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Puking: Even worse than you might suspect.

2004-02-02 - 10:36 a.m.

Over the course of my life I’ve spent a lot of time vomiting. I have suffered from migraines for years (my two big triggers are hormone fluctuations – specifically when estrogen drops in my bloodstream – and weather, though there are other things such as certain foods, lack of sleep, etc. that affect me.)

I won’t bother to try to describe what a migraine feels like. If it’s any clue, I had the surface of my corneas burnt off with a laser and at the worst stage of the recovery I still thought to myself, in a drug-induced haze ‘it’s not as bad as a migraine.’

Now here’s the thing; migraines? They make a lot of people puke. So here’s the scene: I’m at the dentist. I’m 29 years old. He and his assistant are peering into my mouth frowning.

Assistant – Grinding?

Dentist - Mm. I don’t think so… (has me bite down on a piece of, essentially, carbon paper and wiggle my jaw around) That’s not abrasion, that’s erosion. (looking at me) Do you drink a lot of soft drinks? Maybe colas in particular?

Me – No, not really.

Dentist – Acidic juices? Citrus-based drinks?

Me – No, I wouldn’t say a lot.

Assistant (hesitating) – You don’t really fit the profile but… do you throw up a lot?

Me – Only when I have a migraine.

Their ears visibly perk.

Dentist – How often would that be?

Me – Well, maybe 12, 15 times a year.

Dentist – For how many years?

Me – Since I was, oh, maybe 12 or 13.

They exchange glances.

Dentist – That’ll do it.

So it turns out that excessive vomiting causes acid erosion of tooth enamel. This is one of the signs of bulimia. And since tooth enamel doesn’t grow back, throwing up once or twice a month for years can have the same effect as vomiting daily for a couple of months. Imagine my surprise. Imagine my distress. You see, the reason I’d gone to the dentist was because I’d noticed that my front teeth were getting very thin and were chipping easily. And it turned out that if I’d known in time, I could have done some things to prevent that damage.

After puking I should have:

  • Rinsed my mouth really well with water.
  • Brushed my teeth lightly.
  • Chewed an antacid tablet, swished it around to neutralize the acid in my mouth, and then spit it out again. (Swallowing it wasn’t recommended to me – something to do with causing the stomach to produce more acid. Plus, trying to swallow anything would have triggered me to throw up again.)

These things are easier said than done when you’re sick with a migraine and just rolling over onto your side can make you vomit. The better route is to take my migraine meds early and/or an antinauseant before it even gets to the danger point.

Since this time I’ve had my teeth fixed (something I’ll save for another entry) and found a medication that works pretty well for me, so I don’t actually throw up that much anymore.

Here’s one last tip, though, learned from lots of experience and a touch of serendipity…

If you puke a lot, or anticipate puking in the near future, keep some oranges around. Then, when you find yourself a prisoner on the raft of your bed and unable to go to the bathroom to puke in the toilet and are force to hoarf into a bucket, add some small pieces (small as in, bigger than a dime but no bigger than a quarter so that you can eventually dispose of them down the toilet without causing a blockage) of orange peel to the bucket. Instead of your room reeking of vomit, making you want to hurl even more, the stomach acid eats away at the peel and releases the orange oil, permeating your room with the more refreshing smell of fresh oranges.

Warning: if you’re one of those people that form negative associations easily, you may start to associate the smell of oranges with being queasy. Not fun.

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