DR. HOOK- Upchucking: Nausea, vomiting can be serious

"I think I'm going to throw up," should be a mantra for most Americans. Audits make most people throw up (and tax evaders throw up their hands as they're arrested). Most country music makes me nauseated (don't take offense, country music fans; most people hate my show tunes).

Getting insurance pre-authorization for medicine makes my whole office want to throw up (and do a throw-down with the insurance company). Some things are so disgustingly ridiculous that they make most people toss their cookies, like young Hollywood celebrities– and some the Presidential candidates– and most of politicians–and all oil companies.

 On Seinfeld, Jerry remembered the last time he ever vomited because he hated it so much. I hate throwing up as well, so I tend to retch (meaning nothing comes up because of tightening up the throat and chest to "keep the cookies in the jar").

However, in most cases, throwing up relieves the awful feeling of nausea. I guess retching is kind of like the dread of doing something, while vomiting is like actually doing the act itself– which turns out not to be so bad. It's like confronting your boss, giving a speech in front of a large crowd, or singing karaoke.

 Almost everyone has eaten something bad or caught a GI bug that has led to nausea and vomiting (N/V). "I can't believe I ate the whole thing– especially when it tasted like poison. Burp." 

Actually, vomiting can be the body's way of expelling poisons, so puking isn't necessarily a bad thing to do. Drinking too much alcohol can make a person pray to the porcelain goddess.

 Over 70 percent of pregnant women have morning sickness to make them toss their Wheaties. So much for eating for two. Ginger and pressure points on the wrist, nice alternative treatments to traditional medicine, can help reduce the N/V.

 Remember in The Exorcist when the possessed girl had projectile vomiting? Really perhaps all she had was a brain disease (like Satan in the head) because projectile vomiting can be a sign of a neurological disorder.

 Vertigo, the sense of spinning– as on a merry-go-round– can cause a person to hurl. I can't spin much while figure skating because it makes me nauseated. Also, friends who know me well have warned me, the movie Cloverfield will probably make me motion sick, as did The Blair Witch Project, The Bourne Supremacy... Bambi. 

 Chemotherapy is notorious for causing horrible N/V. On Murphy Brown, our heroine smoked marijuana to get rid of her unrelenting N/V during her chemo treatment for breast cancer. Funny how Dan Quayle didn't comment on this topic– although he did about her becoming a single mother. What a potato head– er, "potatoe" head, in his case. On the flip side, pot abusers actually can get bad cases of N/V.

 The esophagus can tear with too much vomiting. So it's important to look at the emesis (the puke) for blood. Also if the emesis contains material that looks like coffee grounds, that can be a sign of a bleeding duodenal ulcer (kind of like a stomach ulcer). These can be medical emergencies. 

 Vomiting too much can also lower the body's potassium, leading to irregular heartbeats and muscle cramps. Therefore, drinking fluids with electrolytes is a good thing. The pH of the blood can also rise, which makes you even sicker. So hydration– if not by mouth, then by IV– is important for people who are vomiting. 

 Treatment depends on the underlying problem causing the N/V. I can tell you from personal as well as professional experience that N/V can make you want to die. So see your doctor if you suffer from N/V to find out what the problem is. Imitating the Monty Python vomit scene just isn't worth it. Not even for a wafer-thin mint.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.