Make me barf!
April 16, 2010 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Tell me how to make myself vomit when I need to. Not using fingers, spoon, or anything swallowed.

When eating, my esophagus occasionally gets clogged up. Any food in there won't go down into the stomach and comes back up. (Not pleasant.) To make a bad situation worse, whatever is at the bottom, causing the clog, doesn't automatically come up too, so the esophagus stays clogged. If I try to wait it out, it can take a long time to resolve itself, either by finally coming up, or mysteriously deciding to go down after all. Meanwhile, anything swallowed, including saliva or sips of water, comes back up, life is miserable, and food on the plate remains uneaten.

What I need is a way to make myself barf, to get that last bit of food out and un-clog my throat.
  • Methods that won't work: anything that needs to be swallowed (since I can't), including ipecac, sodium bicarb, water, etc.
  • Methods that no longer work: fingers or spoon tickling the back of the throat
Is there some other method that works? Some cool medical gadget? A substance that can be introduced into the body not using the throat?

I'm a male in my sixties, otherwise in good health. I already know to eat slowly and chew each bite. Disclaimer: I am not bulimic. I need to make myself vomit only occasionally (less than once a month), and only for this particular reason.
posted by exphysicist345 to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
IANAD, and I don't have any practical advice on self-induced vomiting, but have you considered consulting a doctor about the esophagus-clogging issue specifically? A friend of mine gets this problem when taking certain types of heart medication, which suggests that it may be related to larger systemic issues.
posted by Bardolph at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you consulted a physican about this? There are a number of potentially serious esophageal problems that might create that feeling.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2010


do you have a problem producing saliva? because I think saliva is supposed to thin your chewed food and lubricate it on the way down. do you drink water or anything else as you eat?
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2010


You'd be able to get quite a few tips from pro-bulimia, known as "pro-mia," online communities.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


can't believe I'm typing this . . . but just hanging my head in the toilet and the smell associated with it makes me puke.

Lots of smells make me want to puke . . . dog poop, the smell of vomit (and actually watching someone else vomit). Maybe approach it through the olfactory . . . smell some really gross stuff.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2010


IANAD, but I'm pretty sure that is not normal and you should see a doctor about it.
posted by bettafish at 6:45 PM on April 16, 2010


This happens to me too, I've never found puking to help because it is just as stuck going up as down. Chugging water tends to dislodge it for me, but you really have to commit or the water will come right back up.

You also have to try and get relaxed and calm, which can be hard in such an uncomfortable situation.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:45 PM on April 16, 2010


There isn't really any special trick to making yourself throw up if you aren't able to do it. You might have to use your finger. I don't see why that's not an option.

You REALLY have to see a doctor about this, you could have a real health problem. Like damage to the lining of your esophagus or a growth or something. IANAD, but if I had this problem I'd get me to a doctor.
posted by ishotjr at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2010


Obviously you should be careful with vomiting so often. That acid will do some serous damage to your esophagus and cause erosion of the teeth (yikes).

My grandmother had a similar problem. She visited a gastrointestinal doctor monthly for endoscopies. He would find the spot causing the blockage and inflate a small balloon to stretch out the tight spots. By the end of the month, she'd begin having trouble getting food down, but the endoscopies helped immensely.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2010


You will likely get a lot of really really bad and dangerous tips on pro-mia communities. And in many pro-eating disorder communities, the "how do I make myself vomit" question is verboten and is deleted as soon as it's asked. (I'm pretty uncomfortable with this question being here because someone with an eating disorder could easily find it.)

This sounds like something you need to talk to your doctor about; esophagi don't normally get clogged.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]



You REALLY have to see a doctor about this, you could have a real health problem.


No, not really. It's just a combination of a (probably, since the same thing happens to my dad I assume it is genetic) slightly narrower esophagus than most and not chewing well enough.

It's not like it's stuck in the windpipe.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2010


I periodically experienced that problem as part of a year-long nausea and digestion issue. Since starting Losec (a prescription proton pump inhibitor to reduce the acid in my stomach) the issue has stopped. This is definitely an issue you want to take up with your doctor because I am sure there's a better solution for you than just finding a more efficient way to puke.

When I did get food stuck in my throat -- which I agree is an awful, awful feeling -- I coughed and burped as much as possible. Often I was able to regurgitate just that bite of food by coughing, which is far preferable to throwing up your whole meal. But, again, I feel like you'd be best served by a trip to the doctor. Good luck -- I hope you find a solution soon.
posted by kate blank at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2010


Someone I know recently had gastric bypass surgery and this happens to them fairly often, so I'd really suggest checking with a doctor on this one.

