Vamana dhauti is a daily kriya (kunjal kriya), or cleansing technique, that some yogis use daily to cleanse the stomach of mucus. Its self induced vomiting. Theres a question regarding the true yogic basis of this technique, and from a physiological and medical perspective, vamana dhauti as a Yoga detox method does little to help an aspirant and can do much to hurt.
The medical literature citing harmful effects from repeated vomiting comes mainly from studies of bulimic patients who may throw up more than once a day.
Habitual self-induced vomiting and repeated contact of the teeth with acidic juices from the stomach can cause ugly erosions of tooth enamel and cavities. A progressive decalcification occurs that leads to a loss of enamel and dentin, wearing away the teeth slowly over time. Habitual vomiting leads to an increased number of cavities and a higher dental fracture rate as well as increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures of food and air.
Another feature occasionally observed in self-inducing vomiters is swelling of the parotid glands intermittently. That gives the cheeks a chipmunk like appearance, similar to those suffering from the mumps.
Heartburn and chest pain occur in many people due to the high acid content of the stomach juices (pH of 2) burning the esophagus. Repeated self induced vomiting can cause esophagitis which can be a precursor to esophageal cancer, and it can lead to abnormal oropharyngeal swallowing patterns and achalasia. That means that repeatedly dousing the esophagus in acid can disrupt the motor movement of the muscles so they don’t function properly and therefore you can’t swallow your food properly.
Another thing that we are seeing medically from increasing amounts of acid regurgitating from the stomach are lung problems. It only takes a tiny amount of stomach acid going down the wrong tube into the lungs through the trachea. Acid in the lungs destroys them. Asthma and trouble breathing from scar tissue formation are the result, and tiny amounts of stomach acid in the lungs has been postulated to be the cause of death in the mysterious illness, BOOP.
An article in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported on five patients who developed pancreatitis from frequent vomiting. Pancreatitis is a disorder is which the pancreas becomes inflamed and begins to digest itself with the enzymes usually meant for digesting food. One of those five patients died from her pancreatitis. Death is a pretty serious complication to risk from doing a kriya that hasn’t shown any benefit.
There’s another way that death can occur after vamana dhauti. It’s called Boerhaave’s Syndrome, a rupture of the esophagus, and it’s caused by repeated, forceful retching and vomiting. All that force and pressure can also cause minor bleeding from a tear in the mucus layer of the esophagus, a condition called a Mallory-Weiss tear. For heaven’s sake, if you see blood in your vomit, stop.
If vomiting stops, that Malloy-Weiss tear will heal nicely on its own. But if it gets out of control with further vomiting, then the full thickness of the esophageal wall can rupture, spilling acid and stomach contents into the surrounding chest tissue Boerhaaves. That’s often more than the body can take, and it succumbs to infection and death.
While its true that a lot of things in life involve a little risk, the benefit to risk ratio has to be high enough to make it worth it. Theres not much benefit obtained from the practice of vamana dhauti. There are other, better ways to cleanse and to sublimate energy.
Gavish D et al. Bulimia. An underlying behavioral disorder in hyperlipidemic pancreatitis: a prospective multidisciplinary approach. Arch Intern Med. 1987 Apr;147(4):705-8.
Stacher G. Gut function in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Scand J Gastro 2003;38:573.