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With review and feedback from CEENTA ENT doctor Brett Heavner, MD (Steele Creek)

Are you one of those people who gags every time they try to swallow a pill? Do you have a very young child who has the same reaction when eating? This experience is called the gag reflex, but what, exactly, is it?

What is a gag reflex?

The gag reflex, also known as the pharyngeal reflex, is when your pharynx contracts and your larynx pushes up, contracting your throat. This happens after food or other objects make contact with the back of your tongue, the back of your throat, the roof of your mouth, or the area around your tonsils.

What is a psychogenic gag reflex?

A psychogenic gag reflex is a case where someone’s gag reflex is stimulated just by thinking about a gag reflex trigger.

Why do we have a gag reflex?

Gag reflexes help prevent people from choking. In particular, they are helpful when babies transition from liquid food to solid by rejecting food a baby might not be able to digest.

Why do I have a sensitive gag reflex?

Brett Heavner, MD

By the time most people mature, their gag reflex is only triggered if there’s something unusually large in the back of the throat. However, about 10-15 percent of the population have a hypersensitive gag reflex, which is often triggered by sticky or mushy food. While the causes are not completely understood, evidence suggests hypersensitive gag reflexes occur more in people who weren’t introduced to solid foods until after they were seven months old.

Fortunately, CEENTA ENT doctor Brett Heavner, MD, said, a hypersensitive gag reflex is not indicative of any worrisome or serious condition.

Can I stop my gag reflex?

It is possible to diminish a gag reflex, especially if you have a sensitive one. This could require any number of physical or psychological treatments. Talk with your doctor about treatment plans before starting one of your own.

Experts on gag reflexes

If you have concerns about your gag reflex or your throat in general, make an appointment with a CEENTA doctor. They’ll help ensure your throat reacts properly to all stimuli.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Heavner? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or though myCEENTAchart.


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