There are drugs that have powerful emetic effects and do not require ingestion (for dogs there are certain emetics that are introduced into the eye as a liquid or ointment), but you are probably not going to be able to easily get them without a prescription, so hey! Another reason to brave the waters of the health care system!
posted by Rock Steady at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2010


You really should see a doctor. I am *NOT* saying you have cancer, but my father's esophageal cancer was discovered because he could not get food down and experienced something similar to what you're describing. I am not trying to be an alarmist, but really please see a doctor, and if it turns out to be nothing, great. That's far better than ignoring a small problem that eventually becomes a bigger one that is more difficult to treat.
posted by katemcd at 6:55 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, I will see a doctor about this.

But... 99% of the time, food goes down just fine, just like it always has.

I am not vomiting very often.... a few times a year.

I generate plenty of saliva, and sip water while eating.

The finger used to work, but I guess my gag reflex has become de-sensitized, as it no longer words.

Understanding that you may be hesitant to answer my question here because it might be useful to bulimics, please feel free to me-mail me instead of posting. Thanks.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2010


No, not really. It's just a combination of a (probably, since the same thing happens to my dad I assume it is genetic) slightly narrower esophagus than most and not chewing well enough.
I'm glad you're a doctor and have decided to diagnose this person over the internet/tell them not to seek medical advice for a symptom that can be for a condition that needs to be treated.

Glad the OP has decided to see a doctor.
posted by ishotjr at 7:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to have to go with that annoying "attack the premise" thing, too. This is kind of like saying "I've had this huge sucking chest wound for a couple months now - can you recommend a better bandage for it? Because the ones I'm using get soaked with blood way too fast."

I'm just one data point, but at 38 I have vomited five times in the last 20 years. Three of those five times were alcohol-related, and two were due to food poisoning.

In other words, I think most people would consider having to voluntarily vomit "a few times a year" very often indeed.

Just to give that outside perspective, this is - IMHO - a really desperately serious and weird thing that needs to be addressed by a professional.
posted by ErikaB at 7:17 PM on April 16, 2010


The suggestion of using the olfactory route is brilliant. Is there anything that can be purchased, say, at a pharmacy or grocery, that has a particularly nauseating smell? Not just a bad smell, but specifically nauseating? (Hmmm. Fish sauce comes to mind.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:38 PM on April 16, 2010


Yes, please see a doctor. This sounds exactly like my grandfather who had a hiatal hernia.
posted by kimdog at 7:40 PM on April 16, 2010


I'm glad you're a doctor and have decided to diagnose this person over the internet/tell them not to seek medical advice for a symptom that can be for a condition that needs to be treated.


Dude, if he has had it for so many years that he can't even gag himself any more it isn't some new damage or condition.

If he had a head ache we could tell him to go to a doctor and get checked for brain cancer but take an aspirin is probably the better advice.

There are some things doctors can do to help with dysphagia though so it is still worthwhile to go, but no need to put serious fears in his head in this case.


Is there anything that can be purchased, say, at a pharmacy or grocery, that has a particularly nauseating smell? Not just a bad smell, but specifically nauseating? (Hmmm. Fish sauce comes to mind.)


Could just let the garbage ferment for a while. Or take whatever your least favorite food is, leave it out for a while in a container until it goes seriously bad and keep it on hand, that could do it.

exphysicist345: Have you tried really gulping down water? It can push down just as well as the vomit can push up, it's seriously uncomfortable but I can't imagine vomiting is in any way better.

It always works for me eventually.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:03 PM on April 16, 2010


furious: No, I haven't tried forcing down water, because actually I didn't know it was possible. I does sound promising and I want to try it next time. How do you do it? Any suggestions?
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:17 PM on April 16, 2010


Dog poop is free, no pharmacy or grocery required. I'd just stick something entirely gross (and your idea and my idea of entirely gross may be different) in a jar or tupperware . . . one little whiff . . .
posted by Sassyfras at 8:21 PM on April 16, 2010


Rather than keeping a jar of dog poop on your kitchen counter for the couple times of year you might need it, how about LiquidASS? Also, yeah, see an ENT.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:37 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]




furious: No, I haven't tried forcing down water, because actually I didn't know it was possible. I does sound promising and I want to try it next time. How do you do it? Any suggestions?


