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Health & Balance

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Grossology: The Science of the Disgusting

Kids and adults learn how and why the body does those yucky things it does - like pooping, farting, belching, and making snot.

Vomit continued...

Indeed, the act of vomiting has many triggers. It eliminates anything that bothers the stomach's lining - excess food or drink, poisonous substances, bacteria, or viruses. If your inner ear canal is unbalanced, as happens during sailing and driving, the brain's vomit center gets an alert. Hormone changes during early pregnancy trigger the vomit response. Anything unpleasant can prompt you to vomit.

"Those are the natural reactions," Horesh says. "They're either protective functions or body quirks."

However, chronic nausea and vomiting are symptoms of acid reflux disease (heartburn) -- a potentially serious health problem, she tells WebMD. Some people have chest pain or asthma caused by acid reflux, she adds.

"Most people with acid reflux think they have a nervous stomach, and try to modify their diet," Horesh explains. "But for many people, simply avoiding spicy food or marinara sauce isn't going to do enough... and taking Tums or Rolaids helps only a little. Newer medicines like Prilosec and Nexium, though, can prevent acid reflux from developing into a more serious problem."

Vomiting and nausea can also be symptoms of gallstone and gallbladder disease, which can be a diet-related problem, she adds.


Mucus (a.k.a. snot) is the sticky liquid that coats the skin and hairs in your nose. It has a special bacteria-killing chemical, and it also keeps junk from reaching your lungs, explains Branzei. "Snot is so important that your nose makes a new batch every 20 minutes."

Boogers are actually "nose garbage," she writes. "Each day, you suck in a small roomful of air. If the air was only gas, you would not even make boogers. But the air is filled with dust, smoke, grit, bacteria, tiny fungi, pollen, soot, little metal pieces, ash, fuzz, sand, and even itty bitty meteorites. One job of the nose is to clean the stuff out."

This nose-cleaning system is so effective that the nasal area is one of the cleanest parts of your body, Branzei adds. However, allergies and pollutants will trigger inflammation in the sinus lining, which creates sinus drainage, Horesh explains. "For some people, that means a runny nose, for other people, it's post-nasal drip."

Nasal sprays may help with post-nasal drip. Allergy shots and pills can control allergic reactions. "If air quality is a problem, another option is to move to Colorado," Horesh says.

Another tidbit: "The reason that smokers have more sinus and upper respiratory infections is because smoking damages the cilia, the hairs lining the sinus membranes which interfere with the natural snot mechanism," Horesh explains.

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