Feeling full soon after you begin eating is known as “early satiety.” It usually takes about 20 minutes after a normal-sized meal to feel full. Early satiety can be a sign of stomach dysfunction, which can have a number of causes. 

For example, early satiety can be a symptom of delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis). With this condition, food sits in the stomach longer than it should because the stomach muscle is unable to move it properly. Gastroparesis can be a sign of diabetes or a side effect of medications, such as opiate narcotic painkillers…tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil)…calcium channel blocker blood pressure and heart drugs, such as diltiazem (Cardizem)…and other drugs.

Early satiety also can be a symptom of a chronic disorder called functional dyspepsia (FD). People with FD have stomach pain, bloating, nausea and/or feel full quickly. It can be caused by a stomach infection, such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that leads to ulcers…stress…poor diet…and/or the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin). Other conditions that can lead to early satiety include ulcers, gastritis (an inflammation of the stomach wall) and a hiatal hernia, a bulging of the stomach into the diaphragm. 

You should get this checked out by a gastroenterologist. To help pinpoint the underlying cause of your symptom, a gastroenterologist will review your symptoms and may order tests such as an upper endoscopy to examine your upper digestive tract for ulcers or other abnormalities. A gastric emptying scan, an imaging study that determines how quickly food leaves the stomach, may also be used. 

Eating small, low-fat, low-roughage meals more frequently may give you some relief. Depending on the cause, you may also need medication.