Why Does Throwing Up Relieve Migraines
Why Does Throwing Up Relieve Migraines? The first thing you probably notice about someone who’s throwing up is that they look awful. Not only do their eyes have the telltale red ring around them from poor circulation, but there are dark circles under their puffy eyelids and sallow skin all over. But what you might not realize is that these facial indicators are actually helpful for this person – even though they’re sure making everyone else feel terrible. In fact, one recent study found that people who throw up during an attack reported feeling significantly less severe headaches afterward than those who didn’t.
And another study showed that people who eat before having a meal experienced more relief from migraines than those who ate without food beforehand. The takeaway? When your body gets sick, it wants you to be well enough to get better so it can survive. Vomiting is its way of doing just that.
Vomiting isn’t always something we want our bodies to do, especially when we’re trying to avoid getting sick. It’s common knowledge that throwing up is bad for us (it dehydrates) and can make us feel worse if done too much (as in “I threw up three times last night”). This means many of us turn to other ways of relieving nausea and stomach discomfort, like taking antacids or drinking ginger ale.
However, this strategy doesn’t work nearly as effectively as vomiting does. In fact, according to a recently published systematic review of multiple studies on the topic, vomit has been shown to be effective at reducing both the frequency and intensity of migraines among people who suffer from them. So why exactly is this happening?
So what makes vomiting effective at treating migraines? Let’s start by discussing how this condition works.
What Causes Migraines?
A migraine is caused by abnormal activity within parts of the brain called neurons. Neurons communicate with each other through electrical impulses, which travel along tiny tubes made up of proteins called axonemes. These nerve cells send signals to various areas of the brain, including the cortex where higher cognitive functions take place. During a migraine, however, some of these neurons become hypersensitive, causing them to fire off faster and stronger than usual. As a result, the affected area feels throbbing pain.
Migraines often begin after eating certain foods, particularly fatty ones. They also occur more frequently in women than men, perhaps because hormones affect neuron sensitivity. People with allergies or sensitivities to particular substances may develop migraines, as may those with sleep apnea. Some medications, including antidepressants, beta blockers and high-blood pressure drugs, can cause migraines.
One theory suggests that when someone throws up, the resulting gastric reflux causes acid to back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux is known to trigger migraines, because it irritates sensory nerves near the lining of the digestive tract. To relieve this irritation, the brain sends chemical messages to dilate blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the head and neck. This increases blood flow, helping clear away excess acids and relieving any congestion that could otherwise lead to migraine episodes.
Another possible reason that vomiting helps treat migraines is that it stimulates the release of chemicals that decrease inflammation and ease pain. Endorphins, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides released during vomiting also act as natural tranquilizers and painkillers. Because endorphin levels increase during vomiting, the resulting mood lift and increased energy could improve overall vigor. Additionally, vomiting acts as an anti-inflammatory, since it reduces the amount of fluid in your stomach, providing relief from the swelling associated with most types of migraines. Finally, because saliva contains bicarbonate ions, spitting out half a glass of water following a bout of vomiting could neutralize stomach acids and alleviate migraine pain.
How to Get Your Body Going With Throwing Up
There are several different ways to induce vomiting, but one method is to use emetics, or medicine designed to induce vomiting. Emetics include barium sulfate, which coats the gastrointestinal tract wall and tricks the stomach into releasing its contents; syrup of ipecac, which contains a toxic substance derived from poison ivy; and tincture of camphor, which is used to purge the system of alcohol and drug abusers. Overuse of these remedies can actually cause poisoning, so don’t try them yourself unless you know what you’re doing!
Emetics aren’t ideal for preventing migraines, however, because they require repeated doses, sometimes every hour. If you experience frequent bouts of vomiting, the side effects of these treatments can include dehydration, abdominal cramps and constipation. You could also aggravate the problem by accidentally swallowing the vomited material. Instead, try using emetics sparingly and as needed. For example, you might consider using them to help your child deal with a bout of nausea while traveling.
In addition to emetics, there are several nonpharmacological methods you can employ to induce vomiting. One simple technique is to lie down on your back, then roll onto your right side and put your left elbow against your chest. Gently push your upper torso forward until your chin points upward. Now tilt your head backward and allow gravity to force your mouth open, allowing the contents of your stomach to come rushing out. Repeat this process 10 times per session.
For long-term prevention, you should consult your doctor regarding whether you need medication to manage your migraines. There are prescription and over-the-counter options available, including NSAIDs, calcium channel blockers, steroids and ergotamines. Other treatment methods include acupuncture, massage therapy, biofeedback therapy and hypnosis.
Throwing up isn’t always easy, but it seems to be worth the effort. We’ve got lots of tips for dealing with nausea here.
One popular misconception states that vomiting cures hangovers. While this may have once been true, modern science now confirms that vomiting cannot cure hangovers. Why? Because the alcohol is already gone from the bloodstream before the signal reaches the stomach. Therefore, vomiting won’t rid the body of the toxins responsible for the headache.
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