Why People Vomit

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We don’t mean the triggers — though that could be a fun post — but the actual physical process. What is it about our physiology that occasionally makes our tummy say, “Come on up, Chuck”?

Vomiting is an important function. It rids your body of potential toxins or health hazards. In fact, there’s a specific area of your brain that gives your stomach its marching orders.

The urge to purge is a multi-step process: the chemoreceptor trigger center is connected directly to the vomiting center in the brain, and is the first to know when something’s amiss. It could be a touch of motion sickness, a foul odor, or that leftover Pad Thai that smelled sort of iffy but looked OK. We feel the beginnings of nausea, and are given the opportunity make corrections if we can (stop riding the roller coaster, or make our next round a club soda). Depending on what’s causing the unrest, our digestion slows down. If the cause of our distress is something toxic, like potential botulism, the upper portion of the stomach will start convulsing, while its lower exit snaps shut. There’s no way out but up, and it’s time for that mad dash to the bathroom for the inevitable.

If the nausea has a mental origin as opposed to a physical one (such as a bad smell, a bumpy plane ride, or an emotional shock), we’ll feel queasy for a while. Usually, the brain will communicate with the stomach to indicate that there’s no danger involved, and the nauseous feeling will slowly fade away on its own. Everyone has a different tolerance level when it comes to nausea, but one thing experts do agree upon: as unpleasant as throwing up is, you’ll feel much better afterward, thanks to the endorphins that are released in the process.

September 10, 2012 - 10:30am
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