Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gag Me With A Spoon

Here's a quality that could preclude me from the "Potential Best Girlfriend Ever" competition.

I have developed a gag reflex problem.

Folks, get your mind out of the gutter. This is not a scenario that involves anything salacious and tawdry. This gagging scenario involves two very benign activities: brushing teeth and swallowing medication.

I have no idea how it happened. I can remember as far back as college, brushing my teeth and thinking back to a girl who once said she couldn't brush her pearly whites without dry heaving. What a sad state of affairs, I thought - this chick can't even tend to her molars without hovering over the toilet.

I have become that girl.

It started happening a couple months ago - I distinctly remember noticing it before I went on vacation. Please know this chronic gagging isn't triggered by my deep throating my Oral B. We're talking a few gentle caresses on my incisors and bicuspids.

The gagging has gotten so bad that my face turns bright red and my eyes tear up. I've even had a few moments where I struggled to suppress my body's attempt to lose my lunch (or breakfast, as the case may be).

This Pavlovian reaction happens when I try to swallow pills, too. Most of my prescription drugs are small, round (think - birth control pills) and unobtrusive - except to my extremely sensitive uvula and palate.

I've taken to reading websites like this, offering tips and tricks to relax this raging reflex, but so far nothing seems to work.

Some of my research indicates the gag reflex is a combination of psychology and physiology, and occasionally is brought up by anxiety. I've weathered life's stresses before, but this is certainly one chronic, physical reaction I've never experienced.

It makes mainlining Phish Food seem like a walk in the park.

At the risk of opening myself up to lewd commentary, anyone have any tips that will help me get over this weird development?

(ed. note: any truly inappropriate comments on this post will get the ol' heave-ho, yo).
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Gemini said...

I got through stages where this becomes an issue for me too, and I typically have no gag reflex at all, so it's irritating when it happens. I have found that if I eat something in the morning before I brush it helps a lot. That's really the only thing that I've found to help. That and that it seems to be a temporary thing for me.

Travis said...

No lewd comments here, trust me, I've heard them ALL.

It's also opportune that you brought this up in March, because March is "Swallowing Disorders Awareness Month".

I don't know why you've developed this suddenly. Sometimes it is psychological, sometimes there is a physical reason (I'm not a doctor, but I do know that certain swollen glands can increase sensitivity in the gag reflex, and so can tonsillitis). So, let me preface the advice I'm going to give with a recommendation that you see a doctor to make sure there is nothing physically wrong.

No, psychological aversion to having something like a toothbrush near your throat CAN be overcome in some people with desensitization. Essentially you introduce something to intentionally make you gag so many times that your mind is "tricked" into thinking that it's ok and stops telling the body to react.

Let me tell you what I did and you can decide if it is right for you.

Put something just past your comfort point every morning 7 times. Now, this is important, make SURE whatever you use isn't sharp, rough, or even dull-but-square. Probably the best thing is the back of the toothbrush (bristle end could cause abrasions to the soft tissue in the back of your throat, which could create more irritation.

I will warn you, this wasn't a pleasant process for me. Though I probably went far beyond what your goal is, I did gag, and even vomitted a few times. But now I can mentally "shut down" my gag reflex most of the time.

Take this comment for what it is. I'll remind you again, I'm not a doctor, just someone who overcame his gag reflex to an extreme.

The Style Mansion said...

I have never been able to swallow tablets for the same reason. I end up having to crush them sometimes! I also choke on the smallest things. I visited my doctor but he just looked at me as if I was pathetic! I will certainly look into thing s further having read this post.
I hope you are able to resolve the problem too.

Annie said...

The only time I've had issues with my gag reflex is when I've been pregnant. I generally don't have a very strong reflex but when I'm pregnant it's BAD. Brushing my teeth especially. I still have problems with it occasionally and it's weird because it happens out of nowhere. But once I gag once, it's all over. I can't not gag again. I've gotten pretty good at relaxing my throat when I gag the first couple of times and I can stop it before I actually throw up (THAT happened a lot during pregnancy, something I think is linked to the morning sickness, though). I try to breathe through my mouth when I have a gag problem, to help relax my throat. It helps me!