Dry heaving is a condition where a person keeps feel nauseated for a long time, usually often after a bout of vomiting. This discomfort is like a dramatic sensation and is also called retching. One involuntarily throws up but without expelling any substance. This condition usually follows after an actual first stance of vomiting. However, the feeling of nausea lingers on long after even though one does not believe in reality puke out any material. The brain only keeps on producing the vomiting sensation.
This is a condition of much discomfort as the abdominal muscles are in constant contraction and make one feel nothing less than sick. Usually, dry heaves begin lessening gradually after actual vomiting has stopped. However, if the dry heaves are persistent and are for a very long time, one should seek immediate medical help. This indicates an underlying condition that could be far dangerous such as a severe gastrointestinal disease or a raised intracranial pressure.
Causes of Dry Heaving
Dry heaving occurs when the stomach becomes empty after the person has thrown up all the food particles and there is nothing left in the stomach. Pregnancy is one of the common reasons for dry heaving. Morning sickness is a common symptom of gestation which is associated with dry heaving. After frequent vomiting the stomach becomes empty. This is when dry heaves kick in making the expectant mother all the sicker. The symptoms are aggravated because of the elevated hormones which induce the reflex of nausea. Retching and vomiting can occur at any part of the day. However, this symptom is more common during the first trimester or the first three months of pregnancy.
Stress or anxiety often can lead to dry heaves. If you are under too much stress or have been suffering from anxiety, you could experience dry heaves. Emotional stress is very capable of affecting the gastrointestinal as well as the nervous system of a person. And, this can trigger dry heaves for no apparent reason. According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, too much stress is often the cause of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. In the case of a stressed person, dry heaving episodes can recur every few days, and each can last from a few hours to a few days. Usually, stressful events in life trigger such symptoms. Besides feelings of vomiting and nausea, one can also experience abdominal aches, headaches, and diarrhea.
Food poisoning is yet another common cause of dry heaves. In this case, a person will retch several times until the infection is washed out of his system. Food poisoning occurs when you consume contaminated food. The food could be contaminated with fungal pathogens, virus or bacteria. Bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is a common contaminate. Poisoning of food by it may cause you stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting as well dry heaves.
Often gastroparesis is the cause of dry heaving in some people. It is a condition when there is a very slow movement of food through the digestive system. This happens when there is some damage to the nerves. This condition is commonly found in people who are affected by diabetes. Others who can have this condition include those who have had intestinal surgery. People with Parkinson’s disease are also prone to gastroparesis which can cause dry heaving. All these conditions cause a buildup of food that has only been partly digested. This triggers retch.
Low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia can sometimes give you dry heaves. This is caused when the glucose level drops and you start feeling weak. This is accompanied by a rapid heart rate. There is also a tingling sensation in the finger. The low levels of blood sugar can affect the brain causing intense hunger with gurgling noises in the stomach. In extreme condition, this can cause dry heaving.
Sometimes a person suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis can have dry heaving. In this condition, the body is unable to metabolize sugar required for energy. It breaks down the fat instead, and this causes a buildup of ketones in the liver. This increases acidity, and one can experience severe and recurrent dry heaving.
Sometimes, cancer treatments can cause one to retch. It can be triggered either by the treatment or by the disease itself. In fact, some of the most distressing symptoms of cancer include nausea, vomiting, and dry heaving. Cancer patients have often reported during treatment they try to vomit but without any results. Some forms of headaches like a migraine and conditions leading to intracranial pressure like a brain tumor and meningitis can also cause dry heaves.
Sometimes coming off from certain medications can also trigger dry heaves. This is a side effect and is commonly noted in individuals withdrawing from anxiety and insomnia medicines like benzodiazepines. Drinking excessive alcohol can also lead to dry heaving. This is triggered owing to the damage caused to the liver. Alcoholics often suffer from bouts of retching and nausea in the morning. Depending on how much alcohol is still present in the body, one will have recurrent retching which may or not be accompanied by vomiting.
Symptoms of Dry Heaves
Dry heaving is a discomforting condition which may leave the affected person exhausted. The abdominal contraction comes in waves accompanied by sweating, pallor, and salivation. The person may feel that it would rather be more relieving after throwing up, but he is unable to expel any substance. Many people feel a dry throat and a dry mouth when they are dry heaving. The person may palpitate a lot with his pulse raised. Most of them also experience dizziness.
Dry heaving comes with many other symptoms as well. For example, one may also experience pain in the abdomen with no room for appetite. There is a loss of taste. Some even feel a bad taste lingering in their mouth with a choking sensation caused by the urge to throw up now and then. These symptoms also have a negative psychological impact as the symptoms can trigger anxiety and restlessness.
In standard cases, dry heaving symptoms lessen and go away of their own. This is especially the case if food poisoning has caused it, too much stress, as morning sickness during pregnancy or as a result of drinking excess alcohol. The problem usually resolves on its own.
