A good friend of mine recently brought the following article to my attention:
To sum it up, this article explains that a vomiting cleanse is beneficial in decreasing mucous secretions related to respiratory issues. It explains that we sometimes have excessive mucous in the gut and that drinking 2 quarts of saline water and self-inducing emesis cleans this mucous out. Washes the gut. And we are healthier.
My immediate reaction was astonishment. How can organizations seriously be promoting this? And of course, my completely irrational fear of vomiting was not helping. A yoga webpage is a source I would typically trust. I fully support many alternative and natural healing modalities. But I think this one in particular has gone a little too far.
Of course, I want to tell my friend exactly why this is a horrible, horrible plan. I know from a medical standpoint that vomiting is not good for our bodies. It is good for situations of removing toxins or bacteria that are harmful to our systems. But voluntarily vomiting? I wasn’t so sure the pros outweighed the cons on that one.
As a result, I have been searching and searching for some solid evidence that this practice is detrimental. Not helpful. The article does specify to do the practice on an empty stomach and promotes vomiting while standing, which is positive. I guess if you are going to do it, these practices decrease the risk for aspiration and probably decrease the amount of acid being regurgitated. But still. Bad idea.
1. Vomiting on the regular can cause dehydration. Your body needs fluids to function. Without them, you can become dizzy, weak and have electrolyte imbalances
2. Even with no food in your stomach, it still contains a large amount of hydrochloric acid. It has to. The HCl is what breaks down the food we consume and helps to destroy unwanted bacteria. It is not meant to come in contact with the more sensitive areas of the esophagus and mouth.
Eventually, the acid with start to erode the enamel off of your teeth. The teeth become sensitive, decrease in size and become brittle. Dental work to repair this damage may include crowns and can become pretty expensive. This damage can start to occur in as little as 6 months with frequent vomiting.
Acid can also erode the esophagus, causing it to tear. This tear can cause an esophageal rupture and bleeding. This is referred to as Mallory-Weiss syndrome. This may resolve on its own, but may also require cauterization or surgery. If untreated, a rupture can lead to pleural effusion (fluid in the space surrounding the lungs) cause by inflammation in the area around the lungs. This may lead to difficulty breathing and may need to be treated by thoracentesis. If untreated, pleural effusion can lead to infection.
3. Vomiting can cause electrolyte imbalances.
Hypokalmeia: Not enough potassium.
A serious side-effect of hypokalemia is cardiac rhythm changes due to increase cell excitability. These rhythm changes can be ventricular and deadly. Hypokalemia can also cause decrease gastrointestinal motility, or a paralytic ileus. While not deadly in and of itself, paralytic ileus is a decerease in peristalsis and can induce further vomiting and discomfort, as it is a type of intestinal obstruction.
Hypernatremia: Too much sodium.
This can happen with vomiting, as you decrease the amount of fluid in the body, effectively increasing the sodium content.
Sometimes, this is asymptomatic, but it can cause neurological difficulties if it is severe enough to dehydrate the brain cells. Complications may include lethargy, agitation, seizures and coma.
That all being said, perhaps if this teaching is followed accurately and not abused, the complication risk may not be too high. However, there are many opportunities for failure. As a society, we tend to take practices too far and don’t follow guidelines. This teaching also promotes vomiting and makes the behavior acceptable. Yes, of course, in the situation of being ill or releasing a toxin from your body, I completely agree. But this situation does not seem necessary.
There are some healing modalities to decrease respiratory secretions and boost immunity that I do support and they don’t seem so harmful. Try these instead:
1. Eliminate sugar and salt from the diet. Sugar feeds infection.
2. Avoid dairy products. They increase mucous production.
3. Drink a lot of water.
4. Try garlic tea. Crush 1-2 cloves of garlic and pour hot water over them. Let the garlic “steep” for a few minutes, then drink the tea and eat the cloves. Raw garlic has anti-bactieral, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Add some raw honey. It helps improve the flavor and has similar properties
1. Use a neti-pot. It uses a saline solution to cleanse the nasal cavity.
2. Steam your head. This is easily done by boiling water on the stove. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to the solution. Put a towel over your head and the pot of water simultaneously and breath. This creates a little steam room for your head.
3. Do some yoga:
If you’re feeling up for it, there a some yoga poses that relieve congestion. You can find some common examples here: