Yoga International provided an acquittance with a cleansing technique dubbed upper wash where the healthy subject is to voluntarily vomit in order to clean their body from toxins: http://yogainternational.com/article/view/detoxing-your-digestive-tract-and-clearing-congestion (cf. paragraphs called Can Vomiting Be Pleasant? and How to Do the Upper Wash, about half way down the page).

According to Wikipedia page on Vomiting, self-induced vomiting is performed by people with eating disorders, to engage in binge drinking, or in case of nausea.

Does regular voluntary vomiting provide any health benefits to an otherwise healthy person, as described in the tutorial?

This sounds like a complete absurdity to me, but as of now 608 people liked the link on Facebook.

  • 11
    Here, have one upvote. At the current exchange rate, that completely wipes out the 608 likes on Facebook :) (Repeated vomiting, for whatever reason, can cause serious health problems.)
    – Benjol
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 12:42
  • 1
    No. No it does not. See also Bulimia nervosa. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 14:59
  • 11
    Answers should address impact on dental health. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 17:38
  • I know when I'm sick then I vomit I feel much better. Of course that's involuntary.
    – E.V.I.L.
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


As a physician I have to tell you that regular induced self-vomiting has the following short-term consequences:

1.- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that can potentially cause metabolic alkalosis, hypokalaemia and hypochloraemia (that in turn perpetuates the alkalosis).

2.- In severe metabolic alkalosis with marked dehydration, acidic urine may be produced (paradoxical aciduria).

3.- Frequent vomiting exposes your oral cavity to many digestive acids, and produces permanent tooth decay and tonsilitis.

4.- Changes in gastric pH might lead to severe micronutrient deficiencies.

There are not long term benefits from such behaviour. On the other hand, there are many references in literature regarding malnutrition and metabolic abnormalities arising from self induced vomiting.

You might want to read the following sources:

The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers. Digestive Disorders. Symptoms and Diagnosis of Digestive Disorders. [2007]. Available from: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec09/ch119/ch119b.html#sec09-ch119-ch119b-151

Milestones In Recovery. Anorexia and Bulimia and the Effects on your Teeth. [2012]. Available from: http://www.milestonesprogram.org/article/Anorexia-and-Bulimia-and-The-Effects-on-Your-Teeth

WebMD. Oral Care.Tonsillitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments. [2012]. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tonsillitis-symptoms-causes-and-treatments

  • 2
    Yes and worth pointing out that health effects will not differ if you have bulimia or are just copying the behavior of bulimics.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 2:42

The idea behind this comes from ancient medical understanding of the four humors.

Humorism, or humoralism, is a now discredited theory of the makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids known as humors (UK: humours) in a person directly influences their temperament and health

Just as bleeding patients, vomiting and laxatives were common to balance the bodily fluids. Humorism is an idea common to most cultures. Vomiting was a very common practice amongst the Native Americas, for instance. Now, here the claim has been replaced slightly with "toxins" rather than "humors" Replacing toxin into the claim makes it seem more credible, but its not. The removal of toxins was always a large part of humorism.


the reason for the rapidity of European acceptance of tobacco as medicine was the basic medical theory itself, the theory of humours. Fundamentally this was the belief that only four elements (air, fire, earth, and water) composed all things, including the human body and its illnesses. These elements were capable of much interfunctioning, but ideally they balanced one another. They had four basic properties which occurred in combinations (moist, hot, dry, and cold—that is, water has the combined properties of moist and cold, fire of hot and dry, and so forth); and they corresponded to the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, fall, and winter). They appeared in the human body, together with their properties, in the forms of **four humours—bloodj yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—**and when the humours balanced, the human being was healthy. Sickness resulted from an imbalance of these humours

And Vittich wrote that there could he no doubt about tobacco's ability to "cleanse all impuritites" and do away with "every gross and viscous humour."

Vomiting balances the yellow bile.

According to Wikipedia on the "Misuse of Toxin"

When used non-technically, the term "toxin" is often applied to any toxic substance, even though the term toxicant would be more appropriate. Toxic substances not directly of biological origin are also termed poisons and many non-technical and lifestyle journalists follow this usage to refer to toxic substances in general.

In the context of alternative medicine the term is often used to refer to any substance claimed to cause ill health, ranging anywhere from trace amounts of pesticides to common food items like refined sugar or additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).[23]

Toxins are poisons produced by your body or by another plant or animal that would be harmful to you. Most toxins thus are the ones produced during respiration (CO2) or other normal bodily processes. If C02 builds up, known as hypercapnia, you will die for example. In this case of course, C02 is expelled when you exhale.

As for vomiting specifically. This is one way the body can get rid of toxins, but only if it is something very toxic you just ate, because vomiting only expels food from the stomach. Food only stays in your stomach for a few hours and environmental toxins can be absorbed before this time. Obviously if you eat poison on accident, it is appropriate to induce vomiting if it isn't acidic or basic (bleach, cleaning products, drain cleaners). Poison Control specializes in answering questions about when to throw things up. Guidelines for Ipecac. The toxicologists here are saying its rarely useful for anything, because of the fast absorbtion and because vomiting isn't very useful at expelling poison even in the most dire instances, so its best to always call.

Through the pathway of vomiting it would not be possible to remove substances that might cause ill health suggest as MSG or trace pesticides, either, unless the intention is to do this by causing the person simply not to eat. Starvation is very much less beneficial to ones health than any benefit this is supposed to be causing. Consistent vomiting, known as bulimia, is very bad for one's health. Effects include:

  • Chronic gastric reflux after eating
  • Dehydration and hypokalemia caused by frequent vomiting
  • Electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and even death
  • Esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus
  • Boerhaave syndrome, a rupture in the esophageal wall due to vomiting
  • Oral trauma, in which repetitive insertion of fingers or other objects causes lacerations to the lining of the mouth or throat
  • Gastroparesis or delayed emptying
  • Constipation
  • Mallory-Weiss tears
  • Infertility
  • Enlarged glands in the neck, under the jaw line
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Calluses or scars on back of hands due to repeated trauma from incisors[16][17]
  • Constant weight fluctuations are common

The erosion on the lower teeth was caused by bulimia. For comparison, the upper teeth were restored with porcelain veneers.[18]

The frequent contact between teeth and gastric acid, in particular, may cause:

  • Severe dental erosion
  • Perimolysis, or the erosion of tooth enamel[19]
  • Swollen salivary glands[19][20]
  • Constant vomiting can lead to gastroesophageal reflux

Further reading on the health consequences of bulimia, here: National Eating Disorders Association

  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. Please source your quotes. Don't use Wikipedia for key claims; follow up the links, check they are right, and quote the original sources wherever possible.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 23:01
  • If you can quote people making the claim and it is in addition to some empirical evidence, I am personally comfortable with adding some additional information.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 4:00

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