What Do You Do When You’re Sick?

Last evening, I went to dinner with Dave Asprey of BulletProofExcec, Grace—AKA Dr. BG—of AnimalPharm (link removed), and Patrick, creator of PaleoHacks. Grace’s lovely sister and my lovely wife Beatrice were also in attendance. It was at Birk’s, in Santa Clara. They have grassfed steaks. Dave knew this, and actually metioned it in the podcast I recorded with him a couple of weeks back—which should come out soon.

And then, that asshole Patrick ordered a dozen oysters on the half shell and being the hog I am, I downed four of them. And within an hour or less, already having ordered and received my grassfed filet, I had them box it for me. I excused myself from the table, went out, found a secluded flower pot, and did exactly what my dogs do when they don’t feel quite right.

The difference is, I didn’t return to it.

I have no idea what the human reluctance to vomit is all about. When you feel like you need to blow chunks, fucking blow chunks! And guess what? You’ll feel immeasurably better almost instantly. Why do you insist on putting your will to not be embarrassed, beyond your physiological nature?

And guess what else? Why not trust your inner animal? It’s telling you that something is very fucking wrong. Why try to overcome that physical urge with a potentially lifesaving natural physical response. You can actually die from a bad enough dose of bad shit. Really. It’s happened. And for the sake of saving face, you’re going to feel like crap for hours, suck it up, and take the risk? Not me.

Flower pot. Yea, there were oyster chunks in that shit.

I got this email earlier that motivated me to this post, and I’d intended on taking a post break for today.

I’m really enjoying your blog and looking forward to your forum starting up. In the meantime, I have a question regarding a recent experience of mine. I was the unfortunate victim of food poisoning earlier this week, and was wondering what I could have done to recover from it. I’m familiar with the BRAT diet, and realize that half of that formula isn’t paleo friendly. So what kind of diet is recommended for a stomach that’s recovering from some kind of insult? I ended up eating bananas and applesauce, but wondered what else I could have eaten to help me recover.

Here’s how I replied:

I do just like a typical animal does, even my dogs. At the slightest hint of a problem, I stop eating until I feel better. You don’t eat anything; you rather, divert all resources to healing. Your body already has all it needs. Yes, you may deplete certain nutrients somewhat, but if you eat nutritionally dense you’ll quickly fill them again when you are hungry and feel good, at which point you eat.

Once again, it’s always about “what do I eat”: to cleanse, to lose weight, to recover from illness.

How about: Try Nothing.

I hadn’t eaten much yesterday and after that experience, had no desire of food until about 11AM. Anticipating this, I had set my filet out all morning to get up to room temp. I fired and basted two sunny eggs in butter, set them aside and re-seared my $32 untouched filet in the same butter. It was all awesome.

…The coolest place I ever emptied a stomach was on the island of Diego Garcia in the dead middle of the Indian Ocean—about 2 deg south of the equator, if I recall correctly. We’d been 60 days at sea, we arranged for an officer’s kinda dinner ball with gold cummerbunds & all—or crumb catchers, as you prefer—and we went to town.

I think I lost it the most when Erik, a fellow officer friend of mine, got up and toasted to true manly character, defined as whether or not you get out of the shower to pee.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Megh on January 26, 2012 at 05:44

    I have had much less excruciating experiences with food poisoning since I started taking activated charcoal whenever my stomach felt a little bit not right after eating out (or whenever I had reason to suspect something might not be quite right, i.e. after eating raw oysters at a new restaurant). And actually, it doesn’t have to be activated, it can just be regular ground-up charcoal (the real stuff you’d get from burning logs, not the easy-light kind you find in a bag at the store, of course), the activated kind is just what they sell in easy-to-take, non-messy pills.

  2. Patrik on January 25, 2012 at 20:00

    Love it.

    • grace on January 26, 2012 at 15:16

      WICKED WICKED WICKED FUN 😉 (and not just the hurling!!!!)

  3. Alex on January 25, 2012 at 20:14

    I’m curious to see whether the issue of puking is as contentious as Vitamin K.

