Vomiting - hormones etc
June 2, 2005 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Can someone please point me to a discussion of what happens in your body (focussing on hormones and associated chemistry) when you are ill. I'm curious why you/how you feel so good after (is that feeling similar to heroin?) and so bad before (particularly the sweating and feeling of coldness) vomiting. If it makes any difference, assume food poisoning [no more inside, since 3am last night].
posted by andrew cooke to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
This isn't much help, but I saw a program on the Discovery Channel (or some network like that) a few years ago that detailed all of the changes and effects your body experiences when you have the flu. They also had one about being drunk. It was fascinating stuff, and I've been unable to find any information about those programs since. I don't remember if they discussed the vomiting thing or not, but you could probably get something interesting out of it.

It's really frightening just how delicate and precise our bodies are. Just one little misfire, and the whole thing would come to a screeching halt.

Sorry you're not feeling well...
posted by MsVader at 11:57 AM on June 2, 2005

Response by poster: thanks (i'm actually a fair bit better now, though i've not tried eating much yet). i tried googling for endorphins, but didn't get anywhere useful. any heroin users out there? it was a pretty good feeling after - very warm and safe.

ah. this link implies that it would be more like morphine.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:06 PM on June 2, 2005

The warm fuzzy feeling after happens because, yep, your body is producing endorphins to help you deal with the physical trauma of barfing. The feeling before? I'm not sure. People are often pale, so we can assume low blood pressure... that may account for the cold sweats.

It's really frightening just how delicate and precise our bodies are. Just one little misfire, and the whole thing would come to a screeching halt.

Yeah, I've thought about this too, when I had amoebic dysentery. Oy.

posted by Specklet at 12:30 PM on June 2, 2005

I don't think I've ever felt any feeling of relief that came close to the lovely embrace of a heroin buzz.
posted by cmonkey at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2005

Best answer: Assuming the cause is food poisoning, the following might be useful. The mechanism can even be found in fish. The body is particularly protective of the brain and constantly monitors for neurotoxins. It does this by comparing the visual representation of motion (image slewing) with the vestibular representation from the organs of balance. When these two sets of signals disagree above a certain threshold, the brain assumes that the gut contains poison of some sort and initiates a strong vagus nerve barrage to initiate vomitting in order to rid the body of the presumed source of the poison. (It is only very recently in our evolutionary history that poisoning would be caused by a route other than ingestion.)

However, the vagus nerves are also used to control breathing rate, sweating and metabolic rate. Thus, a vagal barrage sets off all these mechanisms, significantly disrupting the entire homeostasis balance - cold sweats, excess gastric secretion (nausea), deep breathing (which leads to acid/base imbalance because one is blowing off too much CO2) and significant shunting of peripheral blood flow to the core just to name a few.

The warm and cuddlies after the event are due to the endorphin release (as mentioned above) as well as the re-establishment of homeostasis, in particular, the establishment of normal blood flow. This latter might account for the feeling of warmth, as the temperature sensors reside primarily in the skin. The contrast between before and after enhances the strength of the sensation. (If the changes were of the same magnitude, but occurred over the space of a day, then it would not seem so profound. An example of this would be recovering from mountain sickness, which is just as "sick-making" but the changes are slower.)

Hope you've seen the last of it, Andrew.
posted by RMALCOLM at 5:43 PM on June 2, 2005

I've never felt this post flu high. Is this common? I just go from flu to better. Not better than normal though...interesting...
posted by jikel_morten at 7:28 PM on June 2, 2005

As for the cold feeling, basing my answer off of chills, your body is trying to remove an invader. For both a virus and poisoning, you would get cold b/c your body is consolidating your heat inside your body, trying to warm it up to kill the infection. Your body feels cold, you cover up and raise your temperature to a fever and burn out the infection. If one is trying to avoid a fever, despite how torturously painful chills can be, you're not supposed to cover up. Vomiting is another way to rid your body of the infection, so I would think raising your body temp would go along with it.
posted by scazza at 8:21 PM on June 2, 2005

Response by poster: just returning to my old threads, and realised that RMALCOLM's reply was even more correct than i first thought - they mention visual representations of motion, and i was on an overnight bus. normally i don't get travelsick, but i suspect that exacerbated the problem.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:03 AM on November 16, 2005

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