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May 31, 2006 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Why do I vomit so frequently? Is this out of the ordinary?

I'm in my early twenties, in good health, not pregnant nor have I ever been, et cetera.

The problem is, I find myself vomiting once or twice a month for varied reasons. A glass of wine too much (we're talking 2.5 glasses instead of 1.5) does it. So does the beginning of a cycle of BCPs. Occasionally I am motion sick. I am especially prone to catching 24-hour bugs that cause vomiting. It happens most often in the mornings, but is by no means limited to a particular time of day.

Basically whenever I feel nervous/sick/affected by medicine, it's manifested by throwing up.

I don't honestly know how frequently most people vomit; anecdotal evidence suggests perhaps anywhere from twice a year to once every five years.

So my questions are, in jumbled order, how often do healthy people generally puke? Does my weak stomach suggest a bigger problem? Why do some people have "weak" stomachs to begin with?
posted by anjamu to Health & Fitness (28 answers total)
I canonly provide more anecdotal evidence: I think the last time I vomited was about two years ago (I had some kind of throat bug, too much phlegm, trying desperately to hack some of it up). The time before would have been nearly three years previously, the last time I ate scallops. So, for me, twice in five years.

Twice a month suggests to me that you should see a doctor. But I think you already knew that.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:15 PM on May 31, 2006

Anecdotally, I haven't vomited in about 20 years. I'm no doctor, but I can't imagine that vomiting is ever a sign that everything's OK. People vomit because they're sick, or they've swallowed something their body is rejecting, right?

I'm so far out on a limb here that I might break it, but I wonder if you haven't just developed a sort of tolerance to vomiting, where since you do it so often, it's easier to do and thus more likely to occur, and so on. In the way that cracking your knuckles becomes hard not to do once you've gotten used to doing it.
posted by Hildago at 10:16 PM on May 31, 2006

I vomit occasionally, every couple of months. According to my boyfriend, I have a sensitive stomach. A big part of it is I feel queasy, and psych myself into throwing up. Afterwards I feel better, and it can be a reinforcing cycle.

I've been trying to change it, when I start thinking I'm going to be sick, I tell myself another reason for it, 'I don't have food poisioning, I'm hungry or need to take an antacid.' Once I have another reason and do something that should make me feel better, I do indeed feel better.
posted by stoneegg21 at 10:32 PM on May 31, 2006

I rarely vomit (four times in the last 32 years - once choking, twice drunk, once mysteriously), and I used to be highly anxious about actually vomiting.

Perhaps because you do it more often you're not too digusted by it, and don't make much of an effort to hold it back. You feel sick, you head to the toilet. I feel sick, I try to stay calm and try my best to keep it down.

If it's not without cause (drinking, etc) I figure it's not too abnormal (please note I have NO medical qualification) but if it does trouble you, do see a doctor.
posted by tomble at 10:32 PM on May 31, 2006

Last time was 1989, due to family getting giargia. I don't remember the time before that, some time in my early teens.

But I think I'm unusual on the other side of the scales. Sometimes it would be better if I did throw up and get it over with.
posted by lundman at 10:42 PM on May 31, 2006

I used to vomit weekly until I found out I had an ulcer. It was treatable by medication, and I don't vomit nearly as much now, but I still do 1-2 a month because of stress or food sensitivities. My vomiting also decreased when I became a vegetarian. I'm also more inclined to throw up rather than sit with a stomachache.
posted by Zosia Blue at 10:45 PM on May 31, 2006

Is this out of the ordinary?

Yes. But ask your doctor.
posted by cribcage at 10:49 PM on May 31, 2006

Yeah I'd say talk to your doctor. Maybe he'll suggest some antacid.

Have you always been like this? Or can you trace it back to one particular incident?

I know that once in a hungover stupor I took ibuprofin first thing in the morning, and my stomach has never been the same since.

Also, when I first started taking thyroid hormone, I felt really nauseated for a couple of months (although it eventually subsided). My doc said it was probably the hormone making my birth control metabolize differently.

Point of the above being that maybe it's caused by something in particular. Try to think of this when you talk to your doc. And make a list of precipitating events to throwing up.
posted by radioamy at 10:58 PM on May 31, 2006

Once in the last 12 years. From food poisoning acquired via streetfood in SE Asia.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:13 AM on June 1, 2006

Also, when I first started taking thyroid hormone, I felt really nauseated for a couple of months (although it eventually subsided). My doc said it was probably the hormone making my birth control metabolize differently.

