Throwing up or vomiting is the forceful expulsion of one’s stomach content through the mouth or nose.
Vomiting can either be accompanied by nausea or not. It’s a reaction accompanied by many causes. It’s an unpleasant experience but it helps rid the upper digestive tract of irritants.
However, if it happens repeatedly, then there is a problem. This is because it affects the body’s nutrition and health. Sometimes, in extreme situations, it can lead to death, days after the vomiting episode.
Vomiting is an important mechanism since it helps protect the body. The body expels toxic substances that go through the digestive system through the mouth. This is done before the toxic waste gets into the bloodstream. The brain has a vomit center that controls vomiting.
The brain sends strong impulses to the digestive tract through the nerves. The muscles located in the walls of the small intestine’s upper parts, the esophagus, and the stomach, contract coordinately to push content upwards into the mouth and out of it. This is referred to as antiperistalsis. This is because the process works in the opposite direction of the normal food movement while in the digestive tract.
Throwing up is a violent process as the contents of the digestive tract are forcefully expelled. When it becomes too strong, it can cause projectile vomiting.
Difference between vomiting and nausea
Nausea is the feeling of wanting to vomit. It comes before one vomits and can sometimes be felt even after vomiting. Its relief in most people is through vomiting.
Throwing up, on the other hand, may not always be preceded by nausea. The two are closely related however since they originate from the brain.
Stimulation of the vomiting center can either be directly or indirectly through the CTZ (chemoreceptor trigger zone). This is a very sensitive zone that is triggered by substances like drugs or hormones in the bloodstream.
Nausea and throwing up can, therefore, happen even when one has not eaten or without having an irritant in the digestive tract. Underlying diseases from other organs may make one experience this. They include kidney disease, liver disease, and brain injury.
Causes of vomiting after eating
Throwing up may be triggered by the following reasons:
- Eating some foods may worsen underlying disorders that cause throwing up and nausea.
- The digestive tract may be blocked therefore preventing easy movement of food through it.
- Substances in the blood can trigger the vomit centers.
- The digestive process, food irritating and an inflamed digestive tract.
Allergies and food intolerance
If every time you eat, you end up throwing up, you may have an allergy or intolerance. Intolerance can be caused by several factors including:
- Lack of an enzyme to digest a specific food fully.
- Food additives sensitivity.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Celiac disease. This is a chronic digestive condition triggered when one consumes gluten.
Lactose intolerance is an example of food intolerance.
In case of food allergies, consuming certain foods makes the gut trigger an immune response or allergic reaction. This is also caused by overeating, eating very oily foods, or unpalatable foods which trigger vomiting, even when the digestive tract has no problems.
Food allergies require that you keep a diary to help you identify what foods trigger vomiting and stop eating them. For example, in the case of lactose intolerance, one should look for lactose-free milk. Anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening, is one of the risks when one has food allergies. The doctor should give you Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q to inject yourself with, in case of emergencies.
Food intolerance treatment will require the doctor to identify what the underlying condition is, and treat you for it. He will also recommend ways to help your body digest certain foods.
A blockage in the digestive tract
Throwing up after every meal can be due to a blocked digestive tract. The blockage impedes movement of food through the gut despite contractions. This obstruction is caused when the gut narrows at a specific point. This narrowing can be caused by tumors and other growths, bowel twisting or when bowel portions get trapped in a hernia. This obstruction can also cause constipation, flatulence and diarrhea.
- This is a medical emergency and one should seek medication immediately. Do not try to treat yourself with laxatives or enemas.
- The doctor will use a flexible tube to remove gas and fluids. The tube is passed either through the mouth or nose. This helps to decompress the distended abdomen.
- Surgery can also be done to clear the obstruction. The patient should have a preoperative operation to restore electrolytes and fluids before the operation. This helps prevent shock and dehydration.
- After surgery, bowel resection may be done to rejoin severed ends of the intestine.
Sometimes, vomiting after eating can be caused by hormonal changes in the body. Eating intensifies caused by hormonal changes leading to throwing up. These hormonal changes can occur during pregnancy leading to morning sickness especially in the first months of pregnancy.
Some women experience the same when they use emergency contraceptive pills also known as the morning after pill or when experiencing severe periods.
To treat morning sickness, pregnant mothers can avoid foods and smells that give them nausea, drink lots of fluids, eat dry crackers first thing in the morning and choose foods with high carbohydrates and protein.
Throwing up after eating caused by the morning after pill will require the lady in question to ask her doctor for a change of brand or type. The doctor can also prescribe an additional dose since vomiting means the dosage did not work effectively.
Women with severe premenstrual syndrome should eat smaller portions of food frequently to avoid fullness that leads to throwing up. Limit their intake of salty foods and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Drugs and toxins
Vomiting after eating can be due to ingesting illicit drugs, alcohol or poisons. These substances can trigger the vomit centers leading to vomiting. The substances are known to also irritate the digestive tract which can lead to vomiting.
Do not consume drugs and toxins.
Bulimia is one of these conditions where one purges after eating. Eating disorders can make the person even vomit without having to purge.
Other conditions include anxiety and shock. A strained psychological state of mind can trigger nausea or vomiting.
Treat the underlying condition or offer therapy.
Food poisoning and gastroenteritis
One of the main causes of vomiting is food poisoning. This is mostly caused by infections caused by bacteria or viruses. Gastroenteritis occurs as an outbreak. It’s viral and can be passed from one person to the next.
Food poisoning occurs when one consumes contaminated water or food. The bacteria or virus in the food or water inflames the gastrointestinal tract through toxins or directly.
When vomiting occurs in gastroenteritis, it precedes diarrhea. One will vomit intensely for the first two days then diarrhea starts.
Treatment of gastroenteric and food poisoning
Gastroenteric can get resolved without medication since treatment aims at reducing symptoms and preventing dehydration.
- Drink a lot of fluids to replace lost electrolytes.
- Sip water in small amounts even if the throwing up persists.
- Start eating again gradually. You will find it easier to start with rice, toast, cereals and bananas.
- Avoid eating fatty, spicy and sugary foods, caffeine, alcohol or coffee since this will worsen gastroenteric symptoms.
- To avoid getting dehydrated, use oral rehydration salts. This can be used by infants, adults over 65 years, children and those with a weak immunity.
- The doctor can also prescribe drugs including antidiarrheal medication or antiemetic medication.
There are other conditions that can make a person throw up after eating including:
- Gallbladder disease
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- A brain injury that’s traumatic
- Addison’s disease
Treatment will involve identifying the underlying condition and treating it.