Does anyone else suffer whereby the throwing up of the food is involuntary?
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
This question is referring to a problem whereby a person eats and then a little while afterwards, their body just wants to get rid of the food and they find themselves vomiting without a choice. So unlike bulimia, where the vomiting is intentional, this vomiting is always unintentional. I actually had a client that experienced something similar, they vomited unintentionally AND intentionally. This problem often starts in childhood and they then become learned behaviours which is why they persist into adulthood.
I did some research on this because I was actually quite curious about it myself and I found something called rumination syndrome. Rumination syndrome is where people repeatedly regurgitate their food, undigested or just partially digested, and then they vomit it up. Now, typically what I understand is when they are children, a lot of the time they'll regurgitate it and then swallow it again, but as adults, I understand it's more common to regurgitate it and then vomit it. Typically it happens after every meal and quite soon after eating.
Now as I mentioned previously, even though the regurgitation is unintentional, the action that you need to regurgitate apparently is a learned behavior. The action has to do with the abdominal muscles, people who have rumination syndrome haven't learned how to relax their abdominal muscles properly, and the contraction of these muscles can actually lead to regurgitation.
Rumination syndrome has been linked to other eating disorders, in particular bulimia, because of how similar the behaviours are, but researchers haven't actually found any true evidence that the conditions are related because quite often the rumination syndrome isn't actually linked to wanting to lose weight - although there may be a subconscious desire to!!
Symptoms of rumination syndrome are:
Effortless regurgitation, typically within 10 minutes of eating
Stomach aches and indigestion.
Bad breath from vomiting.
Dry mouth and lips.
Tooth decay, but not typically as bad as people with bulimia, because there is less stomach acid in the undigested or partially digested food.
Unintentional weight loss from it.
The exact causes of rumination syndrome aren't really known, but researchers do believe that it's a psychological disorder and more likely to be developed in people with emotional problems or that are undergoing stressful events. It's also not clear how many people have this syndrome.
There are behavioural therapies that can be used to treat it, the treatment of choice being teaching people how to breathe from the diaphragm. This relaxes the diaphragm so that it's no longer contracted - and you can't regurgitate when the diaphragm is relaxed, you can only regurgitate when the diaphragm is contracted.
So I hope you learnt something new today - I certainly did!