Gagging for a solution.
May 12, 2006 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Gag/dry heaves with exertion. Help.

I'm a distance runner who has been suffering from a gag reflex brought on by even mild exertion.

It seems to be from the gradual collection of mucus in the back of my throat as a run progresses, accompanied with mild nausea and then a total spasmodic dry heave which incapacitates me for as long as 10-15 seconds before I can breathe and setle down again. It's a horrible, horrible sensation and affects training and (particularly) racing tremendously. Usually after one episode (earlier in a run - say 5-10 minutes into a 60 minute run) I can resume running without much additional bother.

Some observations and facts:

- i go through months of not being affected, but these are rare.
- it's not seasonal, or brought on by warm or cold weather.
- it seems to get worse under extreme stress (such as the morning before a race).
- i've had an acid reflux test and it came back negative.
- it's not hayfever related.
- dehydration seems to improve the situation somewhat.

I used to think that it was related to coffee consumption, but I've had periods of not drinking any coffee where it still persisted. I'm now thinking this might be a milk allergy.

Up until a few days ago I ate a fair amount of dairy - cheese and milk. This problem has hit me fairly hard of late. As I have a race coming up this weekend, I've cut out dairy to see if it gets better. I can't say for sure that I do feel any better as my last few days have been really easy.

Anyone have a similar problem? Could milk cause this? Are there other things I may have overlooked? I've read up about milk allergies but I haven't read about it causing anything quite so disruptive.

Thanks in advance.
posted by jimmythefish to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've suffered the exact same thing, especially in colder weather, and wonder if it might be asthma. I started using an inhaler before exercise which seemed to help.
posted by exogenous at 3:43 PM on May 12, 2006

This happens to me when I don't eat enough before working out. The scenerio for me usually goes something like:
Day 1: Don't eat quite enough dinner, go to bed a little hungry.
Day 2: Wake up, eat a normal breakfast (which for me is smallish), go to the gym at lunch before eating.
If I have been eating enough, running before lunch is no problem. If I haven't...

This also can happen to me in the morning before eating anything if I take certain medications (like decongestants) and don't drink quite enough water. Especially if, again, I didn't eat quite enough the night before. And, I even feel like that a little bit right now, as I sit here starving for dinner.
So, I would pay attention to your eating patterns before these things happen. Not just the day of, even, but the days proceeding as well.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:19 PM on May 12, 2006

Response by poster: ch1x0r,

Difinitely not eating or drinking water. I've experimented with eating different amounts and, if anything, eating more makes it a bit worse.

Could be some form of asthma, though when I saw the doctor some time ago he thought not. Haven't brought up the milk allergy stuff with anyone.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:24 PM on May 12, 2006

I have had it too. It gets worse when you try to swallow that mucus because the buildup gets trapped in your throat.

Most of the time, I try to dilute it by drinking some water and spitting it out. Most importantly, I'm told, is to stay hydrated when you're exerting that much energy, because that concentrated mucus/spit/what-have-you isn't too good for you.
posted by i8ny3x at 4:25 PM on May 12, 2006

This happens to me often during stress. I don't know why the phlem builds up but it does in just the right spot to cause a choke/gag reflex. It's very embarassing for me sometimes. I have two remedies that are a great help. One is to drink a little and gargle with mineral water. Second is to gargle or at least swoosh around some lemon and or salty water. The acids, minerals and salts break down that phlem quickly and give me instant relief. Also, if I know I will be encountering that kind of situation, I will suck on some hard candy ahead of time and it averts the thing entirely.
posted by snsranch at 6:41 PM on May 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses guys. I'll try a few of the suggestions. Cheers.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:11 PM on May 12, 2006

Kind of snsranch's situation.

I used to have it, playing intramurals in first year. I was nervous. Really socially nervious. Physical exertion, I guess, synergized with fight/flight and led to nausea.

When I felt more comfortable with myself, it hasn't been a problem.

I've also heard from friends who were running from the police; the extra fight/flight (freight) mixed with running really hard made them feel nauseaous - whereas racing against each other, I've never known them to exhibit any of the symptoms.

Not sure what the evolutionary reason for such a reaction was; perhaps voiding the stomach so one could run faster away from a (superior) predator...
posted by porpoise at 12:36 AM on May 13, 2006

Probably not applicable, but I used to have problems with gagginh when I ran and it turned out I had mono. It was the only symptom I had.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:05 PM on September 20, 2006

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