Health & Medicine

  • Issue 93 / May - June 2013



    A Blessing Behind an Unlikely Veil: Vomiting as a Healthy Human Reflex

    Nebil Mersinli

    Being one of the most important human reflexes, vomiting is the phenomenon of spewing out, through the mouth and nose, the contents of the stomach and intestines in the form of strong convulsions. Vomiting is among the very early symptoms giving notice to cerebral bleedings and tumors which develop due to intracranial pressure increase, urinary tract infections and blood glucose levels that lead to diabetic coma and intestinal obstructions. The real health problems would be revealed thanks to vomiting.

    The harmful foodstuff eaten is spat out quickly through vomiting and so damages of such foodstuff is minimized. Occurring upon taking of any poisonous food or alcohol, vomiting directly contributes to treatment by ensuring a quick disgorge of the harmful stuff. Variations in amounts of estrogen and progesterone hormones during pregnancy helps in noticing even the least amount of toxins (poisons) found in the blood by way of increasing sensitivity of the chemoreceptor trigger zone within the brain stem. When this zone of the brain takes notice of toxins in the blood, it immediately activates feeling of nausea and vomiting. Margie Profet, a researcher from the University of California at Berkeley was the first person who drew attention to this issue in 1995. She asserted that food craving is a divinely merciful mechanism aiming at protection of the miraculously developing embryo against probable dangers within the human body. She also asserted that food craving protects the embryo from natural toxins in foods. Vomiting may also happen to travellers and sufferers of migraine. Certain psychological factors such as unpleasant smell and excessive fear may result in vomiting as well.

    If, however, vomiting recurs and turns out to become a habit, one should be careful, for vomiting causes new problems such as electrolyte losses and dehydration while irritating the alimentary canal, throat, mouth and teeth through which vomited matter passes. In addition to these, regurgitating might be inadvisable and indeed should be avoided in certain cases of poisoning which develop due to ingestion of petroleum products and burning chemicals like hypochlorite and ammonia which are used in house cleaning. The reason for this is because petroleum products may cause pulmonary infection of chemical origin in the lungs and burning chemicals may cause scalds on the tissues they touch during regurgitating.

    Just like all the systems that our bodies are equipped with, vomiting also happens in accordance with a plan and program during which a wonderful co-ordination is displayed. The vomiting center in the brain is responsible for such co-ordination.

    Rapid increase in salivation and nasal secretion prior to vomiting plays a key role in alleviating damages of the highly acidified vomited matter over the interior surfaces of the mouth and nose. Increased salivation helps with the protection of tooth enamel too. The pushing process of the foods eaten normally occurs from the intestines towards the bowels during the course of digestion. However, it reverses and occurs from the intestines towards the stomach during which the muscles of gastrointestinal tracts relax, open and the contents of the intestines are thus gathered in the stomach. Taking deep breaths prior to vomiting decreases the need for breathing during vomiting and blocking of the air passage by vocal cords’ converging prevents aspiration, that is, the passage of contents of stomach to the lungs. If such mechanisms did not exist, every vomiting attack might have ended catastrophically. Breathing attempts apply negative pressure on the rib cage and convulsion of stomach muscles applies positive pressure within the abdomen in spite of the converging of vocal cords. A pressure decrease is observed in order for contents of the stomach to be regurgitated. Muscles of the gastrointestinal tract tighten while muscles of the gate between alimentary canal and stomach relax just before vomiting. So, regurgitating via alimentary canal occurs without passage of stomach contents to intestines. Upon completion of vomiting, there is the disappearance of abdominal convulsions and the secretion of endorphin in the blood, so a person breathes sigh of relief.

    In conclusion, although vomiting is perceived as something which is seemingly unpleasant, it is indeed a fine product of Divine artistry like all other systems and mechanisms of our body. Vomiting, as one of the proofs that God has created nothing useless and unnecessary, is certainly a great blessing bestowed upon us.

    References
    “Sickening sounds - research to make your ears cringe.” University of Salford. January 28, 2007.
    Lunsden, K, and Holden WS. 1969. “The act of vomiting in man.” Gut 10: 173-179.
    Margie Profet (1995) Protecting Your Baby-to-Be: Preventing Birth Defects in the First Trimester. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. pp. viii, 312.
    Flaxman, S.M. and P.W. Sherman 2000. “Morning sickness: A mechanism for protecting mother and embryo.” Quarterly Review of Biology June 2000. 75:1-36.

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