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Last Medical Review: March 26, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
Vomiting (March 26, 2020)

What is that Vomiting

is a fairly frequent ailment that consists of the violent expulsion of food from the stomach from the mouth. It is generally accompanied by increased salivation and paleness. Normally the term vomiting is used indistinctly to indicate three different conditions: nausea, retching and actual vomiting. Nausea is a sensation difficult to describe, being perceivable only by the individual. Normally it precedes vomiting, but not always those who warn it then vomit. The retching is due to the contraction of the respiratory muscles and precedes or accompanies vomiting.

The mechanism of vomiting

Vomiting is the result of a complex mechanism, regulated by a ” control unit ” located in a particular area of ​​the brain. At this “ vomiting center ” signals arrive from various parts of the body:

  • from the cerebral cortex, which can stimulate the center by sending messages of flavors, smells, memories, emotions, images;
  • from the ear, which mainly transmits information relating to the position of the body in relation to space;
  • from different parts of the digestive system (throat, stomach, intestine) and from other organs, such as the heart.

At the center of the vomit also the stimuli induced by exposure to radiation or coming from another area of ​​the brain, which in turn is excited by the presence of particular chemicals, both produced by the body (e.g. urea, ” acetone ”) that administered for therapeutic purposes (drugs). Once excited, the center sends back to the salivary glands, the muscles of the abdomen, the diaphragm and various portions of the stomach, esophagus and duodenum the stimuli that result in vomiting. Vomiting medications act by inhibiting the activity of this center.

The causes of vomiting

Vomiting can have several causes and occur suddenly or periodically. In some cases its defense function can be easily understood: in fact, the ingestion of dangerous substances or foreign bodies can induce vomiting which must be seen as an attempt by the organism to expel what can be harmful. In many other cases, however, it is not possible to identify a defense function and vomiting becomes a disorder without purpose. Vomiting is a symptom that accompanies certain digestive tract disorders (e.g. gastroenteritis, ulcer, intestinal obstruction, changes in gastro-intestinal motility). It can be due to bacteria and virus infections or, in children, be caused by the presence of a high amount of “acetone” in the blood. Vomiting can be caused by a severe throbbing headache that can last from a few hours to days, it is frequently encountered during pregnancy, especially in the first few months. Many people suffer from nausea and vomiting when they go by car, ship, or plane (motion sickness or motion sickness); in other people, who suffer from disturbances in the system of controlling the position of the body in space (located in the ear), vomiting accompanies dizziness. Other causes may be painful stimuli (e.g. menstrual pain, migraine), violent emotions, high intake of alcoholic beverages. Nausea or vomiting after surgery are also quite frequent and disturbing conditions.   Many medications can also cause symptoms of nausea and vomiting, especially when given by mouth, but not only. Among the drugs, those used in anticancer treatments are those that induce the most severe form of vomiting.

Consequences of vomiting

A single episode or isolated vomiting episodes never cause serious problems. Repeated vomiting, on the other hand, involves the loss of water, sodium, chlorine and potassium above all: if this loss becomes important, medical intervention is essential to restore the water and the salts lost. In addition, prolonged vomiting prevents normal feeding and this can lead to malnutrition. Another complication can be a laceration bleeding from the internal lining (the mucous membrane) of the stomach. In people with impaired state of consciousness (e.g. after a traffic accident or surgery) there is a risk that vomiting may be sucked into the respiratory tract and cause pneumonia.

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