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Hey Matt:

I understand one throwing up because of too much alcohol or bad food. I do not understand one throwing up because of emotion, like seeing a big pile of dog doo (or worse). One is body driven, one mind driven. Help me!

-- Jay Jay in Carlsbad

I think we've already analyzed the elves' group puke on the teacups at Disneyland. That's about the last big vomit event in the Alice family. We seem to be motion-sickness hurlers-- cars, boats, planes, carnival rides, the time we put one of the elves in the dryer. Motion, dog poop, Ma's cooking, medications, and anxiety are all known vomit inducers. We're a very hurl-prone species, unlike rabbits, rats, and horses to whom upchucking is unknown. Jay Jay's big pile of dog doo has one other sure-fire stimulant: smell. Much research has been done on the trigger of odors in the nausea-vomit cycle. It's suspected to be one of the primary stimuli in morning sickness because so many pregnant women are hypersensitive to smells because of an increase in estrogen levels.

Nausea and vomiting are actually two different responses, brainwise. Nausea tends to be stimulated by disruptions of gut and cardiac muscle and related systems. Actual puking comes from its own cubby in the brain generally known as the vomit center. It receives messages from around the body, including a chemoreceptor brain zone that monitors toxins in the blood, then sends out the alarm to get rid of the invaders. All I all, it's a lifesaving system that protects us from dying of bad enchiladas.

So Jay Jay's dog poop could stimulate nausea from its smell or it could even be a learned response. One Matt pal once won a banana-eating contest, which seemed like a good time killer to a couple of ten-year-olds. Unfortunately, other than the glory, an hour of nausea and vomiting was the only prize. Even now, two decades later, the best way to get him to do your bidding is to threaten him with a piece of fruit or Grandma Alice's banana bread. Sends him reeling.

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