easy to pinpoint the reason. Maybe you ate too much, too fast, or chose the wrong foods. Feeling full can be uncomfortable, but it’s only temporary. Your digestive system will ease that fullness within hours.
However, if you frequently feel full no matter how much or how quickly you eat, it could be a sign of something more.
Keep reading to learn more about digestion problems and other symptoms that should prompt a visit to your doctor.
That feeling of fullness can come from bloating due to gas. If you don’t burp up gas before it reaches your intestines, it’s destined to pass out the other end as flatulence. It’s a normal process, but it can also be uncomfortable and inconvenient, especially when you’re around other people.
You might be taking in too much air when you eat or drink, or you may be drinking too many carbonated beverages. But if you frequently feel bloated, gassy, and uncomfortable, there may be something else going on.
Bloating and gassiness can also be symptoms of:
- Celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition in which gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains, can damage the lining of your small intestine.
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). This is a condition in which the pancreas can’t produce enough enzymes to digest food properly. Undigested food in the colon can cause excess gas and bloating.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a chronic disorder in which the contents of your stomach flow back up into the esophagus. Burping a lot can be a sign of GERD.
- Gastroparesis. Not a blockage, this condition slows down or stops food from moving from your stomach to your small intestine.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a disorder that can make your system more sensitive to the effects of gas.
Certain foods, like beans, lentils, and some vegetables, can cause gas. Intolerances or allergies can also lead to gas and bloating. Fructose intolerance and lactose intolerance are two examples.
Gas and bloating can also be due to conditions that can obstruct the intestines, such as colon cancer or ovarian cancer.
In addition to gas and bloating, pain in the abdomen can be due to constipation.
Some other conditions that can cause abdominal discomfort are:
- Crohn’s disease. Symptoms can also include diarrhea and rectal bleeding.
- Diverticulitis. Symptoms might also involve nausea, vomiting, fever, and constipation.
- EPI. Other symptoms can include gassiness, diarrhea, and weight loss.
- Gastroparesis. Other symptoms are vomiting, heartburn, and belching.
- Pancreatitis. This condition might also cause back or chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
- Ulcers. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, or heartburn.
The loose, watery stools of diarrhea are usually temporary. There are many potential causes of sudden diarrhea, such as bacterial food poisoning or a virus. It’s usually not cause for concern, although severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration if you don’t replenish liquids.
If it goes on longer than four weeks, it’s considered chronic diarrhea. Frequent stretches of severe diarrhea or chronic diarrhea could be a sign of an underlying illness that should be treated.
Some conditions that cause diarrhea include:
- chronic gastrointestinal (GI) infections
- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
- endocrine disorders such as Addison’s disease and carcinoid tumors
- fructose intolerance or lactose intolerance
When your bowels are functioning normally, you shouldn’t have to strain. You also shouldn’t have to worry about leakage.
Everyone’s body works differently. Some people empty their bowels every day, others only once or twice a week. But when there’s a drastic change, it could signal a problem.
You may not want to look at your stools, but it’s a good idea to know how they usually appear. The color can vary, but it’s normally a shade of brown. This can change a bit when you eat certain foods.
Other changes to look for are:
- foul-smelling, greasy, pale-colored stools that stick to the toilet bowl or float and can be difficult to flush, which are a sign of EPI since this condition makes it difficult to digest fat
- stools that are looser, more urgent, or harder than normal, or if you alternate between diarrhea and constipation, which can be symptomatic of IBS
- stools that are red, black, or tarry, signaling blood in your stool, or pus around the anus, both of which can indicate Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
You can be malnourished if you don’t eat enough of the right foods or if your body can’t absorb nutrients properly.
Symptoms that you may be malnourished include:
- frequently getting sick or taking longer to recover
- poor appetite
- unexplained weight loss
Some conditions that interfere with the ability to absorb nutrients are:
- Crohn’s disease
- ulcerative colitis
Any condition that involves diarrhea, poor appetite, or malnutrition can result in weight loss. Unexplained weight loss or muscle wasting should always be investigated.
If you frequently feel full for no obvious reason, you should make an appointment for a complete physical. It could be a simple matter of changing your diet, or it could be that you have a GI disorder that needs to be treated.
Make a list of all your symptoms and how long you’ve had them so your doctor can have a complete picture. Be sure to mention if you’ve been losing weight.
Your symptoms, physical exam, and medical history will guide the doctor as to the next steps to take in diagnosing your condition.