Gag Reflex - Suppression and Activation

Suppression and Activation

Swallowing unusually large objects or placing objects in the back of the mouth may cause the pharyngeal reflex. Some people, for instance sword swallowers, have learned how to suppress it. In contrast, triggering the reflex is sometimes done intentionally to induce vomiting, for example by those who suffer from bulimia nervosa.

According to one study, one in three people lack a gag reflex. However, on the other end of the spectrum are people with a hypersensitive gag reflex. This hypersensitivity can lead to a variety of issues, from swallowing a pill or large bites of food to visiting the dentist. Hypersensitivity is generally a conditioned response, usually occurring following a previous experience. There are a variety of ways to desensitize one’s hypersensitivity, from relaxation to numbing the mouth and throat to training your soft palate to get used to being touched. Of course, the effectiveness of these techniques varies with the person.

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