Why Am I Throwing Up Bile? Reasons and Treatments

Medically Reviewed By Megan Soliman, MD
Was this helpful?
10

Bile is a fluid that helps with digestion and is stored in the gallbladder. You may throw up bile if your stomach is empty, you have food poisoning, or you drank too much alcohol. Vomiting bile is usually not alarming as it can signify your stomach is empty. However, if you vomit bile more than once or you have other symptoms, you should contact your doctor for a further examination.

Vomiting bile is a symptom of bile reflux. Your doctor can prescribe you medications to help you control it and improve its symptoms. If you are vomiting red bile, you should seek medical attention immediately.

This article will explain what bile is, what the causes of throwing up bile are, how you can treat it, and when you should contact your doctor.

What is bile?

child with sick bowl, looking unwell
Courtney Rust/Stocksy United

Bile is a digestive fluid. Your liver produces bile, and it stores it in the gallbladder.

Bile has an important function during digestion. Bile breaks down the fats you eat into fatty acids before they reach your digestive tract.

Read more about digestive health.

Why might you throw up bile?

You may throw up bile when it backs up into your stomach or into your esophagus. In comparison to acid reflux, you cannot totally control bile reflux by changing your diet and lifestyle. Your doctor may prescribe you medications to treat it, and, in severe cases, you may need surgery. You may have bile and acid reflux at the same time.

You can recognize when you are vomiting bile. Bile has a greenish-yellow color, and its components include:

  • bilirubin
  • cholesterol
  • water
  • salts
  • electrolytes
  • bile acids

Doctors do not usually associate serious conditions with throwing up green or yellow bile. However, if it occurs frequently or you experience other symptoms, you should consider contacting your doctor.

What can cause you to throw up bile?

If you throw up bile more than once, you may have a medical condition causing the problem. One of the most common causes is bile reflux which happens when bile backs up from the liver to your stomach and esophagus.

Other causes of bile reflux may include:

When should you contact a doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you’re throwing up bile and experiencing symptoms of reflux. This includes:

  • green vomit
  • yellow vomit
  • repeated vomiting for more than a couple of days
  • having signs of severe dehydration
  • experiencing episodes of vomiting frequently
  • loss of weight since you became ill

How can you treat sickness?

Your doctor will prescribe you a treatment based on what’s causing your vomiting.

Food poisoning or binge drinking

If food poisoning or binge drinking is causing you to vomit bile, you may need to restore fluid and electrolyte levels. In the most severe cases, you may require hospitalization. The healthcare team may use intravenous therapy to help you with fluid level restoration.

Bile reflux

If you have bile reflux, your doctor may prescribe medications. These can include bile acid sequestrants, which disrupt the circulation of bile and can cause side effects, such as bloating, or ursodeoxycholic acid, which changes the composition of bile to help its circulation. It may lead to side effects, such as diarrhea.

If the medications your doctor prescribed do not help manage the problem, you may need surgery. Roux-en-Y gastrojejunostomy may be recommended.

Bowel issues

Other surgical procedures can treat blockages and adhesions in your bowel. During surgery, the doctor will remove the cause at the origin of the obstruction. If your intestine has damage, they may remove a part of it. They also may apply a stent inside your intestine to help prevent any further blockage in the future.

A blockage in your intestine may result in an abscess or a blood infection, known as sepsis.

Cancer

If colorectal cancer is causing your symptoms, your doctor will suggest a treatment based on the stage of your cancer. Cancer treatment may include:

How can you prevent throwing up bile?

Making some lifestyle and dietary changes can help you prevent throwing up bile. This includes:

  • avoid drinking more than two alcoholic beverages per day
  • eating lots of fruits and vegetables
  • eating a high fiber diet
  • avoiding lifting heavy objects or doing very intense exercise

Avoiding certain types of food that can promote reflux, such as caffeine and spicy food, can also be helpful.

It is very important that after any vomiting episode, you try to replenish the liquids and electrolytes lost while you were throwing up.

Summary

If you’re throwing up bile frequently, you should contact your doctor to investigate the cause.

Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor may suggest changes in your diet and drinking habits. They may also prescribe medications to treat your bile reflux symptoms.

In the most severe cases, such as bowel blockages, your may recommend surgery to avoid developing an abscess or a blood infection.

If you have cancer, your doctor can help you with determining the most effective therapy to treat it.

Was this helpful?
10
Medical Reviewer: Megan Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 18
View All Digestive Health Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.