Throwing up bile: Causes and treatments

We have all vomited at one time or another, whether it was due to a long night out or a violent illness. We commonly look away in disgust from the newly expelled vomit, as it may induce more retching.

This may be a missed opportunity, however, as the appearance of your vomit can hold clues within its content, consistency, and color to help pinpoint the approximate reason for puking.

Bile is a digestive fluid used in the digestion of fats in the small intestine. Oftentimes, during fits of vomiting, bile may accompany the stomach content and appear dark green or even bright yellow. The identification of bile should not be ignored, especially if it appears suddenly, as it may indicate a serious complication that may require immediate medical attention. Bile secretion is greatest 20 to 40 minutes after eating an especially fatty meal, and if vomiting were to occur for any reason during this period, you can expect to see partially digested food mixed with digestive enzymes, mucus, and bile.

Causes of throwing up bile

There are a number of reasons why we might vomit bile. Excessive vomiting in itself can be the reason for seeing bile, but viruses and other causes of irritation are also common causes. The act of throwing up is a normal bodily response to some sort of disturbance in the digestive tract, with your body attempting to correct the abnormality by expelling it. The following are some reasons why a person may vomit bile.

  • Intestinal blockage: Obstruction of the intestinal tract will block the flow of food, leading to the entire system becoming backed up, resulting in vomiting. Since this occurs along the intestinal tract, bile has already mixed in with the digesting food, presenting itself when vomited. An intestinal blockage can be caused by inflammatory bowel disease, gallstones, or adhesion (a complication of abdominal surgery). These causes are often accompanied by severe abdominal pain and constipation.
  • Cyclical vomiting syndrome: A rare disorder that may cause you to throw up bile and is characterized by random, violent vomiting that occurs for no apparent reason in otherwise healthy individuals.
  • Drug and alcohol use: Excessive consumption of either can irritate the stomach lining or even trigger the receptors in the brain, telling you to throw up.
  • Stomach flu: Also referred to as gastroenteritis, it may cause vomiting of bile due to the effects of a viral infection. This syndrome is often accompanied by diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and dehydration. Because the stomach flu often results in the inability to keep food down for several days, vomiting up bile during vomiting episodes is very likely.
  • Food poisoning: Often occurs suddenly and violently due to the body coming in contact with bacteria or viruses from food that have past their expiration or have been prepared in an unsanitary fashion. Forceful retching will result in bile.

How to stop throwing up bile?

Once vomiting has started, it is very hard to stop mid-episode, with the only option being to let it run its course. One of the most common reasons for vomiting bile is that your stomach is empty. It is typically the least worrying form of bile vomiting and can be easily prevented and remedied by using ginger—such as in tea—to help calm the stomach, as it contains natural anti-inflammatory properties proven to help reduce nausea and the frequency of vomiting.

Unfortunately, not all cases of vomiting can be treated so easily. The following are some other treatment methods:

  • Intestinal blockage: A common occurrence in infants and toddlers due to a malformation of the intestinal tract. This cause of bile vomiting requires medical attention right away, as surgery is the most likely treatment method.
  • Cyclic vomiting disorder: Oftentimes, once brought to the attention of your physician, they will prescribe prescription grade antiemetic medication. There are various lifestyle changes that can be implemented as well to help improve symptoms, and these include getting adequate sleep, avoiding vomiting triggers, and eating regular meals.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is treated by the body like a poison, and will kill you if consumed in excessive amounts. Symptoms of vomiting due to alcohol may be relieved by taking antihistamines in the recommended dosages. Vomiting bile after drinking alcohol can also be remedied by stopping alcohol consumption.
  • Stomach flu: Considering this is primarily due to a viral infection, the only practical thing you can do is replace the water and electrolytes that were lost during the vomiting episodes. If due to bacteria, however, antibiotics can prove helpful. Also, antiemetics (i.e. promethazine) do exist that may limit the frequency of vomiting episodes.
  • Food poisoning: Much like with the stomach flu, replacing lost water and electrolytes is often the best course of action.

Home remedies for vomiting bile

Vomiting is a common problem that has prompted the use of home remedies to help combat it. The following are some of the best ways to stop throwing up bile:

  • Avoid dehydration. Drink at least eight cups of water at regular intervals
  • Drink cold lime juice and fruit juices. These will reduce inflammation.
  • Try anti-nausea herbs. Ginger tea and cinnamon can help relieve nausea and vomiting.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is known to increase stomach acid production and decrease saliva
  • Smaller meals. Helps regulate the digestive tract

The causes and treatments mentioned may help give you a better idea as to why you are experiencing bile vomiting, but not all cases can be handled alone. It is important to seek professional medical care if your vomiting is serious and impacting your overall health.


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