Since our stomach acid is so strong, why does vomiting not scar our throat and mouth?


Since our stomach acid is so strong, why does vomiting not scar our throat and mouth?

In: 7

Well, it does cause damage to your throat and mouth (especially teeth), but it takes more time and exposure for that to happen. So throwing up once from a bad potato salad isn’t going to do too much to you, but people who force themselves to vomit on a regular basis end up doing damage to these parts of their bodies.

It can.

People with bulimia suffer these side affects, and even their teeth begin to dissolve because of the repeated exposure to acid.

Also, “strong” when talking about acid just means it can dissolve almost anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean the acid can dissolve things *quickly*.

Our body produces a coating that can resist the acid. Normally your stomach is coated in this layer to protect it from digesting itself. Once your stomach contents leave and go into the intestines other organs release neutralizing compounds to reduce the acidity and protect the intestines from the acid.

Your esophagus, nose, and mouth are somewhat protected but less so considering acid isn’t meant to go *that way*. Generally speaking, they are protected enough to handle *some* vomit. But repeated exposure to stomach acid from various illnesses like reflux or bulimia can cause permanent damage like an eroded esophagus or even some cancers. Trust me, it happens and it’s nasty. Get stomach disorders treated folks.

The damage is limited because we tend to spit it out and rinse our mouth out. Acid isn’t like they show in the movies, it doesn’t instantly corrode and melt flesh. Additionally, we tend not to vomit pure acid, but rather we tend to vomit when we have a stomach that is full of things. This helps to dilute the acid. Also, all the surfaces of your body are coated with epithelial cells, which are strong cells with lots of defenses that are meant to keep everything that is you inside, and everything that isn’t you outside. Your mouth is just as protected from the environment as your hands are!

Most digestion isn’t actually caused by the stomach acid, it just helps along the major methods of absorbing the macro nutrients (bile, proteases, and amylase for fats, proteins, and carbs respectively).

It does cause damage to the throat and mouth (and other tissues). Take chronic GERD – over time it changes the cellular composition of the lower esophageal tissue (this is a form of metaplasia known as Barrett’s esophagus). Over time this metaplasia continues into an irreversible dysplasia, which is how you can end up with esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Acid corrosion can also be evidenced in bulimics, with enamel erosion. Other pathologies related to your question exist, but these are a few.

Why does vomiting once not cause issues? Because of the mucosal layer. It acts as a buffer. This is seen to fail when people take NSAIDs to the extent where the mucosal layer is eradicated (prostaglandins produce it) and you end up with stomach ulcers.

It can and it does.

People who have conditions that make them throw up more frequently du suffer negative effects to their throat and mouth and teeth from it.

Yeah it can, not necessarily from vomiting but speaking from personal experience: I’ve had acid reflux since I was in elementary school, that’s when stomach acid leaks up into your throat, and it was consistently misdiagnosed as asthma until I was in my 20s 🙄. Now I’m in my 30s and I have something called esophagitis, an even more painful condition that causes muscle spasms in my throat and makes eating difficult, caused by scarring from acid.

As someone with GERD/GORD I can promise you that it does scar our throats.

Then things are bad I can get almost anything stuck in my throat. Thankfully that hasn’t happened for years.

Stomach acid does cause damage when you vomit.

It’s particularly harsh on teeth, but luckily most people don’t throw up too often, nor do they tend to hold it in their mouth too long.

The same goes for the rest of the throat and mouth. There’s a bit of mucus that provides a little protection, but burning does happen and the only reason that it isn’t worse is because the stuff doesn’t sit there long in a large quantity (and, often, people throw up food not too long after eating, so the stomach hasn’t really produced too much digestive juices yet when the vomiting occurs).

People that have “reflux” are pushing stuff from their stomach and splashing it around the bottom of their throat near the stomach. They do get bad acid burns there, and if it happens long enough that scar tissue can become cancerous.

Yes, it does when it is too frequent.
Our throats and mouths are constantly covered by protective mucus (and saliva), which works quite well to limit exposure to the acids. However, if the vomiting is very frequent, the repeated (tiny) exposure adds up. This is most pronounced by erosion of the teeth as acids eat away the enamel in more pronounced ways.

I threw up a couple of times from a bad hangover and had a weird sore throat for a week afterwards, so it does damage to your throat

As everyone else has already commented, it can and it does – however your body does its best to try and mitigate this…

1. One thing I’m surprised no-one has mentioned is waterbrash (increased salivation) before vomiting.

Your saliva contains HCO³ – which is a base. Before vomiting (or when feeling nauseous generally) people tend to start salivating more (seriously, next time you feel like you’re about to vomit, stop and take notice, you’ll probably be producing a lot more saliva than normal). Increased salivation helps to neutralise some of the acid produced in your stomach.

2. The lining of your oesophagus and mouth is designed to take a bit of a beating.

On a cellular level, your oesophagus (particularly the top part of your oesophagus) is lined with stratified squamous epithelia; think of this as lots and lots of sheets of paper on top of one another, which protect more important structures underneath. When you vomit, the outer layers of paper are damaged and sacrificed, but this means the important underlying structures are left intact.