Table Of Content

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

by | Updated Apr 19, 2024

Reviewed By: Erin Black

Table Of Content

Imagine your child is filled with anxiety and fear every time they step foot into a car – a necessity in life. As a parent, having to be armed with bags and clean-up gear any time you need to drive somewhere. What if when your child took a plane ride, they ended up sick for a day or two after arriving at the next destination? 

You have tried every over-the-counter medication, Dramamine, and ginger pills and nothing helped.  This was the case for poor Maddie. This Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome just worsened for her, and it became absolutely miserable to travel anywhere. 

After a lot of searching and medical testing, they were told she had cyclic vomiting syndrome.  Cyclic vomiting syndrome can be very concerning but also confusing because, in between travel stints, Maddie did not experience any type of nausea or stomach issues. Maddie’s parents were at a loss as to how to help make motion in vehicles and traveling a pain-free experience for her.

What is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is characterized by episodes of severe vomiting, sometimes without an obvious cause.  In Maddie’s case, there was a clear link between travel and motion to her episodes, but this is not always the case.  Sometimes they seem to be brought on by stress, weather changes, allergies, etc. These episodes can last for hours or days and alternate with symptom-free periods.  

Cyclic vomiting syndrome can range in severity but is usually diagnosed in children between the ages of 3 to 7. The syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because vomiting is a symptom of many other disorders. Since there is not always a clear cause or the trigger is a part of everyday life, it is very hard to treat or avoid these episodes from occurring with traditional medication.

Cyclic Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of a cyclic vomiting episode is usually intense nausea and sweating and can be followed or accompanied by the list of symptoms below:

  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headache/migraine
  • Retching or gagging
  • Excess thirst or dry mouth
  • Less urination
  • Dry skin
  • Sunken eyes or cheeks
  • Exhaustion

This cycle can seem to happen in four phases.

  1. Prodrome Phase: The child feels an episode coming on, starts to sweat, experiences nausea, and appears pale.
  2. Vomiting Phase: Intense and frequent vomiting occurs for a few hours or days. They have stomach pains and are unable to move around. They may experience any of the symptoms listed above.
  3. Recovery Phase: The vomiting and nausea stops, and other symptoms improve. This phase can also take a few hours or a few days.
  4. Well Phase: The child does not experience any symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome.

A traditional medical doctor tends to diagnose cyclic vomiting syndrome if the child has had 3 or more intense episodes of nausea and vomiting lasting a few hours or days within a 6-month period. They also consider if the episodes are spread out, and the child shows no symptoms during those in-between periods.  

They will run all sorts of tests honing in on your child’s digestive tract or abdominal area based on symptoms. By doing this, they completely miss getting to the root cause of these episodes.

Cyclic Vomiting Causes and Diagnosis

When traditional medical doctors prescribe medication like anti-nausea or pain-relieving drugs or a medication that suppresses stomach acid, they are only putting a bandaid on the issue. These medications may relieve the symptoms a bit temporarily, but they do not stop these episodes from occurring or get to the root cause of the issue. 

As pediatric chiropractors, our first step is to dive into the full history of your child and dig until we get to the root cause of the issue. We know it is necessary to not just focus on your child’s digestive tract but to take a look at their entire nervous system. 

How to Care For Kids With this Issue

As in Maddie’s case, we dove deep into her history. When she was younger, she had chronic ear infections and eventually had to get her tonsils and adenoids removed. This information is what starts to take us down the path of what we call The Perfect Storm. These issues often link back to some type of birth trauma or birth intervention (c-section, vacuum, forceps) the child experienced as a baby. This trauma causes stress on the nervous system, which leads to subluxation.  

If that is not addressed, this subluxation gets worse and can lead to a plethora of challenges as they get older such as constipation, chronic ear infections, ADHD, gross motor delays, or in Maddie’s case – cyclic vomiting syndrome.

Although nausea and vomiting are the main symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome, we know the primary system affected is the nervous system, including the brain and the vagus nerve. The nervous system is like air traffic control controlling all other major systems, so when subluxation occurs, that communication gets disrupted and cannot function properly.  There are more nerve cells in the abdomen than in the head, and symptoms develop due to disrupted communication between the brain and gut. 

After digging into your child’s history, a neurologically trained pediatric chiropractor uses special technology called INSiGHT Scans that can measure and locate elements of subluxation in your child’s autonomic nervous system.  These INSiGHT scans are safe, non-invasive, and reliable. 

Once we can see where that subluxation lies, your PX Doc would put together a customized care plan that fits your child’s needs and restore function to the nervous system and allow that brain-to-gut connection to communicate effectively.

How Chiropractic Can Help

Once Maddie started her care plan and gentle chiropractic adjustments, her body started to release years of tension, and she could finally manage a 5-hour car trip without getting sick! Her family no longer had to worry about traveling, and she was living the healthy life she was meant to lead.

For Maddie and her family, going on these long drives to their family’s cabin or attending week-long summer camps with her church were some of their favorite parts of life! Now she can experience them with 100% health, happiness, and joy! 

Whatever it is that your child is missing out on due to troubles with cyclic vomiting syndrome and subluxation, get that health and happiness restored! 

If you don’t already have a neurologically focused Pediatric Chiropractor on your child’s healthcare team, please visit our PX Docs directory to get your child booked for an appointment today. 

PX Docs has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy.

Latest Articles
    1. Hejazi RA, Reddymasu SC, Namin F, Lavenbarg T, Foran P, McCallum RW. Reduced heart rate variability in patients with cyclic vomiting syndrome: Evidence for disordered autonomic control. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2013 Aug;57(2):176-9. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e318295ba33. PMID: 23636138.

    1. Hejazi RA, Lavenbarg T, Foran P, McCallum RW. Efficacy of transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation in the treatment of cyclic vomiting syndrome: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Jan;58(1):81-6. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3182a9a337. PMID: 24048135.

    1. Karamanolis G, Caenepeel P, Arts J, Tack J. ‘Vicious circle’ in cyclic vomiting syndrome: one of the possible mechanisms? Auton Neurosci. 2019 Aug;220:102568. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2019.102568. Epub 2019 Jun 26. PMID: 31296424.

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