Tuesday, December 09, 2008

WikiHow--You're a girl's best friend

On my Google homepage, I have the "How to of the day" feature. Every day I have three "How to" articles to read. They range from the silly (How to be nice) to the downright informative (How to increase your retirement funds) to the kind of thing you always wanted to know but didn't know who to ask (How to ride a mechanical bull without embarrassing yourself). Today's, though--today's is just priceless information. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: HOW TO SUPPRESS YOUR GAG REFLEX


  1. Breathe through your nose. Taking a nasal decongestant beforehand can help clear the nasal passageways and facilitate breathing, if your nose is congested.
  2. Lift both of your legs, if you're sitting or lying down on your back. Tightening your abdominal muscles might help stop gagging.
  3. Numb your soft palate. When an object touches the soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth), that's what triggers the gag reflex. You can use a throat spray that uses numbing to relieve sore throat pain, or a gel that's normally used to relieve tooth pain. The effects should last for about an hour, and your soft palate will be less sensitive.
  4. Put a little table salt on your tongue.
  5. Hum. You might find that it's difficult to gag and hum at the same time. [So that's where that term came from]
  6. Beware the gag reflex in the morning. Some people report that they're more likely to gag earlier in the day. Try to schedule the gag-inducing activity for the late afternoon or evening instead. [My absolute favorite sentence--ever.]
  7. Relax. The gag reflex is triggered by a combination of psychology and physiology. For some people, the psychology will play a larger role. Maybe you've had a traumatizing experience in the past, or in general, you have a fear of loss of control. Some of the steps above, such as controlled breathing, will help. You may also want to practice some form of meditation, and communicate with whoever is causing the gag reflex [mom said not to talk with my mouth full], until you feel confident that they will stop doing whatever they're doing as soon as you let them know. In more extreme situations, some people turn to hypnosis.
  8. Disengage your gag reflex. By gradually getting your soft palate accustomed to being touched, you can minimize the gag reflex, or perhaps even get rid of it completely. This is the first step that sword swallowers must take and it does require effort and patience over time:

    • Find out where your gag reflex starts. This can be done by simply using your toothbrush to brush your tongue. The point nearest the front of your tongue that makes you gag is where you want to concentrate.
    • Brush your tongue right where your gag begins. Yes, you'll gag. It will be unpleasant, but not for long. Spend about 10 seconds brushing that area (and gagging), and call it a night.
    • Repeat the process over the next few nights in the exact same spot. You'll notice you gag less each time you do it.
    • Increase the brushing area. Once you can touch your toothbrush on that spot without gagging, it's time to move the toothbrush further back. Try brushing 1/4-1/2 inch behind where your gag used to begin. This is your new starting point. Repeat the process as you did in the first spot.
    • Continue moving the brush further. Each time you move the toothbrush back, your gag has been desensitized in the previous spot. Keep moving it further and further back until you've reached the furthest visual point of your tongue. Eventually, the toothbrush will come in contact with the soft palate, if it hasn't already.
    • Be persistent. This whole process should take approximately a month to complete. When it's all said and done, you should be able to have a doctor swab the back of your throat without gagging. You might have to re-do the process from time to time, as your reflex may return if you don't.


  • Don't eat right before the activity that tends to trigger the gag reflex, to minimize the chances of vomiting.
  • Try to smile when you feel like gagging. This may help to suppress the urge to gag.
I know. I'm a dirty girl.


Ellen Bloom said...

Wow! This is a whole bunch of fascinating information for one who is still suffering the delayed reactions (and gagging) from summertime laryngitis! Thanks, Dr. Laurie Ann!

woolanthropy said...

During my spring yogi cleanse we were told to gag ourselves in the morning to express our monkey glands. I still sometimes to. It really clears things up in the morning.

And yes you are a dirty girl!

Anne-Marie said...

Currently laughing my ass off....


carlita dee said...