What is dry heaving?
Dry heaving is the retching (heaving) reflex without producing vomit. It can occur when the stomach empties are inhibited, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes stomach acids to irritate your throat.
Causes of dry heaving
Dry heaving is the uncomfortable sensation of wanting to vomit, but nothing is coming up. It’s different from retching, which is when you vomit. Dry heaving can happen because of an intense gag reflex, dehydration, hunger, or pregnancy. It can also be a symptom of a more serious condition like an eating disorder, heartburn, or appendicitis. If you’re dry heaving frequently, see a doctor to rule out any underlying causes.
Most of the time, dry heaving is caused by an automatic reflex. The reflex causes your muscles to contract and your stomach to empty itself, even if nothing is in it. This happens when your brain perceives a threat, like the sensation of vomit coming up your throat.
Dry heaving can also be a symptom of malnutrition or starvation. When you don’t have enough food in your system, your brain signals your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. This process can cause nausea and vomiting.
Prevention of dry heaving
To help prevent dry heaves, staying hydrated and avoiding overheating is important. Try to drink small amounts of clear liquid often, such as water or an electrolyte solution. You can also suck on ice chips or popsicles. If you’re vomiting or have diarrhea, drink clear liquids for as long as possible.
It’s also important to eat small, frequent meals instead of large meals. Eating too much food at once can trigger an attack of dry heaves. When you do feel the urge to vomit, sit up and lean forward slightly. This position can help prevent vomiting by keeping your stomach contents down.
When to see a doctor
Dry heaving is often harmless and goes away on its own. However, see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Yellowing of your skin or eyes (jaundice)
- These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition, such as:
-Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)