  4. Rhonda on January 25, 2012 at 20:21

    I hate vomiting, and not because I’m embarrassed to be seen doing it or think it’s unladylike. It’s because when it’s happending it is one of the worst and most exhausting actions to happen to my body. I don’t throw up because I want to, because I can control it, it is always out of my control, I couldn’t stop it if Iwanted to. My body won’t let any bad food stay down. I’m lucky in that my body is aware of crappy, harmful food coming down my throat, and puts itself into gear to kick it out, even though the feeling of throwing up is something that I hate to have happen.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2012 at 21:21

      Oh’ I stuck my middle finger down my throat to induce it. Too, two tries.

      I just k new that after, I’d feel better, which is always, always the case. And plus, vomiting is strangely like liftin heavy weights. 🙂

  5. LXV on January 25, 2012 at 21:11

    “I have no idea what the human reluctance to vomit is all about.”

    The act of throwing up is so very fundamentally unpleasant. The taste, the feel, the muscle contractions, the gagging, the smell, the inevitable cleanup; it’s got nothing to do at all with whether or not I feel “dignified.”

    Maybe it’s because food has never made me throw up. I’ve had plenty of GI reactions to foods with canola oil but uhm…. it’s not throwing up. I can barely remember the last time I threw up due to illness (I was eight maybe?). No the things that make me throw up *are* embarassing and unrelated to the contents of my stomach: the smell of vomit, vertigo, hair clogs, cleaning out the cat box, or cleaning up dog puke.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2012 at 21:35

      I dunno, LVX. I really think its culture and convention. Sure, it’s not pleasant by any means, but at what cost? Feel ling miserable for hours holding in what your very body it telling you, seriously admonishing you with every signal it can muster to expell it?

      I guess I walk dogs to much and watch them vomit at the drop os a hat if they feel like it,

      Bit they have absolutely not social or learned cues in the matter.

      I take that to mean, toss cookies when you have to, excuse yourself and find a private place. That’s the human animal distinction.

      • Sean on January 26, 2012 at 05:36

        Cats are also big time pukers, sometimes it’s hairballs, but quite often they throw up for no apparent reason. This can be triggered by chowing on the house plants as dogs seem to puke after eating grass. I’ve often wondered if there is some sort of purgative instinct in cats and dogs.

      • grace on January 26, 2012 at 15:16

        ‘purgative instinct in cats and dogs’… and other predators… like Richard.

      • Uncephalized on January 26, 2012 at 09:43

        Richard, animals actually have a much easier time puking than we do. It’s not a totally fair comparison. Both our swallowing and gag reflexes and muscles are much weaker for our size than most animals. It’s physically more difficult for us to vomit, as well as being more dangerous because humans can choke on food going down or up, which is no danger for other animals. So vomiting is probably more unpleasant and harder for people than it is for dogs and cats, as well as being significantly more dangerous.

        Not to say you shouldn’t do it if you need to; I’m just saying that for me personally, I’ll let my GI tract decide whether it wants to send something back rather than forcing the issue. If I’m feeling really sick usually all it takes is to bend over (at the toilet or outside) and things just happen on their own.

        I definitely agree that you shouldn’t eat if your GI tract is fighting something, though. I haven’t gotten sick since I’ve been eating paleo, except for a couple bouts of food poisoning from past-prime salad greens that I shouldn’t have eaten. Both times I just fasted for that day and I was fine by morning, if a bit tired, with no lasting ill effects.

      • Uncephalized on January 26, 2012 at 10:21

        Just a note that I should have said “non-human animals have a much easier time…”. I hate it when people speak like humans aren’t animals too; least I can do is practice that in my own writing/speech as well!

  6. ZombieApocalypseKitten on January 25, 2012 at 21:16

    Even if vomiting is unpleasant. It is certainly better than *hours* of agony. There have been times when I was begging to vomit just so my stomach would STFU!

    Vomiting is better than becoming a zombie.

  7. julianne on January 25, 2012 at 22:06

    I definitely agree – good to have a big puke if you are feeling sick.

    Is there anyone you know that has never puked?