Effective Home Remedies for Dry Heaving
The first step towards treating dry heaving is to avoid solid foods for some time. It is vital to drink clear liquids like clear soups or broths, water, homemade ginger ale, sports drinks and pulp-less fruit juices. Drink small quantities of liquids throughout the day. If you feel up to it, you can also suck on ice chips or popsicles. This will keep dehydration at bay. Usually, over-the-counter medication for nausea works in treating dry heaving.
One good approach is to reintroduce solid foods once the stomach has calmed gradually. However, even in doing that it is important that you only include soft and bland foods. Solid foods can be reintroduced after you have passed 24 hours. Simple toast, applesauce, bananas, steamed rice and foods that are easy to digest should be eaten. You can also eat boiled and mashed potatoes, boiled pasta without sauce, crackers and even gelatin which are easily digested. If vomiting hits back again or if dry heaving returns, switch back to the liquid diet for 12 more hours. This condition is majorly self-limiting, and with self-care, you can treat it.
Here are some natural remedies which act as useful as medicines in treating dry heaves at home –
Ginger has several medicinal properties, and one of its great effectiveness lies in healing retching and gagging. Ginger leaves its unique antispasmodic effect on your stomach which eases the reflex of dry heaves. If you experience dry heaving triggered by food poisoning, take ginger. This will clear up the infection rapidly. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Many scientific studies have found ginger to be as effective in treating nausea and vomiting as many pharmaceutical drugs. For example, the British Journal of Anaesthesia has compared the effectiveness of ginger to the anti-vomiting drug called metoclopramide. Ginger is also substantially healing in easing dry heaving caused during morning sickness in pregnancy.
You can drink ginger tea to reduce the bouts of retching. Take about 1 to 2 inches of a fresh ginger root and grate it. Simmer it covered, in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and drink it. Sip it in small amounts, and you will feel the dry heaves easing gradually. Take the tea thrice a day or whenever you experience the dry heaves. Alternately, you can chew on a piece of fresh ginger. The juices will aid in digestion, calm your stomach and also, stop dry heaving.
Peppermint is another natural home remedy which is useful in treating dry heaving. The leaves of peppermint soothe the gastric lining and also lessen the abdominal spasms. Peppermint leaves contain an essential oil which has anti-nausea properties. It is used as a remedy for people who go through bouts of vomiting and dry heaving while undergoing chemotherapy. Research has found that it can reduce the intensity as well as the frequency of vomiting and dry heaving within the first 24 hours.
Make yourself a refreshing cup of mint tea to get relief from dry heaves. Take a handful of fresh mint leaves or only a teaspoonful in the case of dried leaves and let it simmer in a cup of boiling water. Allow the leaves to infuse the water for 5 to 7 minutes. Keep the liquid covered throughout. Once ready, strain the tea and drink it in small sips. It will calm your stomach and take away the vomit reflex. Alternately, you can add one drop of food grade peppermint oil to a soothing herbal tea of your choice. This will have the same effect. Or, if you seem to have a recurrent tendency of dry heaving, keep handy some enteric coated peppermint capsules. Take these pills as directed in their labels. The anti-inflammatory tablets treat excessive gas and bloating and stop dry heaving and vomiting.
Drink rice water to keep your body hydrated. It will also ease the discomforts of retching and vomiting. Take a pan and boil one part rice in three parts water. Allow the rice to cook on a slow flame, with the lid on and for 20 minutes. Strain and conserve the liquid of the rice. Take small sips of this rice water to ease stomach spasms and dry heaves.
This aromatic herb has long been used in medicine. One of its qualities lies in it being an anti-spasmodic. This anti-bacterial ingredient not only treats dry-heaving but also lessens inflammation and painful spasms. Its calming effect on the digestive system is well-known. Sometimes, women have premenstrual symptoms which can also trigger dry heaves. Pregnant women and women with PMS benefit greatly by taking cinnamon. It reduces the frequency of vomiting and stops nausea. It is also effective in reducing retching in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Drink some soothing cinnamon tea to ease dry heaving. Fill a cup with boiling water and stir in half to a teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Alternately, you can simmer cinnamon stick in boiling water and allow it to infuse in a lidded pot for 5 to 7 minutes. Strain this liquid with a cinnamon stick. You can take the tea in small sips to get relief from dry heaving.
When to See the Doctor to Treat Dry Heaves
While dry heaving can be easily taken care of at home in general cases, on rare occasions, it can become severe. This is when you need to seek immediate medical help. For example, when you experience severe stomach cramps and aches, call the doctor. If you experience vision problems, chest pain, vomiting that is accompanied by an intense headache it is necessary to see the doctor right away. If you vomit liquid with blood in it, it is also a cause for alarm. Call your doctor without delay. Medical intervention is also recommended if you are not able to keep the foods and liquids down for more than 12 hours.