What could cause frequent dry heaving?

7 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have bouts of dry heaving at times and it hits me all of a sudden with frequent stomach indigestion or acid reflux. I sometimes get bile, but typically I don't throw anything up. I have experienced this for the last five years on and off. What could be the cause?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Dry heaving, indigestion, and acid reflux is usually a condition called GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux).  It is quite a common medical problem. You can walk down the aisle of any drug store across the U.S. and see tons of medications to treat acid reflux.  It is basically a problem where a sphincter in your esophagus does not close all the way, so stomach acid goes up into your esophagus,  burning the tissue in there (commonly called "heartburn").

There is plenty of information about this condition on the internet, magazines, and media, so I will not go into specifics regarding the treatments.  In general, they include:

  1. Dietary changes
  2. Sleeping with your head elevated
  3. Losing weight
  4. Medications

Regarding your particular case, your problem sounds on the more severe side.  I would recommend seeing your health care professional to get checked out regarding your symptoms.  Although it does sound like you have acid reflux, you should get examined to be sure nothing else is going on.

Community Answers

Tigerette answered...

My husband had the same ting, for years, took everything her could , even what the doctors told him to take. eventually he started to have little pain in the upper chest. then he couldn't even dring a ounce of water, without throwing up, took to ER, then told him his Esphagus was clogged with food, took him right up to OR, cleaned out his esphagus and then they found a Tumor, what was cancer of the esphagus, If anything, when I hear people sai they have reflux or Gerd, I tell them right away to go to doctor and get a endoscopy, now my husband is fightingwth Esphgeal cancer, and suffering, if you catch it in time yu will Thank God you did.

Skiqsr answered...

Sometimes the Gallbladder doesn't know when to work... basically a breakdown between sensors, the Gallbladder and the brain. Functional Dyspepsia... only help is to try an antidepressant. Warning some doctors will tell you your Gallbladder is bad and needs to come out... not without an ultra sound and a nuclear medicine test where you are injected with a synthetic drug simulating the triggers making your Gallbladder work. I bloat... my stomach swells up putting pressure at my rib cage and then I dry heave... before or after dinner... morning, noon, night... it has no set time schedule... The only constant is my blood pressure goes up... my feet get warm and purple... I carry towels to muffle the sound... no food comes up just gas... and it sounds terrible. I went on an antidepressant for 6 months it cut my episodes down to one or two days a month but then... 4 straight days of episodes... it is frustrating.

Mdocrn answered...

I believe it could be caused by stress, as well. I've been dealing with the daily dry heaves and at times bile/vomiting for the past six months, even taking an anti-depressant. I feel for all of you.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I've been taking a med called librax for 33 years and it helps prevent this.

Hpac answered...

I started to dry heave through peri-menopause always in the morning .. it can be hormonal when you are in balanced a result of anxiety I believe... looking into this with and endocrinologist... have been told by my ob that it is an anxiety disorder.... I no longer see this Dr.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I used to dry heave randomly every single day with no other symptoms. It got so bad I had to work from home and going into public was unbearable. It all happened after I was sick with the stomach flu for over four weeks. (I am 28 year old healthy male)

I didn't think I would ever find a cure to the retching and had an EGD done and scope at the ENT. They found nothing, no GERD or anything.

The ENT suggested my vocal chords and neck muscles might be tense. So I started doing neck exercises that stretch out the muscles connected to your gag reflex. Also I was put on a tiny dose of amitripyline for sleep and to see if anxiety was effecting my GI system. Also I saw an osteopath who helped make me less tense through massage and working on my posture. <= These all seemed to help

I found the stretches on youtube searching globus hystericus. I don't know if this is what I had but the stretches helped. When I felt like I was going to dry heave I would do the stretches.

I haven't gagged in almost a month. I also think that I might have a vomited induced injury from all the vomiting I did when I was sick.

It took me a while (months) to realize that it was a tightness in my throat that was making me dry heave. It didn’t feel like a lump like globus hytericus but more of a choking but I could breathe fine. It was random and I think it was somewhat tied to anxiety but not always as every morning I would wake up and do it.

I am not an overly anxious person but my neck muscles were so tense from all the vomiting that I think any anxiety was making me do this.

I hope this helps because dealing with this for so long and thinking it would never get better was a terrible experience.