    I’m asking because my daughter – who is adopted from Russia, had NEVER vomitted – ever! She is nearly 16.

    The only person that I’ve met / known that hasn’t

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2012 at 22:24

      Beatrice who is 52, claims she has never vomited.

      It’s not like it’s a habit of mine and it has probaly been a year or so, but if stuff doesn’t feel right, finger down the thoat and worry about the details later.

      • King James on January 31, 2012 at 21:47

        You should have eaten that vomit, Richard. Rich, nutrient-dense vomit and feces are destined to become the next paleo superfoods. Packaged in plastic and auto-shipped to your door.

      • Richard Nikoley on January 31, 2012 at 22:26

        I stopped reading at King.

  8. Bert on January 25, 2012 at 22:18

    a FLOUR pot?! it’s got gluten in it dude!!

    …or maybe you meant ‘flower’ pot. 😛

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2012 at 22:26

      Ha, I need to check for edits.

  9. Keith Sanvidge on January 25, 2012 at 23:44

    I don’t try to hold it back, but I’ve never self-induced either. Might try that next time.

    For me vomiting is actually the most painful experience I’ve been through in my life. This from a guy with multiple broken bones and tattoos. My wife thought I was dying the first time she heard me. It’s pretty scary.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2012 at 03:01

      Self inducing gives you a little control. At a point, you feel it’s gonna be sooner or later and getting that gag reflex on should induce within a short while. Then position. 🙂

  10. Txomin on January 25, 2012 at 23:52

    Absolutely correct, my friend.

    Puke it, shit it, whatever. Give the enemy a way out or it will have no option but to turn on you with a vengeance.

    And, then, avoid at all cost stuffing more crap down your throat. Wait until you feel better before drinking or eating anything.

  11. Colleen Lalonde on January 26, 2012 at 00:44

    Is there a way or will there be a way in the near future to buy the PDF of your book (I am in Canada and use Kobo so that is my best option I think) with paypal?

  12. Brett Legree on January 26, 2012 at 01:51

    Yep. I do that whenever required – if I’m not feeling well, just as you say, a discreet flower pot for a self-induced purge works (but usually a quiet restroom somewhere). Any kind of cold or flu is starved into submission as well.

    It works well for me.

  13. Bill on January 26, 2012 at 01:57

    PayPal request seconded. I’m in England.

  14. Lindsay on January 26, 2012 at 02:18

    I’m what some may call a Big Puker. It’s easy, I’m good at it, and I prefer anything over nausea. On a completely unrelated note, I’m fascinated by the Ph (alkalinity/acidity) of the body and the right balance’s potential for contributing to radical healing. A strict paleo diet strikes me as quite acidic. I’m really new to it all and just learning all about it, any thoughts? Am I way off?

    • John on January 26, 2012 at 07:11

      A paleo diet is more alkaline than most, and at worst, is only slightly acidic. One of the most acidic foods is wheat, and you are reducing or eliminating that on a paleo diet. Most fruits and vegetables are net alkaline (even citrus fruits), so you can still eat plenty of alkaline foods. Also, bone broths are high in calcium and magnesium, so consuming that should have an alkaline effect. Animal protein in general is said to be acidic, but the supposed problem with acidic diets is that they leach minerals like calcium and magnesium from the bones to lower the pH of the body. Yet in reality, animal protein is great for building bones. So I don’t really think it’s an issue.

      On a paleo diet, you cut wheat, eat veggies and some fruit, add in some bone broths and a chealeated magnisum supplement, and I don’t think you’d have to worry about the acid/alkaline thing.

      • Lindsay on January 26, 2012 at 07:13

        Thanks so much, great answer:)

      • Uncephalized on January 26, 2012 at 09:45

        Isn’t the whole acid/base thing pretty much bunk anyway? I don’t remember anyone ever showing evidence supporting anything of the sort.

        Just eat real food.

      • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2012 at 11:12

        Yea, I think it’s bunk. I think I shared a link somewhere recently to that effect but have no idea, now.

