Gastroenterology

Vomiting

Vomiting, also known as emesis and throwing up, among other terms, is the involuntary, forceful expulsion of the contents of one’s stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose.

Vomiting, or throwing up, is a forceful discharge of stomach contents. It can be a one-time event linked to something that doesn’t settle right in the stomach. Recurrent vomiting may be cause by underlying medical conditions. Frequent vomiting may also lead to dehydration, which can be deadly if left untreated.

Causes vomiting

Vomiting can be caused by a wide variety of conditions; it may present as a specific response to ailments like gastritis or poisoning, or as a non-specific sequela of disorders ranging from brain tumors and elevated intracranial pressure to overexposure to ionizing radiation. The feeling that one is about to vomit is called nausea, which often precedes, but does not always lead to, vomiting. Antiemetics are sometimes necessary to suppress nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, where dehydration develops, intravenous fluid may be required. Self induced vomiting can be a component of an eating disorder, such as Bulimia Nervosa, and is itself now an eating disorder on its own, purging disorder.

What to do if vomiting

Vomiting is common. Eating too much food or drinking too much alcohol can make a person throw up. This generally isn’t a cause for concern. Vomiting itself is not a condition. It’s a symptom of other conditions. Some of these conditions include:

  • food poisoning
  • indigestion
  • infections (associated with bacterial and viral illnesses)
  • motion sickness
  • pregnancy-related morning sickness
  • headaches
  • prescription medications
  • anesthesia
  • chemotherapy
  • Crohn’s disease

Frequent vomiting not related to any of these causes may be a symptom of cyclic vomiting syndrome. This condition is characterized by vomiting for up to 10 days. It is usually coupled with nausea and extreme lack of energy. It mainly occurs during childhood.

This condition can cause vomiting episodes several times throughout the year when left untreated. It can also have serious complications that include:

  • dehydration
  • tooth decay
  • esophagitis
  • a tear in the esophagus

How to Stop Vomiting

Your brain, not your stomach, tells your body when to vomit. Vomiting is often your body’s way of purging a contaminated substance. It’s also possible to feel queasy and not vomit. Although in some cases, nausea goes away after vomiting.

1. Try deep breathing

Take deep breaths by breathing air through your nose and into your lungs. Your abdomen should expand as you breath in. Exhale slowly through your mouth or nose and relax your belly after each breath. Repeat this several times. You can use the image below to help pace yourself.

2. Eat bland crackers

Dry crackers like saltines are a tried-and-true remedy for morning sickness. It’s thought they help absorb stomach acids. For morning sickness, try eating a few crackers about 15 minutes before getting out of bed to help settle your stomach. Other bland foods like dry toast or white rice are also good to eat while recovering from a stomach bug.

4. Drink more fluids

Vomiting - symptoms and causesIf you’re vomiting a lot, it’s critical to drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration, even if you vomit some of them back up. Sip the fluids slowly. Drinking too much when your stomach is upset may cause more vomiting.

Fluids that help keep you hydrated and may ease nausea are:

  • ginger ale
  • mint tea
  • lemonade
  • water

You can also suck on ice chips to stay hydrated.

5. Try ginger, fennel, or cloves

Ginger

Try sipping a cup of warm ginger tea when nausea strikes. Or slowly eat a small piece of fresh ginger root or candied ginger. According to a study, ginger is safe and effective for preventing and treating nausea and vomiting in pregnant women and people undergoing chemotherapy.

You can also make fresh ginger tea by adding a teaspoon of freshly-grated ginger root to one cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, and strain before drinking.

Fennel

Fennel seeds are thought to help calm the digestive tract. But scientific studies on fennel for vomiting are lacking. Still, anecdotal evidence suggests it may be worth sipping a cup of fennel tea the next time nausea strikes.

To make fennel tea, add about a teaspoon of fennel seeds to one cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and strain before drinking.

Cloves

Cloves are a folk remedy for nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness. They also contain eugenol, a compound thought to have antibacterial abilities. To make clove tea, add one cup of boiling water to a teaspoon or so of cloves. Steep for ten minutes, and strain before drinking.

7. Medications to stop vomiting

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to stop vomiting (antiemetics) such as Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate contain bismuth subsalicylate. They may help protect the stomach lining and reduce vomiting caused by food poisoning.

OTC antihistamines (H1 blockers) such as Dramamine help stop vomiting caused by motion sickness. They work by blocking H1 histamine receptors responsible for stimulating vomiting. Side effects of antihistamines may include dry mouth, blurred vision, and urinary retention.

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