The worst food poisoning I ever had was a few days after returning from a weekend vacation with friends. When I finally dragged myself out of the bathroom, an email was waiting for me: “Is everybody else feeling okay? I know our dinner together was a few days ago so I’m sure it’s not that, but I just wanted to check.”
All you can do is prepare for the worst 24-72 hours of your life, with the added bonus of feeling like shit (though thankfully things stop involuntarily coming out of you) for about a week while your body recovers from the trauma.
I hate to sound like Lemony Snicket, but you really might want to turn back from this entry while you still can. Anyone who clicks will learn how awful copremesis is, and the only slightly less awful thing that causes it.
Having tasted the vomit jelly bean myself, I can tell you it does, in fact, taste like puke. (I had to spit it out.) “We’re nothing if not committed to making flavors as true to life as possible,” Jelly Belly spokesperson Jana Sanders Perry tells mental_floss, “and that includes the wacky flavors, too.” Still, no one at Jelly Belly is eating canned dog food or vomit to make these beans, or putting that stuff in the beans themselves—and yet, they taste just like what they’re named after. So how is it done?
There are several ways to induce vomiting in humans. Without getting too specific, they are all linked through the “vomiting center” of the brain, also known as the area postrema. The “vomiting center” is capable of responding to many different types of poisons, toxins, conditions, etc. In the case of eating something bad, remember that the stomach is a highly vascularized zone that also happens to have a massive nervous structure called the enteric nervous system.
Usually food poisoning that involves vomiting is caused by organisms that have preformed toxins, including but not limited to B cereus and S aureus. That delicious looking potato salad is teeming with toxins that have been pre-made by the bacterial species to wreak havoc on whomever might eat it. These toxins work within hours, causing inflammation in the gut. This information gets relayed back to the vomiting center. Once the brain registers that something is not right in your tummy, it stimulates muscles to close the pyloric sphincter (bottom of the stomach) and open the cardiac sphincter (top of the stomach) before activating the abdominal musculature and diaphragm to propel the harmful substance out of the stomach via forceful contraction.
What about a “strong” vs “weak” stomach? A lot of why people throw up is mental – you have incredible subconscious control over puking. Or it could have to do with innoculum – give someone a large enough dose of toxin/bacteria, and they’ll blow chunks.
The funny thing about it, you need your brains “permission” to puke, but your gut doesn’t need your brains permission for diarrhea. If for some reason you ate something wacky that managed to get past the brain’s vomiting center detection, your intestines will flush with extreme prejudice. Sometimes, a group of people who eat the same bad food can experience either symptom – vomit or diarrhea.