  15. Heather on January 26, 2012 at 02:33

    Am I the only one who is curious about whether it’s manly to pee in the shower, or more manly to get out first?!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2012 at 03:06

      The question at this officer’s dinner posed was on definition of character. The man of higher character got out of the shower to pee.

      But we were all drunk, anyway.

      • gallier2 on January 26, 2012 at 05:11

        Getting out of the shower to pee doesn’t denote character, au contraire it shows that someone puts cultural conventions before objectivity. Peeing in the shower makes no difference, the waste water goes to the same pipe down-drain and it doesn’t make you or the shower dirty as you will wash anyway afterwards. Objectivly there’s no point in going out of the shower, but it hurts our social training we grew up with, of only doing it where we were told to do it.
        Funny, I had a long reflection on that subject when I noticed that my wife and also my former girlfriend did it regularly without a hint of a problem and I found it quite gross. I then understood that it was a cultural thing (they both were Africans) and that we are much more conditioned and removed from our bodily needs and wants, i.e. we deny our animality, a subject I think yon understand ;-).

      • Matt on January 26, 2012 at 07:11

        “It’s all pipes!”

      • Sean on January 26, 2012 at 06:44

        Yeah, I never bother to get out of the bathtub to … oh wait, you wrote shower, never mind.

      • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2012 at 08:09

        I hope you denoted the tongue in cheek nature of that ending paragraph.

      • gallier2 on January 26, 2012 at 09:54

        Of course, but such triviality can also be used as hooks to more serious musings.

    • rob on January 26, 2012 at 06:30

      Depends whether or not it is my shower, or someone else’s shower. If it is my shower, I feel free to pee in it, roast a pig in it, whatever

      • Jasen on January 26, 2012 at 16:28

        I always piss in the shower no matter where I’m at.

      • rob on January 26, 2012 at 16:34

        I could see taking that approach with a hotel shower, because for the time you are renting the room it is your shower.

        But if you are staying with friends, I think there is somewhat of an obligation to pee in the actual toilet unless you provide them with notice in advance that you will be peeing all over the place …. that way they get a fair chance to rescind the invitation.

      • gallier2 on January 27, 2012 at 02:45

        Making exactly my point 😉 Not peeing in the shower is a social convention. How would they even know you peed in the shower unless you shower with them?

  16. Paul Halliday on January 26, 2012 at 03:32

    Drinkers have a good phrase for this: “a TC!” … “tactical chunder!”

  17. Hipparchia on January 26, 2012 at 03:47

    It took a pregnancy to master this skill Seems the little fetus guy had a more intact “bad food in the system” sense. He would take over my body in the most scandalous sense.

    Now, I mostly try to stay away from food that does this to me. But if I hear that alarm in my organism, ordering the bad food out one way or another, I don’t panic. It’s not pleasant, but I don’t rush to the ER or take medication either.

    Then I eat a bit of active carbon to pick up any poisons left.

  18. realLife on January 26, 2012 at 06:11

    I was at a resort and had to leave restaurant went down stairs had to puke over rail into flower pots too and it just flowed out. food poisoning so I was dehydrated and had to have intravenous fluid and some drugs.. make sure to drink enough. I had diarrhea a few days before so it was working its way through my system so you probably got it out on time.

  19. pfw on January 26, 2012 at 06:16

    Weird timing on this post. I’ve got some weird bug, no appetite, vague nausea. I freaking wish I could just barf and get it over with, now that I’m on day 2 that seems less likely to work. But my initial instinct was exactly the same: don’t eat anything, let the body sort itself out.

  20. John on January 26, 2012 at 07:27

    Good advice. Just throw up, and then don’t eat till you feel well. My body taught me this lesson years ago. I got some food poisoning years ago, and didn’t really feel hungry, but still thought I HAD to consume a protein shake for some reason. Well, my body wasn’t having it at all, and made me throw it up. I realized then that I would probably be better off not eating until my system felt better. I don’t think i ate anything for the next 40 hours, pretty much just layed and sat around so I could heal. Plus, I needed to be close to a bathroom. I felt pretty lousy, but don’t think I was hungry at all for that 40 hours.

