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What is Vomit?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon127705 — On Nov 17, 2010

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?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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