What Does Gag Reflex in the Morning Indicate? Reasons Explained!

Do you suffer from gag reflexes in the morning on a daily basis? A morning cough with gagging might be a daily problem for some people. But generally, this is not something you should be worried about.

So, why are you having gag reflex in the morning?

People with sensitive gag reflexes can be triggered by things like anxiety, brushing the teeth, any awful smell, swallowing pills, or acid reflux. However, gagging is a natural phenomenon that is meant to prevent anything from entering into the throat by obstruction of the respiratory tract in order to keep the person from choking.

Some people may gag from a very gentle touch on a trigger point, while others may be able to tolerate a more intense sensation before gagging.

Here is a very interesting article that tells you how to get rid of it, or at least calm it down. To know more, consider going through the full article.

What Does It Mean if You Have Gag Reflexes in the Morning?

Gagging is the opposite of swallowing. The gag reflex is a contraction of the back of the throat triggered by an object touching the roof of your mouth, or back of your tongue.

This is a defense mechanism to prevent something from being swallowed and ingested.

gag-reflexes-in-the-morning

The reflex helps prevent choking, but it becomes a problem when an individual finds it difficult to eat certain foods or perform certain activities.

In some people, it occurs in the morning because with an empty stomach the response gets more sensitive.

The reason for gag reflex can be as simple as brushing the teeth or tongue, smelling, or eating food you think is disgusting.

People with severe anxiety or panic attack may also face this problem in the morning. This can be caused by motion or morning sickness or may occur with heartburn, indigestion, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

This can also be caused by any irritant that enters into the airway and to protect the body from dangerous elements, the airway closes off and causes gagging.

The severity of having gag reflexes in the morning depends on the reason behind it. 

It can be a sign of a more serious problem in the digestive tract. You should consult with your doctor if you have this associated with other symptoms like fever, pain in the abdomen or chest, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

Types of Gag Reflex

Two types of stimuli can trigger the gag reflex. These are:

  1. A physical stimulus, known as somatogenic:

A somatogenic stimulus is one that physically makes direct contact with the trigger point.

The trigger points in the mouth may vary. The gag reflex typically occurs when something stimulates the base of the tongue, palate, back of your throat, uvula, tonsil, etc.

Some people may gag from a very gentle touch on a trigger point, while others may be able to tolerate a more intense sensation before gagging.

types-of-gag-reflex
  1. A mental stimulus, known as psychogenic:

A psychogenic stimulus is a mental trigger that causes a person to gag. You may find yourself gagging because of some number of different stimuli affecting your senses, these include sight, sound, smell, thought of some object.

This can be a disgusting or awful smell or thought of that smell after watching any particular food with which you have had a bad experience previously.

What Can Cause a Gag Reflex Every Morning?

A person may have gag reflexes for different reasons, which may be somatic or psychosomatic, or both somatic and psychosomatic. But there are some specific conditions that can lead to having gag reflexes in the morning. These are given below:

Gagging can be caused by any irritant that enters the airway and aggravates the lungs and bronchial tree. 

Gastrointestinal Causes

Our stomach contains acids and enzymes for the digestion of food. The digestive tract is designed to withstand these substances but the airway passage and esophagus are not accustomed. 

The stomach is meant to keep these acids from getting back up through the esophagus and causes irritation.

Gastric

When in an empty stomach the membrane layer secretes gastric acids that irritate the stomach, causing gastric or gas problems. 

For this gas problem, you may feel nauseated and have a gag reflex.

Acid Reflux 

You may have mild acid reflux. When you sleep, a small amount of acid may get into your esophagus. 

When you wake up, you would have the gag reflex that wants to protect you from inhaling some of the acids into your lungs. This will feel terrible when you have it.

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

The esophageal layer can not bear the acidic food like the stomach itself can. For this reason, if partially digested food containing gastric acids and enzymes goes up to the level of the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus), can lead to having gag reflexes.

gerd

There is a condition called gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus, this irritates the lining of the esophagus.

Due to this condition a person may have gag reflexes with associated symptoms like burning sensation in the throat, heartburn, discomfort in the chest, difficulty breathing.

