Anorexia/Eating Disorders/My daughter throws up just thinking about food!
QUESTION: My child feels extremely nauseated even when she thinks about food. She doesn't like any food at all, and after eating tiny little bits, she throws it back up. She is eleven now, and she's less than 40 pounds. I gave her a pack of fruit snacks recently, and she ate two of the fruit snacks before throwing up. Sometimes she even throws up before she eats. Just the thought of the food makes her so sick. She does not force herself to throw up because I watch it happen! I get very angry at her but that's because I'm very terrified that she's going to fade away! She's eating less than 200 calories most days, and she's throwing it all back up everyday! This has been going on since she was old enough to chew. What kind of disorder is this?! I can't seem to find any answer anywhere!
ANSWER: Hi Stella,
This sounds horrible. I am so sorry you are going through this. I have a few follow-up questions:
1) do particular foods make the symptoms worse?
2) has she been tested for food allergies?
3) did this first begin after a respiratory, throat, or other infection?
4) does she exhibit any other behaviors that seem abnormal for her age?
5) does she vomit between meals or only at mealtime?
6) how many times a day does she vomit?
7) does she experience stomach cramps? headaches?
8) is she bothered by bright light?
9) does she ever eat nonfood substances (e.g., dirt) and if so, can she keep those down?
10) does she re-chew and re-swallow the regurgitated food?
11) does she seem concerned about her weight or appearance?
I know these questions seem odd, but I am trying to rule things out for you and narrow down a diagnosis.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Here are the answers to your questions:
1) Every food she eats seems to make her puke, but only sometimes will she be able to get down cold foods like bananas, strawberries, and cereal in milk. (Cheerios). Everything else upsets her stomach too much.
2)Yes, she has been tested for food allergies and she has none.
3)She has had no infections except for a UTI a few years ago.
4)She exhibits many behaviors that seem abnormal for her age. As a toddler (2-3 years), she could read, write, count to 1000, label colors and shapes, and tell you all of the farm animals and the noises they made. She is exceptionally brilliant academically, but her social life is very abnormal. She is very outgoing, but not popular. She has only one friend and people are "weirded out" by her. She has a "special" type of humor and understanding, and we think she may be autistic or asperger's. She does not understand basic things like why calling someone stupid is rude, yet she can spout incredulous wisdom about life and marriage when she's not even trying. Like an idiot-savant. She is VERY abnormal, and she is aware of it.
5)She feels sick most of the time but she only vomits during or right after mealtime.
6)She usually vomits one to two times a day.
7)I'm sorry to say that I don't know if she experiences stomach cramps or headaches. If she does, she would not tell me because she likes to appear tough. One time she got a shard of glass deep into her foot, and she didn't cry, scream, or even squirm or wince at the pain as her blood gushed out onto the carpet of her floor.
8)Again, she would not tell me if the sun bothered her. Sorry.
9)One time she eat a booger and spit it out, but that's about it. And she only did it because she was "curious about how it tasted because she heard someone on TV talk about it."
10)She never re-chews or re-swallows the regurgitated food.
11) No, she is only 7 and does not care about her appearance at all. As aforementioned, she is very outgoing, confident, and sure of herself.
Thank you so much for replying and for your concern.
Given your answers, I would suspect autism. Food aversions are not uncommon in children with autism. I recommend that you have her see a specialist and see if you can get a diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.
In the meantime, Autism Speaks has a number of resources related to food aversions. This should be a good place to start: http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/nutrition-and-autism
Good luck! I am so sorry you are going through this. You have a rough road ahead of you.