What Is a Gag Reflex and Can You Stop It

What Is A Gag Reflex?

A gag reflex is a condition where you have a sudden urge to vomit when something unpleasant or even painful happens. For example, if someone kicks you in the stomach while making fun of you, your gag reflex will kick in immediately and cause you to throw up. Other times it may not happen at all. If you don’t feel sick after the event, then it’s probably just a muscle spasm. However, if you do feel sick, then it could be due to other reasons such as dehydration or eating too much food before the event.

There are many different types of gag reflexes. Some people only experience a mild gag reflex reaction while others experience severe reactions. There are several things that can cause a person to develop a gag reflex:

Genetic factors – The genetic makeup plays a major role in developing gag reflex. Many people with certain genes aren’t able to have them, which means they won’t ever experience the response. People with certain diseases also tend to have less developed gag systems than those without the disease.

Neurological factors – Anything in the brain that affects nerve functioning can lead to unusual gag reflexes. This is only a factor if the person has had a severe head injury, disease, or anything else that has altered their brain functioning.

Sensory factors – Anything that messes with sensory processing can lead to unusual gag reflexes. Those who have certain kinds of blindness or other sensory impairments may have a less developed gag reflex than others.

Psychological factors – Anything that is experienced mentally can potentially alter gag reflexes. This includes anything from being traumatized by seeing something gross to having a phobia of vomit or even needles. Anything that messes with your mindset can change how your gag reflex works.

What Is A Overactive Gag Reflex?

An overactive gag reflex is when the body experiences an unusually strong response to something that shouldn’t cause vomiting. In some cases, it can be due to a medical condition such as bulimia, but for most people it is just due to genetics or a psychological reason. Most people don’t experience overactive gag reflexes without having bulimia. Others with bulimia have milder forms of overactive gag reflexes. Those who suffer from bulimia nervosa have an uncontrollable urge to vomit after eating anything even slightly “bad.”

How To Stop Gag Reflex?

There are a few different ways to stop gag reflex from overreacting or even performing at all. Most of these are only effective in certain cases and may not work at all for others. The following are some common suggestions for how to stop gag reflex from happening:

Always wear an ACE bandage around your throat when doing anything that involves the mouth. This will help to keep the throat from being stretched in any way, which can cause the gag reflex to kick in.

Keep your throat hydrated by drinking water before doing anything that involves the mouth. You can also keep some water nearby while doing these activities so you can continually swish water in your mouth, which will also help to prevent a gag reflex.

Try chewing on sugar-free gum while doing things that you don’t want to trigger a gag reflex. This works for some people because it keeps the mouth busy with something other than what you’re working on.

Get a tongue piercing to keep your tongue occupied. This will help distract your brain from reacting to anything in your mouth.

Try using headphones while working on tasks that might trigger a gag reflex. You can listen to music, podcasts, or anything else that will distract your brain and keep it busy.

How Is A Overactive Gag Reflex Diagnosed?

A overactive gag reflex is diagnosed much in the same way as an underactive gag reflex. The doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and then do a physical exam of your head and throat to see if they can find anything wrong. In some cases, they may also suggest particular tests to rule out any problems that may be due to a medical condition rather than being normal or due to psychological reasons.

How Is A Overactive Gag Reflex Treated?

An overactive gag reflex is usually treated in the same way as an underactive gag reflex. The main difference is that most people with a overactive gag reflex also have bulimia, which means they must address the psychological reasons behind why they feel the need to vomit after eating. This can involve therapy, medication, or anything else that a doctor may decide is needed.

If you don’t have bulimia but still have an overactive gag reflex, then treatment will most likely focus on relaxing the throat and reducing any sensitivity that may be present. This can be done using a couple different methods. One method is to completely relax the throat by drinking a solution of water and sugar before doing a task that may cause the gag reflex to activate. Another method that works for some people is to use a topical anesthetic that desensitizes the throat.

What Is The Long-Term Outlook?

The long-term outlook will vary based on the reason why you have an overactive gag reflex. If it’s due to bulimia, then addressing the bulimia and getting treatment for it will make the gag reflex return to normal much of the time.

However, if the overactive gag reflex is due to a medical condition that can’t be cured, then the reflex might remain active. This doesn’t mean it’ll be permanently overactive, though. Many people with persistent overactive gag reflexes say that their reflex remains overactive for a few months after starting treatment for their bulimia, but ultimately normalizes after a few months regardless of whether or not they completely stop throwing up at this point.

In the case that your overactive gag reflex is due to a temporary medical condition such as a cold, then it should return to normal once the cold has gone away.

Comparison Between Overactive And Underactive Gag Reflexes

Underactive Overactive Cause May be due to a brain malfunction that causes the reflex to activate much more than it should May be due to psychological factors that cause someone to think their gag reflex is more active than it actually is Symptoms Sensitivity to any touch in the back of the throat (sometimes far back in the throat) that may cause vomiting Sensitivity to any touch in the back of the throat (sometimes far back in the throat) that causes the person to feel like they are going to vomit Vomiting The act of forcefully vomiting or bringing up stomach acid and digested food. When someone actively vomits, they have an active gag reflex The act of vigorously vomiting or bringing up stomach acid and digested food. When someone actively vomits, their gag reflex is much more sensitive and reactive. Treatment Avoidance of anything that causes the gag reflex to activate Treatments that either reduce the sensitivity of the gag reflex or desensitize it Other Self-help tips such as eating a spoonful of peanut butter before doing the activity that may cause the person to vomit.

This will coat the throat and make it less sensitive.

Medical treatment to reduce the sensitivity of the gag reflex Surgery if none of the above treatments are effective

A Word From Verywell

Sources & references used in this article:

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Management of gag reflex for patients undergoing dental treatment by P Eachempati, SK Nagraj… – Cochrane Database …, 2019 – cochranelibrary.com