Infectious Causes

Gagging can be caused by any irritant that enters the airway and aggravates the lungs and bronchial tree. 

These irritants cause the airway to close off as a means of protecting the body from potentially dangerous elements.

Oxygen is temporarily blocked from coming into the body, and in turn, the diaphragm contracts as a means of allowing the lungs to expand and let in oxygen, even though there is none actually coming in.

The respiratory tract is extremely susceptible to infection due to its direct contact with the environment.

Viral Infection

Viral infections can produce mucus in the airways that drip down the back of the throat triggering gagging. 

The common cold and flu are examples of viral infections that can be associated with gagging.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infections can cause more severe upper and lower respiratory issues than viral infections. 

In addition to gagging, bacterial infections are often associated with high fever, chills, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood, vomiting, etc.

Environmental Causes

Other environmental substances can also enter the upper respiratory tract and cause irritations and gagging. For instance, during exercise and taking medicine.

Exercise

Exercising at high intensities can cause your diaphragm to contract, which in turn can lead to gagging. Exercising on a full stomach is especially bothersome and can also result in gagging.

Medication

Certain medications used to treat anxiety, depression and other conditions can cause you to feel nauseous, and gagging can result as an unfortunate side effect.

Mini Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes called a “mini-stroke” or a “warning stroke.” Any stroke means that blood flow somewhere in the brain has been blocked by a clot.

This is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke. A TIA usually lasts only a few minutes and doesn’t cause permanent damage.

stroke

Due to this Transient Ischemic Attack, a person may have gag reflexes with associated symptoms like dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you’ve had a transient ischemic attack. Prompt evaluation and identification of potentially treatable conditions may help you prevent a stroke.

It is possible to get rid of your hyperactive gag reflex through desensitization, which means training your soft palate to receive objects without gagging.

Retropharyngeal Abscess

A retropharyngeal abscess is a collection of pus in the tissues in the back of the throat. It is a potentially life-threatening medical condition.

For this reason, gagging can occur associated with other symptoms like sore throat, loss of appetite, fever, shortness of breath.

Inflammation of the Epiglottis

Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis, tissue that covers the trachea (windpipe), which helps prevent coughing or choking after swallowing. It is usually caused by the bacteria H. Influenzae but can also be caused by other bacteria or viruses that cause upper respiratory infections.

Along with gagging there might be other symptoms like being severely ill, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, pain in swallowing. But in this case, there will be the absence of coughing.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. 

Here, one of the many reasons is having gag reflexes.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

People experience different types of anxiety, and their symptoms may vary. Some people feel sick to their stomachs and retch when they have anxiety. 

You can usually identify what event or situation triggered your anxiety. A panic attack is sudden severe anxiety. 

How Can You Get Rid of Gag Reflex in the Morning?

As the main reason why a gag reflex occurs is to prevent a person from choking, it is not advisable to try stopping it. It may also take years of physical and mental retraining to stop a gag reflex.

However, It is possible to get rid of your hyperactive gag reflex through desensitization, which means training your soft palate to receive objects without gagging.

As long as gagging is not causing severe difficulty breathing, treatment can begin at home. If incidents of gagging increase in frequency or severity, you should consult your physician.

Home Remedies in Case of Minor Causes

Home remedies and lifestyle changes are often the first lines of treatment for gagging. Try the following suggestions to help alleviate your symptoms:

Smoking Cessation

Smoking is a major irritant and causes damage to the lower respiratory tract. Furthermore, smoking can cause acid reflux. Many causes of gagging can improve with smoking cessation.

Rest Smart

Try not to lie down or lie down flat on a full stomach. This position can facilitate the reflux of stomach acids and make it easier for them to flow back up through the esophagus.

Over-the-counter Medications

There are medications you can buy that can help reduce nausea. They work by blocking substances in the body that can trigger your reflex to want to vomit.

Furthermore, there are over-the-counter medications that can help combat acid reflux. Always discuss new medications with your physician before starting a new regimen.

For instance, Taking antacids can relieve indigestion but should only be used sparingly. See your doctor if you find that you need to take antacids frequently or daily, particularly if this occurs for longer than 2 weeks.

