Dry Heaving (Retching): Common Causes and How to Stop Dry Heaves

Dry Heaving

Dry heaving is the uncomfortable vomit-like sensation without actually vomiting. If you get the dry heaves, you may feel nauseous. Dry heaves occur when your diaphragm contracts and your airway closes.

It is also called retching, and it resolves on its own. Most people do not have the dry heaves consistently. But frequent dry heaves can be very unpleasant.

Read on to know the causes of dry heaving and how to stop it.

What is Dry Heaving? Dry Heaves vs. Vomiting

Dry heaving is similar to vomiting, but it doesn’t make you throw up like the latter. They both have unpleasant involuntary retching action.

Dry heaves are temporary but treatable. To treat it you should first know the cause. Some causes of dry heaves include pregnancy, stress, consuming alcohol in excess, or food poisoning.

Causes of Dry Heaving or Retching

There are different causes of a dry heave. By figuring out the underlying cause of your retching, you can treat it better. Read on to see if any of these are what is causing your dry heaving.

1. Medications

The medications that you are on can cause retching. If you have recently started a new medication and you experience dry heaving, that could be the cause. You should check with your doctor before stopping any medications too. Sometimes coming off medications can also cause dry heaves.

2. Food Poisoning

If you eat something that has been contaminated by viruses or bacteria, you can suffer from food poisoning. This can cause you to vomit or dry heave as your body tries to get rid of the food.

Even after you vomit, you can still dry heave because there is nothing left to throw up.

3. Exercise

Dry heaving occurs if the diaphragm contracts and the airway close off. Exercising too hard can make your diaphragm contract, which leads to retching. You can also have this reaction if you exercise on a full stomach or after eating a large meal.

Try to start slowly with exercise until you are ready to move up to the harder workouts. It is important to learn what your own body can handle.

4. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause heartburn which can then cause dry heaving. If you feel heartburn or acid reflux after eating, you could have GERD. By treating the GERD, you can relieve the dry heaving problem.

5. Pregnancy

Pregnancy usually causes morning sickness. But it can also cause dry heaving. This is because of all the changes in your hormonal level or blood pressure.

If you have dry heaving during your pregnancy, be careful which drugs you take to treat it. You should check with your doctor before starting any new medications.

6. Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is a contagious infection, also called pertussis. When the coughing gets bad, it can cause dry heaving and vomiting. This infection is more common in children and infants. If you feel you or your child has whooping cough, you should see a doctor.

7. Stress

Stress or anxiety can affect your body. It can affect your gastrointestinal system, central nervous system, and cause dry heaving or retching.

Stress may cause cyclic vomiting syndrome which makes a person suffer from dry heaves, or vomiting reports National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The dry heaves may last from few hours to days and get triggered by stress.

8. Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia. It may make you feel weak, increase the heart rate, feel a tingling sensation in the fingers, or dry heaving. The Canadian Family Physician reported a case in which a person suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis experienced severe dry heaving.

9. Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is when food moves through the digestive tract too slowly because of abnormal contraction of stomach muscles. There are many symptoms of gastroparesis and retching is one of them. People with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and recent intestinal surgery are at higher risk of gastroparesis.

Symptoms of Dry Heaving

Dry heaving is an uncomfortable feeling. It makes you go through the same motion as when you are about to vomit. It feels like you are going to vomit but nothing comes out. The symptoms of dry heaves include a dry mouth or headache.

You can feel dizzy or may experience a loss of appetite. You may also have stomache pain, which is common in people when they have dry heaves. Dry heaving can affect different parts of your body and constant dry heaving can really take a toll on your body.

Home Remedies to Stop Dry Heaving

If you are suffering from the dry heaves, you will want to know how to stop your dry heaves. If you are looking for treatments for dry heaves, there are ways you can try to treat it at home.

Some of these home remedies are medically proved to stop dry heaving. Others have just worked for some people and could help you too.

Before trying any medical treatments, you should try to treat your retching at home with one of these natural home remedies.

1. Ginger

Ginger is a spice that can be used as a natural remedy for dry heaving. It is a spice with lots of benefits for your mind and body.

It has been used since ancient times in China as a healing method. Ginger promotes good digestion and can relieve symptoms like dry heaves, vomiting, and stomach aches. It benefits dry heaves by blocking the heaving reflex in your stomach.

This can be especially helpful for pregnant women. Be careful not to overeat ginger, or it can cause other health problems. You can have a gram of ginger a day to help with your dry heaves. Try infusing it in hot water to make ginger tea or chewing on a piece of ginger root.

2. Peppermint

Peppermint is another natural ingredient that can be used to relieve the dry heaves. It has anti-nausea effects which can help stop dry heaving. It soothes the stomach lining and reduces diaphragm spasms. Try using peppermint to relieve your retching.

You can put mint leaves in boiling water to make mint tea. Or you can add peppermint oil to a cup of herbal tea. You can also take peppermint oil vitamins if you don’t like the flavor of mint tea.

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that also helps relax the diaphragm to stop it from contracting. It can help your body in many ways, including relief from dry heaving. It has been shown to calm the digestive system. Try adding cinnamon to your food or using it to make cinnamon tea.

4. Relax

For people who get dry heaves from stress and anxiety, the best thing to do is try to relax. Relaxing can be very important for your mind and body, and it can help with your dry heaves. To relax you can go for a walk or try meditation. You should step away from the things that cause stress.

Try talking to a friend about your stress and see if he or she can help. You will need to find a way that works best for you to relieve the stress. If you stay stressed too much for too long, it will affect your body.

5. Avoid Acidic Foods

If your dry heaving is caused by acid reflux or heartburn, you should avoid acidic foods. Try to eat more bland foods that don’t upset your stomach as much. Foods that affect your heartburn are different for everyone. You should try cutting out different foods to see how it helps.

Certain foods are common causes of heartburn, like spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, citrus fruits, and onions. Try cutting out some of these foods to see if it helps with your heartburn and retching.

When to See a Doctor?

Managing your dry heaving symptoms at home is always better. There are some home remedies which you can try to get relief from dry heaves. But if the dry heaving doesn’t stop, or causes severe symptoms like stomach pain or chest pain, you should see a doctor.

If you start to have vision problems or serious headaches, if you vomit blood, or if you can’t eat or drink for more than 12 hours consult a medical practitioner. If the dry heaving is because of any disease like whopping cough, you should see your doctor to treat the underlying problem.

Read Next:

“How to Stop Dry Heaving: Causes and Treatment,” Wow Remedies web site, February 21, 2016; https://www.wowremedies.com/how-to-stop-dry-heaving/.
“What Causes Dry Heaving and How Is It Treated?” Health Line web site, June 14, 2017; http://www.healthline.com/health/dry-heaving#overview1.
“How to Get Rid of Dry Heaving: The Most Effective Natural Remedies,” Healthy and Natural World web sit; http://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/dry-heaving/, last accessed September 12, 2017.
“Dry Heaving – Causes, Symptoms, and How to Stop,” Act for Libraries web site; http://www.actforlibraries.org/dry-heaving-causes-symptoms-how-to-stop/, last accessed September 12, 2017.

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Dr. David Cummings, MD

David Cummings, MD, is a medical reviewer and editor at Daily Health Cures. David received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.