Vomiting is the body’s way of getting rid of something it does not like. It is a natural, protective reflex. Nausea is the feeling right before the body does this release. This is an unpleasant feeling, but because vomiting is typically involuntary, it is the body’s warning system. Nausea and vomiting are not a sickness themselves, but are brought upon by an underlying cause. This can be from a virus, food poisoning, bacteria, parasites, or the norovirus. It can also be caused by pregnancy, motion sickness, or even stress.
Vomiting is controlled by the brain’s vomiting center, which is called the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ). It is called postrema. The CTZ is located outside of the blood-brain barrier which means that substances in the bloodstream can access it. Because of this access, certain medications can trigger or stop vomiting. There are certain parts of the body that stimulate the CTZ, communicating that that body needs to vomit. These include the inner ear (vestibular system), which is usually brought on by motion sickness. The cranial nerve that runs down the brain stem to the abdomen, called the vagus nerve, can trigger the gag reflex and vomiting. Stress activates the dopamine system which can lead to vomiting.
There are three phases of vomiting.
- Nausea, sweating, and salivation: The parasympathetic nervous system causes excess salivation which is the body’s way of protecting the tooth’s enamel from the stomach’s acid. This leads to sweating and the heart rate starts to increase.
- Retching: This is making the sound that you are going to throw up.
- Expulsion: The gastric contents come out of the mouth. The abdomen forcefully starts to contract and as pressure builds the lower esophagus’s sphincter opens to release this pressure.
This process is normal but there could be some causes for concern. Vomit that is strangely colored might mean it is time to see a doctor. Green vomit can be from bile which is caused by blockage to the digestive system. Red vomit might be from blood which could be from an ulcer. Intense pain while vomiting might be caused by appendicitis. Vomiting after an injury could be the sign of a concussion. Vomiting after waking up in the morning can be caused by a brain tumor.
Vomiting, even non-induced is technically bad for you. The body is not meant to regurgitate food, nor is the esophagus properly designed for this. There are not protections in place for the stomach acid that resurfaces passing through the esophagus, mouth, and teeth. Chronic vomiting can lead to dehydration and fluid imbalances.
Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of cancer treatment. This can include acute, anticipatory, and delayed vomiting. The chemotherapy, radiation, and anxiety of the condition can lead to the brain triggering the vomiting reaction. Some chemotherapy drugs are actually classified by their level of causing nausea and vomiting which is called their emotgenic potential. Drugs used to control this are called anti-emetics. This feeling is one of the dreaded and most unpleasant side effects of cancer treatment.
One of the best natural remedies for nausea is ginger. Ginger is potent but can be drank as a tea. It can also be quickly taken freshly with about ½ teaspoon. No one likes the feeling of vomiting when it is happening, but sometimes the body needs the release to get rid of whatever is causing discomfort or trouble functioning. Our bodies are incredible and know what to do to protect us. For most people vomiting is a just an occasional, next to never problem, but at any sign of more than this, a doctor’s help should be sought out.