What is Vomit?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Vomit, also called puke, barf, and a range of other names, is regurgitated liquids and solids from a person’s stomach. When a person eats and drinks, the food he consumes usually travels through his esophagus to his stomach and then on to the intestine as it goes through the process of digestion. The parts of the food that the body cannot use exit the body through the anus. Sometimes, however, an illness, bodily upset, or gag reflex causes the food to back up from the digestive track and exit through the mouth in the form of vomit.

Amusement park rides might cause a person to vomit.
Amusement park rides might cause a person to vomit.

The digestive process usually works exactly as people to expect it to, and consumed food moves through the digestive system. The material that is leftover leaves the body in the form of a bowel movement. Sometimes, however, something upsets this natural course, and a person vomits instead.

An illustration of a human stomach.
An illustration of a human stomach.

There are many things that may cause vomiting. Often, it is the result of a virus or bacterium that causes an illness. For example, a person may consume a food that has been contaminated by bacteria and vomit because of it. Sometimes the same thing may happen when a person fails to wash his hands before eating or preparing food. In such a case, a virus or bacterium that was on his hands may contaminate his food and cause him to become ill.

Vomiting is often the result of a virus.
Vomiting is often the result of a virus.

A person may even catch a virus that causes vomiting from another person. This is often referred to as the stomach flu. The stomach flu is not related to influenza, which is a respiratory illness. It is possible for a person to vomit when he has a respiratory illness such as influenza, however.

Peppermint and chamomile teas can sooth upset stomachs.
Peppermint and chamomile teas can sooth upset stomachs.

Besides viruses and bacteria, there are many other conditions and situations in which a person may begin to vomit. For example, a person may vomit after spinning around a great deal or riding an amusement park ride; some women also experience vomiting in the early months of pregnancy. An individual may vomit when he has an ulcer, a range of chronic conditions, or a food intolerance. In some cases, a person may even vomit when he sees or smells something that makes him feel sick. For instance, some people puke when they see others vomiting.

Symptoms of seasonal influenza may include nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.
Symptoms of seasonal influenza may include nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.

In most cases, vomiting ends after a short period of time, and people begin to feel better without medical intervention. If a person vomits repeatedly, for more than a couple of days, or has other worrisome symptoms, however, he may do well to consult a doctor. Likewise, a person may do well to speak to a doctor if he appears to be vomiting blood or bile, which is a digestive fluid the liver makes. Additionally, a stiff neck or severe abdominal pain may also warrant a phone call to a doctor.

Drinking too much alcohol may cause nausea and vomiting.
Drinking too much alcohol may cause nausea and vomiting.
Food poisoning may cause sudden vomiting.
Food poisoning may cause sudden vomiting.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon127705

i can not vomit due to the paralyzed left diaphragm and dysmotility of the esophagus. I am in great pain, nausea etc, and I am scared. what shall i do?

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