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"My friend is unable to eat food. What can she do about it?"

ZocdocAnswersMy friend is unable to eat food. What can she do about it?


I have a friend that claims she can't eat almost any food because the sight and smell makes her feel ill. She says she feels nauseated and has the feeling of vomiting, but it doesn't actually happen. She can have bread, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, some meat, and a few sweets (but not too many or it makes her sick). She can't be around food because of the smell, and even the sight of it makes her ill. She says that it's been like this ever since she was first able to eat, her mother told her. She feels hungry all the time, but she just can't eat. I tried to search the internet to find answers, and though I got a good bit of results saying all different things, but apparently all rare cases, none of them are what was going on with her. She had been to a doctor, but all that happened was the doctor telling her parents to force her to eat. I really would appreciate an answer, she's a good friend and this worries me. And if this is important at all, she lives in the Netherlands.


Thanks for your question, so sorry to hear about the problem. It is important for her to speak with her doctor. Food aversion, in one form or another, is something that is not uncommon. Many groups of patients will have a predisposition to this sort of condition, including those that spend a portion of their life with a feeding tube or receiving their nutrition in some other way. For example, children that are born very early will often have an oral aversion that will make future feeding less enjoyable, and there is some re-training that is often necessary in order to overcome the early aversion. In some cases, it can persist indefinitely. In the case of your friend, it does appear that there are at least some foods that she is able to tolerate, which is good. As long as she is able to take in a balanced diet and receive the nutrients that she needs, there is no reason that this has to be anything life threatening, which probably explains the answer she received previously. There are some speech therapists who work with patients with these conditions, usually at large academic hospitals who treat complex conditions. Please have her speak with her doctor about a referral to one of these if appropriate.

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