Diet or drugs for cyclic vomiting syndrome

Dietary modifications are frequently recommended for migraines.  Given the overlapping features between migraines and cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), dietary treatments for CVS have aimed at eliminating trigger foods.  Investigators from the UK describe a single center cohort of 21 children (2-16 years) were placed on a low-amine diet with instruction from a dietician (JPGN 2012; 54: 698-99).  16 (76%) of the children had a strong family history of migraines.  The diet was implemented for a ‘minimum of 6 to 8 weeks.’ 13 had a complete resolution of vomiting and 18 (86%) had at least a partial response.

Specific foods that were avoided included cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, pork, peas, broad beans, shellfish, yeast extract, beef extract, gravies, caffeine, and alcohol.

This small study does not prove that a low-amine diet is effective.  In fact, most of the information on a low-amine diet is derived from alternative medicine sources (eg .  Low Amine Diet |  Nevertheless, it is likely that a subset of patients will benefit from avoidance of trigger foods.  How to identify potential culprits is unclear.

NASPGHAN Guidelines for CVS (JPGN 2008; 47: 379):

  • Diagnostic criteria: (90% will have idiopathic CVS)

1. at least 5 attacks or 3 over 6-month interval
2. episodic, last 1 hour to 10 days & at least a week apart
3. stereotypical pattern for individual patient
4. vomiting >4 times/hr for at least 1 hour
5. healthy in between & no other attributable problem

  • PROPHYLACTIC Measures:

Avoid triggers:
fasting, excessive excitement (eg. downplay big events), sleep deprivation
foods that trigger symptoms (?chocolate, cheese, caffeine, MSG)
excessive fatigue

Assure adequate carbohydrates
-provide sugar-containing drinks & extra snacks before exertion & bedtime


Less than 5 years:
1. cyproheptadine (0.25-0.5mg/kg/day divided bid)
2. propranolol 0.25-1/kg/day –often 10mg bid or tid
contraindications: asthma, diabetes, heart disease, depression
keep resting heart rate >60

5 years & older
1. amitriptyline (or nortriptyline -liquid formulation) start at 0.25mg/kg qhs and increase ’til 1mg/kg/dose
check EKG before and 10 days after peak dose
2. propranolol 0.25-1/kg/day –often 10 mg bid or tid
contraindications: asthma, diabetes, heart disease, depression
keep resting heart rate >60

Alternative prophylactic treatments:
1. phenobarbital 2mg/kg qhs
2. anticonvulsants: topiramate, valproid acid, gabapentin, levetiracetam -?consult neurology

L-carnitne 50-100mg/kg/day divided bid (max 1gm tid)
Co-enzyme Q10 10mg/kg/day divided bid (max 100mg tid)


Fluids: D10NS w KCL @ 1.5 maintenance (or possibly D10 0.45NS -some children prone to hyponatremia); add TPN if no enteral intake for 3-5 days
1. ondansetron 0.3-0.4mg/kg/dose q4hours (max 20mg); alternative granisetron
Benadryl 1mg/kg/dose q6hours
Ativan 0.05-0.1mg/kg/dose q6hours
Thorazine (chlorpromazine) 0.5-1mg/kg/dose q6hrs (with benadryl)
Toradol 0.4-1mg/kg/dose q6hrs (max 30mg)
Narcotics (morphine)

May need to treat hyponatremia, hypertension, hematemesis (H2RAs & PPIs)

Also, can try Sumatriptan 20mg intranasally at onset of episode as potential abortive measure or other triptan


1. CMP, Amylase/lipase, UGI on all patients
2. If pain/hematemesis, check U/S of abd/pelvis, and EGD
3. If abnormal neuro features: (motor asymmetry, gait abnormality, severe altered mental status)
lactate, serum amino acids, urine organic acids, plasma carnitine/acylcarnitine profiles, urine ketones
MRI brain
4. If precipitated by fasting/high protein meals, or intercurrent illness= neuro w/u w/o brain MRI.

  • ALARM symptoms:

1. pain & bilious emesis
2. attacks precipitated by intercurrent illness, fasting or high protein meals
3. progressive/worsening/chronic pattern
4. abnormalities on neuro exam

**Note to blog readers –I recommend that all drug dosing be reviewed for individual patients.  The recommended doses are based on my reading of the referenced material & transcription errors are possible.

Additional references:

  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 44. Use of zonisamide or levetiracetam (used at Sz dosing in 20 adults); 75% response & 20% remission.
  • -J Pediatr 2002; 141: 724. Suggests initial treatment along with UGI as most cost-effective strategy. Extensive w/u in those with persistent sx.
  • -Am J Gastro 1999; 94: 2855. response to TCAs.
  • -J Pediatr 1999; 134: 567. 82% migraine-assoc or FHx. Better response to Rx
  • NASPGHAN 2003:  postgraduate course (B Li):80% response to elavil if fhx migraines.
    “There are no controlled randomized, double-blinded trials, only open label ones. In these studies, beta-blockade (Pfau Pediatrics 97:364,1996), cyproheptadine (Anderson Pediatrics 100:977, 1997), amitriptyline (Anderson), phenobarbital (Gokhale JPGN 25:64, 1997) and erythromycin (Vanderhoof JPGN 17:387, 1993) all have approximately 70% efficacy as prophylactic agents. In Dave Fleisher’s work, he has demonstrated a 70% effect of consultation alone without pharmacologic therapy. In other words, there appears to be a striking placebo effect in this disorder that should temper any interpretation of results. In addition, I believe CVS is a heterogeneous disorder that has multiple etiologies that could allow it to respond to multiple classes of agents.”

Infection, IBD, addison’s, diabetes, renal dysfxn, metabolic errors/urea cycle d/o, FAO d/o, porphyria, CDG (glycosylation), pregnancy, ipecac/munchausen, PUDz, Giardia, pancreatitis, UPJ, malrotation/duplication, increased ICP/CNS Dz, Migraine-equivalent


1. CBC, ESR, amylase, ammonia,UA, stool heme, chem 20, HCG
2. UGI
3. giardia ag, abd U/S & DPTA, EGD, urine organic acids, plasma amino acids, carnitine, lactate, pyruvate, sinus films, head CT/MRI, toxicology, delta-aminolevulic acid/ porphobilinogen (urine), beta-HCG, serum transferrin isoelectric focusing

12 thoughts on “Diet or drugs for cyclic vomiting syndrome

  1. Thank you for this information. My son has CVS. Do you think weather ( lightening storms ) can bring on an attack? My son has had three episodes three weeks in a row all preceded by rain storms.

  2. Pingback: Most Popular Posts | gutsandgrowth

  3. Pingback: Misdirection: False-postive Urine Cannaboid Screen due to Pantoprazole | gutsandgrowth

  4. Pingback: Popular Posts 2015 | gutsandgrowth

  5. Pingback: Rome IV -Pediatric Changes | gutsandgrowth

  6. Pingback: Most Popular GutsandGrowth Posts from Past Year | gutsandgrowth

  7. Pingback: Most Popular Posts 2011-2018 | gutsandgrowth

  8. Pingback: Most Popular Posts of 2019 | gutsandgrowth

  9. Pingback: Most Popular 2020 Posts | gutsandgrowth

  10. Pingback: Cyclic Vomiting ED Protocol | gutsandgrowth

  11. Pingback: Most Popular Posts of 2021 | gutsandgrowth

Comments are closed.