    Nowadays, yeah, I would totally do the vomit/fast regimin. I think it would also be wise to get in some fermented food and maybe do a round of probiotics after the fast to replenish gut bacteria as well, cause I bet a lot of them would get purged as well.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2012 at 11:50

      I went on vacation to Pataya Beach, Thailand once, for about a month. I’d been there a few times before, habitually ate off the street vendor carts which is actually very fresh and good food, typically. But this time, late at night and quite full of Singha, I got some sort of a sausage thing off a cart and remember thinking as I ate it that something was off, like it was a bit raw inside.

      A few hours later, back in my hotel room I was doubled over and for about the next 12 hours had dry heaves just about every 10-15 minutes. It took a whole day before I could even hold down a sip of water. I was beginning to be concerned with dehydration and was fixing to go to a clinic, but then things calmed down. Laid in my dark room for another entire day and night so it was two full days before I emerged into the sunshine and the only thing I could take was water or iced tea. Took another two days before hunger returned but it was very tentative and the only thing palatable was watermelon.

      So I had nothing but small amounts of watermelon and ices tea for anther 2, maybe three days. I didn’t have a scale but I’m sure I dropped at least 15 pounds in that week long ordeal, managed completely on my own, no medical intervention or medication of any sort.

      • Johnnyv on January 26, 2012 at 13:22

        Yeah after seeing them set up the cart in the early afternoon, with the meat sitting at ambient temperature which is usually around 30 degrees C and then coming back at 2 am and seeing the same cart and meat. I make sure they cook the hell out of it, but I still eat it anyway and haven’t got sick yet! 🙂
        Five months before my wife and I get back to Pattaya, can’t wait to have my favorite breakfast of Pad kaprao moo kai dow(hold the rice).

  21. John on January 26, 2012 at 07:44

    This post also made me think how good it is that alcohol lowers inhibitions. Seeing as alcohol posioning can be fatal, it’s probably a really good thing that you don’t care as much about embarrassing yourself when drinking, so you don’t try and NOT vomit. I epicly vomited at a friend’s super ritzy private club one night. But, guess it’s better to feel stupid and be alive than be dignified and dead, right? Thankfully, I barely remember anything from that night.

  22. Christo on January 26, 2012 at 08:10

    take an entire bottle of probiotics over the course of 1 day…faster recovery

  23. noah on January 26, 2012 at 10:53

    A stomach bug recently went through our house. All five of my kids had 12 hour spells of vomiting. Luckily not all at the same time. I got it too, but I battle against the vomiting successfully. I avoid it all costs. I guess I just haven’t learned to do it well. When I have tossed my cookies in the past, my stomach contractions are so figgin strong I feel like Im gonna tear my diaphragm and upchuck my spleen. And the whole food chunks in the nasopharynx sucks too.

  24. Mike Hollister on January 26, 2012 at 14:03

    Maybe I was distracted but when I read … dogs… flower pot…. I totally thought you were going to talk about how you dropped a therapeutic deuce in the flower pot. Fortunately I kept reading.

  25. Razwell on January 26, 2012 at 14:21

    My brother was on Diego Garcia too, Richard. He also was to Cebu, Phuket, Saipan, Manilla and other places . I bet it was awesome tropical scenery. I forgot all about Diego Garcia.

    He told me there are McDonald’s and many American fast food restaurants everywhere in the many nations he has been to and how much the United States’ culture has influenced other nations etc.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2012 at 14:31

      I’ve been to Phuket and a few other places in Thailand as well.

      …Malasia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, OZ, all over norther PI in over 30 trips (including Manila), Korea (many bunches of times), China and probably a few I forgot.

      It was a great time, 84-89 there in Japan. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  26. Razwell on January 26, 2012 at 14:34

    I fotgot to say…. When my family went to see my brother’s ceremony in Chicago back in 1998, there was this road called “Touhy Avenue” with POTHOLES EVERYWHERE. LOL ! My dad was yelling “fuck Touhy!” the whole time

    There was also a supermarket called Menaurds ( muh nards) that my brother ( who was 13 at the time) could not stop laghing at LOL !