I've never had a strong stomach, but it has gotten worse since I started taking thyroid hormone. I went from getting sick maybe twice a year to getting sick a lot more frequently in the past nine months I've been on it.

I will mention this to my GYN when I see him next.

You feel sick, you head to the toilet.

Pretty much. Don't get me wrong, I like vomiting just about as much as anyone else, but I prefer just to get it out of my system, especially since things usually get better afterwards.

I think I'll consult with various doctors when I see them next, and ask how the mix of meds I take might be affecting this.
posted by anjamu at 12:28 AM on June 1, 2006

It could totally be the BCPs. Hormonal birth control can lead to serious queasiness; it's the whole morning sickness effect. Consider switching to a low dose pill, or a longer cycle (three (or twelve, or twenty-four) months instead of one).
posted by mr_roboto at 12:30 AM on June 1, 2006

I'm exactly the same, always have been. Unless you're throwing up blood or being sick every few hours, I'd say just accept it as your body's natural reaction to such things; everyone has their own default response to illness/stress/bugs/indulging (be it vomiting, shivering, excreting, fainting, whatever). As long as you're aware enough of your own body to know the difference between this default reaction and something out of the ordinary, I really wouldn't be too worried.
posted by mtonks at 12:35 AM on June 1, 2006

I vomit about once a year from bad food or an imprudent night with alcohol.. twice a month sounds a little much to me.
posted by ori at 12:39 AM on June 1, 2006

I can't remember the last time I vomited. Probably more than ten years ago. Obviously people vary, but "once or twice a month" seems too frequent to me, and so worth asking your doctor about. Also, IIRC, vomiting is unpleasant.

I gather that throwing up frequently can do bad things to the lining of your throat, which doesn't really have any protection against the stomach acids it's exposed to when you vomit. (This might only be a problem for, say, bulimics throwing up several times a day, but I really have no idea.)
posted by hattifattener at 12:44 AM on June 1, 2006

i haven't vomited for 6 years ... the last time was due to our old pal, the flu ... usually, the flu doesn't do that to me ... that time it did

vomiting twice a month sounds wrong ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:53 AM on June 1, 2006

Given what you've mentioned, hormonal / medicinal causes are most likely. I had a very weak stomach when taking malaria pills.

Much less likely but still possible are problems with your vision or with your inner ear. My brother had constant nausea after a head injury which led to a lazy eye.
posted by randomstriker at 1:08 AM on June 1, 2006

There was a time when I was about your age when I'd vomit maybe two or three times a week. It was never because I was drunk or even because I felt queasy after eating something bad. I'd just vomit. I didn't even feel "sick" before it happened (or especially well afterwards). This vomiting thing lasted about six months. I couldn't be arsed seeing a doctor about it because it didn't bother me too much, I guess. It just stopped after a while.

In the ten or so years since then I've vomited twice after drinking too much and a couple of times through stomach bugs and the flu and that sort of thing. I'm not saying you SHOULDN'T see a doctor, but vomiting two to three times a month doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.
posted by bunglin jones at 1:46 AM on June 1, 2006

I used to vomit almost daily, because my epiglottis had a slow reaction time. I had to learn to eat more slowly and I now have quite good control over the muscles and so on in that region. I also have an easily upset stomach, but mostly it was just from something going down the wrong way. It doesn't sound like that's what's going on with you.

Anyway my doctor told me that vomitting that frequently could cause all sorts of problems - the acid can hurt your throat and teeth. He cautioned me to rinse my mouth out very thoroughly afterwards and gargle with lukewarm water to minimize that. Don't just brush your teeth without rinsing first since that actually accelerates the acid hurting your enamel.

I can think of a number of things this could be - your BC/hormonal issues; inflammatory bowel; food allergies (especially to something so pervasive you wouldn't make the connection, like gluten); ulcer. IANAD so I can't even begin to guess which (if any) it's most likely to be. I think you should talk to a doctor and find out if you have an ulcer, or need to take antacids, or need to change your BC formulation, or what.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:22 AM on June 1, 2006

See a doctor.

