Is self-induced vomiting okay for migraine headache relief?

Is self-induced vomiting okay for migraine headache relief?

Many people suffering from migraine headaches wonder if it will help to vomit, as pain relief.

The reason some migraine headache sufferers have come to this idea is that sometimes, the explosive pain of a migraine headache causes a person to throw up involuntarily, but then, the person feels relief afterwards, and thus starts wondering.

If you’ve been contemplating making yourself throw up to relieve migraine headache pain, you’d better abandon that idea real quickly.

Says Daniel Kantor, MD, director of the Neurology Residency Program, Florida Atlantic University:

“A big part of migraine headaches as opposed to other headaches, is the sensitivity of the meninges (the covering of the brain) that can cause light sensitivity (photophobia), sound sensitivity (phonophobia), smell sensitivity (osmophobia), nausea, and/or vomiting.

“If someone throws up, they are letting go of a rising (bad) feeling that is already occurring and they are letting it go.

“It is probably a vicious cycle: the migraine leads to nausea; trying to control yourself from vomiting leads to you feeling sicker, which leads to more of a migraine, etc…”

Just because the vomiting occurs involuntarily, doesn’t mean it’s medically safe to make yourself upchuck the next time a migraine headache strikes.

Dr. Kantor explains, “It is a very bad idea to induce vomiting. It can lead to erosion of the esophageal lining and lead to long-term damage to the throat.

“A much safer and more efficient way to relieve migraines is to see a neurologist who has a special interest in migraine — who can help navigate you through therapeutic — including complementary and alternative medications.”

There are two more reasons why you should never induce vomiting just to relieve any kind of head pain, no matter how unbearable the pain.

The first reason is that throwing up on a frequent basis will erode the enamel of your teeth.

The second reason is that deliberately upchucking might kick in the idea, in certain vulnerable individuals, that this can also be done for weight management or weight loss.

The idea might be, Hey, if I can make myself throw up to relieve a migraine headache, I may as well make myself vomit after eating so I can lose weight (or not gain weight after binging.)

This is dangerous territory, yet a percentage of people who might try vomiting to relieve a migraine headache would certainly veer towards this path.

Next thing you know, they can wind up with an eating disorder called bulimia nervosa, in which a person deliberately brings on vomiting (which can be done by placing a few fingers down the throat) after eating huge volumes of food.

This practice can ultimately lead to life-threatening electrolyte imbalances.

Bottom line: Stay away from self-induced vomiting in an attempt to relieve migraine headaches or control body weight.

Dr. Kantor is also President Emeritus, Florida Society of Neurology.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 


Top image: ©Lorra Garrick