    We saw the Michael Jordan statue etc. It was FREEEEEZING cold at night, even in the spring. I used to go into the Dunkin Donuts at night. I went in for a coffee and plain donut, BUT came out with a hot chocolate and Bavarian cream donut LOL !!!! This guy had language difficulties. My brothers laughed and laughed at this.

    The Naval Station in Chicago is pretty nice . Chicago’s restaurants are also EXCELLENT.

    I just thought I’d share that.

  27. yuma on January 26, 2012 at 15:58

    oye nebole, que bueno tu esposa es latina. tu te jamas el castellano? di me algo men.

  28. Trish on January 26, 2012 at 18:22

    Thanks to my mother (a nurse) demanding concrete evidence that we were sick enough to stay home from school my siblings and I are all proficient at vomiting at will. No fingers down the throat, just a really vivid imagination. I have had stomach flu on a couple of occasions though and have been forced to camp out in the bathroom since I didn’t know which end would erupt first–and when you can puke easily stomach flu can be like upending a bottle, it just comes out. One of my sisters, alas, turned her skill into a decade-long battle with bulimia.

  29. GiGi Eats Celebrities on January 26, 2012 at 18:24

    When I am sick like that, I just wait til it passes and then CHOW DOWN AGAIN! ah ha haha.

  30. LizMc. on January 26, 2012 at 20:31

    Last summer I got food poisoning, and came to really appreciate vomiting. I definitely felt better after, and took almost the same recovery plan as you did. I added a little bone broth to stay hydrated and soothe my digestive tract. My boyfriend’s mother desperately tried to get me to eat crackers and drink soda, but I wasn’t having any of it! I waited it out, and when I finally got hungry after about 24 hours I figured that was my body’s signal that it was time to eat again.

  31. Internet Tasting Session S02E01 on January 29, 2012 at 06:58

    […] curb, how about a Hot Toddy? Of usual, my favorite blogger Richard has some strong opinions about what to do when you’re […]

  32. Aaron on January 28, 2012 at 17:41

    In my early 20s I worked in a couple of kitchens. I had a two month span in which I had a number of stomach issues. I’d say there were 5 or 6 times that I induced vomiting to relieve the pain. It was probably three years before I had a reason to try and induce vomiting, but the old gag reflex pretty much gave me the finger back. I’l turn thirty next month and I believe I haven’t been able to intentionally activate my gag reflex since. Then again, I haven’t had many opportunities/reasons to test it out.
    There was a plus side to it though, it helped me learn that I wasn’t meant to eat dairy or wheat. I ended up on D’Adamo’s O Blood type diet which was like Paleo with extra restrictions… I much prefer Paleo.

    • Aaron on January 28, 2012 at 17:42

      *It was probably three years before I had *another* reason to try and induce vomiting.

  33. ZombieApocalypseKitten on January 28, 2012 at 20:08

    I mentioned this to a friend, he said “It’s like a divorce… You’ll get over it” when referring to puking.

  34. wayne on February 2, 2012 at 10:28

    No way could I induce myself to vomit. I’d rather stick it out feeling nauseous. Last time I vomited was two Super Bowls ago. I made some homemade chicken wings, two racks of ribs and was in the bathroom throwing up before I had one bite. Think it was just a nasty stomach bug that year acquired by my kid in pre-kindergarten. Laid on the bathroom floor the whole game ’cause that was the coolest spot in the house where I could lay down. Stomach flu/food poisoning sucks!

  35. Becky on February 11, 2012 at 14:21

    Just read this since I final have my intertubez back. So very true on fasting until well. I have four rugrats and the house rule is once one person hurls from the stomach flu, no one eats anything beyond fresh bone broth or chilled apple juice for 48 hours. The kids’ doc gives me shit for it – ‘children need to eat consistently when sick!’ – but it cuts the painful 18 hour bugs down to 4 hours so I declare it a win. And feeding a kid when they have a true flu? Please. Put the bugger to bed, let their little body jump into high-gear ketosis (for more efficient healing energy) and they’ll be better in no time.

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