It could easily be BCPs though, they're different on everybody.
It is tough on the teeth and throat. I always hand people a dilute solution baking soda (directions on the box under "heartburn") and suggest they rinse their teeth, and maybe swallow a little if it feels right, to neutralize what's in the throat.
(IANAD, and I made up the baking soda thing, if anyone can figure out why this is a bad idea, please jump in.)
I figure it's a bad patch if I throw up more than once every 5 years, and it's usually over a stomach bug.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:05 AM on June 1, 2006

Some people have incredibly weak stomachs or have many triggers that cause them to vomit.

Before I changed my diet, I used to have acid reflux so bad that I'd get sick in the middle of the night. I can't drink water first thing in the morning, before food or a flavored beverage, or I'll toss my cookies. Sometimes I get sick just from looking at half eaten food, so everyone is different.

However, there is no reason not to see a doctor about it, if you're concerned for your health. Throwing up all the time isn't fun and it puts a lot of strain on your body. I've burst blood vessels under my eyes from the intensity of vomiting.

Oh yeah, for further anecdotal evidence I spew about once every two months or so.
posted by Destroid at 5:43 AM on June 1, 2006

I throw up reasonably frequently, a glass of wine can do it, so I think I just have a sensitive stomach.

I also get this weird thing when I need to burp where the air is trapped under food, and I start gagging really badly, and think I'm about to chunder, but usually I don't, sometimes I do.

It's weird.

I don't think you necessarily need to see your doc, but if you're worried I guess it wouldn't hurt.
posted by jonathanstrange at 5:56 AM on June 1, 2006

Once a year on average. I have some anxiety problems that once in blue moon act up and I'll need to hurl.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:01 AM on June 1, 2006

OK, I'm not sure why this thread has turned into "Let's all talk about how much we barf." You irregular vomiters: Good for you. But barfing rarely does not make to an expert on the subject.

Amjamu: Some people just vomit a lot. Sounds like you're one of those people. If your vomit regularity changes suddenly, that might be cause for alarm. Otherwise, though, it just sounds like you've got a hair trigger vomit reflex.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:09 AM on June 1, 2006

I would always vomit at the start of a new birth control pill pack when I was on Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and even with a low-dose pill like Yasmin. I also tried the birth control patch, which yielded the same, quesy results. The only methods that seem to have no effect on my stomach are Depo-Provera and the pill Mircette (generic "Kariva").
posted by lagreen at 7:49 AM on June 1, 2006

Anjamu, Zosia Blue suggests ulcers, likely to be caused by Helicobacter Pylori or any of a number of its cousins; your past posts suggest the possibility of back and forth travel to India.

Perhaps you could devote some effort to making sure your internal flora and fauna are as comfortably bicultural as you.
posted by jamjam at 9:05 AM on June 1, 2006

I'm not sure if it's that unusual, but for me vomiting is very rare. I can't even remember the last time I threw up in a non-drunk state, and only twice have I thrown up from being drunk
posted by delmoi at 10:05 AM on June 1, 2006

I know exactly what you're talking about, and why you're concerned. It seems wierd to be so accustomed to vomiting regularly when you don't think you really have a health issue i.e. bulimia or an ulcer.
Anyhow, I would say it was worst for my between the ages of 17-23. I attribute it to the stress in life at that time, I began drinking, going to college, first love. Anything and everything seemed to trigger it, as in I would be brushing my teeth and the slight gag reflex would cause me to be sick. AND I definitely noticed it with drinking, one night I could drink all I wanted, and another I would have 2 drinks and be sick all night. I would also sometimes get really shivery and definitely scared the hell out of my roomates and boyfriend more than once.
I went to a gastroenterologist, and about $1000 and an endoscopy later, the results were inconclusive. I'm only 26 now, but haven't been sick in a long time....know on wood. but I also feel far more stable in my life, anxiety is way less (and no, I'm not on any prescriptions). I also put my health first, as I didn't always do when younger. I eat well (I think this makes the biggest difference) completely staying away from fried or greasy food, and exercise pretty regularly.
In regard to BCP, I too noticed a coincidence, or thought I did, but I'm still on the same ones and never have problems anymore, so I'm not sure if I was linking the 2 out of logic.
Stay in tune with your body and if it seems to get out of control, definitely get yourself to a Dr.
posted by abee at 12:47 PM on June 1, 2006

Ginger is supposed to be good for settling your stomach. Ginger tea when you start a new pack of pills is worth a try.
posted by theora55 at 7:21 PM on June 1, 2006

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