Just take as much water as you can handle (start small) and drink it with as much force as you can. If it doesn't dislodge it you will have to half puke/spit it out and try again, you will be able to feel if it does or not work instantly.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:48 PM on April 16, 2010


IANYD, but you should indeed see one. Not an ENT, they don't deal with the esophagus, it's considered 'below the throat'. You need a GI doctor and probably an upper endoscopy to confirm you don't have an anatomical issue, maybe a barium swallow. There might be some MUCH better medical solution to your problem that doesn't involve always having to obsess about the way you eat things, and occasionally making yourself vomit, although I agree that it's not like you need to go to an emergency department or anything, but why not get it checked out? If they find that everything is structurally and physiologically normal, then you just go on as you are now, but if they do find something, you could be much better off if you can get it fixed.

As for dislodging an esophageal food bolus, in doctor world there's this anecdotal thing that I have seen work a whole bunch of times, and it's making people chug a 20 oz Coca Cola. The physician who told me this trick said it has to be real Coke and not generic. ;-) but I don't know about that, I just know I've seen it work - I even had an 80 year old grandma do this trick. You really have to chug down the Coke though, which grandmas aren't that good at. You can only do this with a soft food item though, you could really cause some damage if you did it with a fish bone - something like that requires medical attention. And yes, I have seen this work on people who initially told me that "but if I drink something, it'll just come back up". YMMV! This is not medical advice!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:13 PM on April 16, 2010


Yeah I wouldn't go chugging a full 20oz of anything because there is a good chance it WILL come back up if you don't have enough force and that would just end up a waste of coke and if you take too much at once you may back it up towards the wind pipe and the real danger zone. Use water, in increasing amounts.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:17 PM on April 16, 2010


Nthing what everyone's said about drinking water, but I'll also mention that warm-verging-on-hot water is significantly more effective for me. Drink with force and, like others have said, you'll know if it's not working.
posted by MeghanC at 12:04 AM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading the above, it sounds like vomiting might not be your best solution.

That said, vomiting without any aid at all is easy. Just... do it. You've vomited before, and you know what it feels like to do it, so just reproduce that actions. To make sure I wasn't bullshitting you, I just tried, and I was successfully vomiting in about 15 seconds.
posted by planet at 12:26 AM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What about using something like Ipecac? It's known to induce vomiting, and in fact I recall my Grandma giving me Ipecac when she thought I'd swallowed something poisonous. If Ipecac doesn't work, think of Sarah Palin naked...or Karl Rove naked, your choice. Guaranteed results.
posted by motown missile at 1:56 AM on April 17, 2010


I used to get this fairly frequently (especially when having lunch with my boss). It seems to have been caused by my very enlarged thyroid (since removed). To this day I will never eat anything without liquid present, which means, at restaurants, I have to stop eating if I finish my drink and wait for the server to top me up in order to finish my meal. The hard swallow with a liquid has never failed to work me for me, and I suddenly see how fortunate I am in that.

It's annoying and uncomfortable, and really embarrassing. Definitely worth a trip to the doctor.

Since my thyroid was removed, I haven't experienced this problem again.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:09 AM on April 17, 2010


Regular (even once a month) vomiting is going to cause more problems than it solves. Especially if you have preexisting esophagus issues, this is a great way to make the problem worse or give yourself more serious problems. Go to a gastroenterologist. They may have a fix for this that will hurt way less.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:16 AM on April 17, 2010


Reading the above, it sounds like vomiting might not be your best solution.

Agreed. It really isn't that I want to vomit, I just want to clear the blockage out of my esophagus.

That said, vomiting without any aid at all is easy. Just... do it. You've vomited before, and you know what it feels like to do it, so just reproduce that actions.

Being able to do this by sheer will power is totally awesome.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:20 AM on April 17, 2010


This exact same thing happened to my dad, also in his 60s. He had a fairly minor surgery which corrected the problem.

When he began mentioning it to friends and coworkers, it turned out that a lot of other people had had the same problem! It's not uncommon and totally fixable by non-vomity means.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:49 AM on April 17, 2010


perhaps i do not need to say this, but never, ever, take ipecac syrup to induce vomiting.
posted by inertia at 11:40 PM on April 17, 2010


EPILOGUE

I tried hard-swallowing liquid and had success with it, but only about half the time.

I saw my family doctor and he nodded and said it's a common problem and got me an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

In a simple 20 minute procedure, the doc sedated me, examined my esophagus and stomach with an endoscope, saw that I have a hiatal hernia, and did something with a balloon. Now I'm on Prilosec for a month to control stomach acid while the esophagus heals.

Thanks to all who urged seeing a doc. You were right! If anyone with my symptoms reads this, I too recommend seeing a doctor. While the symptoms aren't life-threatening, they are common and often can be easily treated.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:55 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


P.S.

It's been three months, and I haven't had a clogged esophagus. Once again it's pleasurable to eat and swallow. I declare the medical procedure a success!
posted by exphysicist345 at 1:00 PM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


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