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How To Overcome Gag Reflex


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Have you felt the urge to throw up while trying to swallow that vitamin capsule? Sounds quite natural, doesn’t it? Well, it is. 

Gagging is nothing but the body’s natural reflex to prevent you from swallowing something that it deems “foreign.” But this gag reflex can become a problem if it has too many triggers.

Before getting into that, let me quickly explain the science behind this phenomenon. Whenever a touch or any other sensation (even smell) reaches certain parts in the back of your mouth, it’s transported to the medulla oblongata in the brain. It then sends back a signal to the muscles of the mouth to push up, causing gagging.

An overly sensitive gag reflex in adults is a condition known as dysphagia, which prevents them from swallowing almost anything. In fact, it can be triggered by anything from smell to touch (physical stimuli) and even the thought (mental stimuli) of any object, food, smell, or sight.

Moreover, it’s mostly a combination of factors that trigger a gagging reflex. So, you may not always experience it, especially when doing similar activities. 

For example, a dental cleaning routine at the dentist’s may trigger a gagging reflex, but you may not feel anything while following a similar routine at home. This is because not all the triggers may be present at home, making the experience more comfortable.

Although you can’t stop a gag reflex per se, there are several methods to control the sensitivity. And in the following sections, I’ll walk you through some of the most effective strategies.

#1 Psychological approaches: in case of severe gagging reflexes due to mental triggers, calming the mind and body through meditation, cognitive-behavioral therapies, and desensitization may keep the reflex under control. 

#2 Acupuncture: stimulating certain pressure points through needles can help bring back the balance and equilibrium of the body. The same can be done without needles through acupressure techniques.

#3 Medications: certain topical medications, when applied on the particularly sensitive areas that stimulate the gag reflex, can “calm” them down. Similarly, some oral medications can help the nervous system control the sensations of nausea and vomiting. 

#4 Adopting effective swallowing methods: if your gag reflex is mainly triggered when swallowing medications, here’s one tip that will surely work. Place the pill at the back of the tongue and flush it down with water from a narrow-necked bottle. The high water pressure will take the tablet down the esophagus without any discomfort.

Alternatively, try swallowing the pill with the required amount of water while keeping the chin pointed upwards.

Have you ever experienced any problems with gag reflex? What steps did you take to overcome it?

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