Anxiety-induced Gagging

Mindfulness, talking to a therapist, or a combination of methods can help reduce digestive issues caused by stress.

Drinking Herbal Tea

Drinking herbal teas, such as those with ginger and peppermint, can soothe digestive issues. On an empty stomach, any flavored herbal tea will help elevate your mood as well as appetite.

A person may desensitize their gag reflex by accustoming the trigger point in their mouth to touch.

Desensitization Techniques for Gag Reflex

Instead of trying to stop their body’s natural response, a person with a sensitive gag reflex may consider using techniques to desensitize or pause it when necessary. 

Some of these techniques include:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body which is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been used successfully to control the gag reflex.

Acupuncture can reduce the discomfort for patients suffering from a severe gag reflex during dental treatment. It may help alleviate a sensitive gag reflex in a short time.

Acupressure

Acupressure is an ancient healing art that’s based on the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture. With acupressure, you put pressure on specific places in your body. 

acupressure-point

These places are called acupoints. Pressing these points can help release muscle tension and promote blood circulation.

The Hegu point, or the concave soft point between your thumb and index finger, is the perfect place to apply pressure when faced with a strong gag reflex.

Toothbrush

A person may desensitize their gag reflex by accustoming the trigger point in their mouth to touch.

One technique that a person can try is taking their toothbrush and slowly moving it toward the back of their tongue until they feel close to gagging. They can then brush that area for 15–30 seconds.

A person should attempt to do this process twice a day until they no longer feel the urge to gag from brushing in that area. At this point, they can move their toothbrush back slightly further and repeat the process.

FAQs

Is it normal to Gag in the Morning?

Generally, it is normal to gag in the morning if the reason is having acid reflux. A small amount of acid may get into your esophagus, for this when you wake up it may cause gag. But if this occurs on a regular basis, you should see a doctor.

How to stop Gagging in the morning?

If the reason for having gag reflex is minor then you should try drinking flavored herbal tea in the morning. Or you must desensitize by gradually getting your soft palate accustomed to being touched.

Why is my gag reflex triggered more easily in the morning than at night?

I would imagine it’s due to an empty stomach and a more sensitive response in the morning. There are bodily systems waking up, hormones stirring around getting you ready for the day ahead, or when you’re anxious or stressed your body tries to get rid of the stomach content, which could also affect you.

What does gag reflex indicate?

The gag reflex is a protective response that prevents oral contents from entering the throat except as part of normal swallowing and helps prevent choking.

Why do I gag when I try and eat food in the morning?

Some people have quite a low hunger urge in the morning. If they try to drink herbal tea or water before eating breakfast, this might go away gradually. But they have to stay consistent which may help reset the desire to eat earlier in the morning.

Conclusion

Having a Gag Reflex in the Morning can make you feel like throwing up but in the end, you can’t vomit. This might happen for many reasons that have been given in this article.

You can get rid of this gag reflex with some home remedies. But if this occurs due to any major causes like any diseases, then you have to treat the disease first.

Anxiety or panic-induced gag reflex should be treated by consulting with the therapist. Since having mindfulness is necessary for your mental health.

Sarha Eusuf

Sarha Eusuf

The human body and how diseases or injuries can be treated has always deeply interested me due to my experiences of diseases and death in my family, I took every opportunity I could to try to understand my grandmother's illness in the hopes that I could one day help other people going through similar experiences. Especially after my grandmother died, this realization was the result of me exploring my passions. My interest in learning about the human body and how it works lead me to study in medical college. I am a 4th-year medical student at Armed Forces Medical College. Besides being passionate about medicine I've always had a passion for writings, paintings which helps me think beyond my imagination. Before being a professional doctor, I believe to be empathetic and compassionate towards people. So I want to continue to pursue my passions of improving myself through academics as well as serving unrepresented and unprivileged communities. Also, I believe that quality education is necessary to facilitate scientific fluency and awareness, regardless of age or academic background. I find it particularly important now with so much misinformation about medicine and science. In general, people tend to believe in myths from evidence-based facts. By being exposed to science literacy early on, people will be able to build a stronger foundation of knowledge about their health. By reading content about health-related factors with the proper and accurate information, people will be able to know many unacknowledged information.

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