Green vomit: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Green vomit is really a terrible experience. Vomiting is itself very unpleasant and troublesome. Having green vomit or throwing up green stuff further adds to our worries. Many people are worried that this might be an indication of a serious health problem. So, we need to know in detail what causes green vomit.
Green vomit is generally caused by throwing up green bile. Do you know what is bile? Bile is the digestive juice that is produced by the liver. It contains many substances like bile salts and bile pigments which aid in digestion.
This bile juice secreted by liver enters gallbladder. Gallbladder, a small sac-like structure under the liver stores and concentrates the bile juice. Whenever we eat food, the food enters from stomach to the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum, this bile juice is released from the gallbladder into the duodenum in order to digest food.
Vomiting green bile or throwing up green bile makes us get green vomit. There are many different reasons for getting green vomit or vomiting green bile. They might range from minor conditions which can be managed by us at home to serious life-threatening conditions, which require immediate medical attention. So, let us learn about all the causes of green throw up.
Causes of green vomit:
As we discussed earlier green vomit is mostly caused by vomiting of green bile. But, sometimes it might be caused by other reasons too. Let us discuss the most common reasons for vomiting green bile and also about the other causes of green vomit.
This is the reflux or the backflow of the bile from the duodenum into the esophagus, and hen it comes out as green vomit. Bile reflux can occur due to certain surgeries like cholecystectomy or removal of the gallbladder. After the surgery, there is irritation of the lining of the stomach wall. This leads to the reflux of bile along with the gastric acid. It leads to conditions like esophagitis or inflammation of the esophageal lining.
Bile reflux can also occur due to dysfunction of the pyloric sphincter. Pyloric sphincter is the sphincter which controls the flow of food from the stomach into the duodenum. If there is any problem with the pyloric sphincter, the bile can reflux easily into the esophagus
Dysfunction of pyloric sphincter can occur with aging. So, elderly people can often experience green vomit due to vomiting green bile. People who underwent gastric surgeries like gastrectomy or gastric bypass surgery can also experience pyloric sphincter dysfunction leading to bile reflux and ultimately green throw up.
Gastroenteritis is the infection of the gastrointestinal system by various viruses. These viruses are acquired by consumption of contaminated water or food. Due to gastroenteritis a person can’t digest the food properly and so might have green throw up.
Along with green vomit, they also have diarrhea and abdominal pain or cramps. Due to loss of fluid by throwing up green stuff and also by diarrhea, these people experience dehydration. If the green vomit and diarrhea are severe, then dehydration will also be severe.
Excess alcohol consumption:
Alcohol is an irritant to the gastrointestinal lining. So, if you consume excess alcohol in the night, you might end up having green vomit in the morning due to vomiting green bile. But some people might also have alcohol poisoning along with green vomit.
Alcohol poisoning has symptoms like seizures or convulsions, bluishness of the skin, slow breathing, cold body or low body temperature, etc. If you have any such symptoms along with green vomit after consuming alcohol, you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Are you allergic to any type of food? Food allergies are extremely common amongst the people. People might be allergic to a wide variety of foods. The symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to life-threatening.
Some people develop green vomit or skin rashes like urticaria after eating food that they are allergic to. This is a minor symptom and it can be resolved by taking certain drugs called antihistaminics. But some people develop life-threatening complications of food allergies like anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis has symptoms like sudden breathlessness or dyspnea, low blood pressure leading to fainting or dizziness, etc. If you have any symptoms of anaphylaxis, you need urgent medical help. If you have only green vomit or vomiting green bile, you need not worry much.
We have already discussed that we get green vomit by gastroenteritis and gastroenteritis is caused by consuming contaminated foods and water. Food poisoning is also caused by consuming contaminated foods and water.
But, unlike in gastroenteritis, the symptoms of food poisoning are not directly caused by bacteria or viruses. The preformed toxins by the bacteria are stored in the food. So, even if bacteria is killed, food poisoning can be caused by toxins of bacteria.
Food poisoning can also have symptoms similar to gastroenteritis-like diarrhea, green vomit, abdominal pain or cramps, etc.
Certain drugs like morphine and derivatives of digitalis can stimulate certain chemoreceptors in the body and lead to vomiting green bile. This appears as green throw up or green vomit.
Cyclical vomiting syndrome:
It is a strange condition with no exact known causes or mechanism. It is one of the causes of green vomit seen in many people. In this condition, the person has vomiting green bile at the same time of the day. He also has vomiting for the same time duration and with the same severity.
Certain factors are implicated in the causation of cyclical vomiting syndrome like stress, anxiety, strong emotions, menses in women, etc. If there are at least 3 such episodes of green vomit in a period of 6 months without any known cause, it is called cyclical vomiting syndrome.
Small intestinal obstruction:
Small intestinal obstruction is the obstruction of either duodenum, jejunum or ileum, the parts of the small intestine. In this condition, the small intestine is obstructed. So, the food along with bile doesn’t flow down, and instead passes back into the stomach, and then esophagus and then to the mouth as green vomit.
Small intestinal obstruction is most commonly caused by adhesions of the intestinal layers. These adhesions usually develop in people with the previous history of abdominal surgeries. Even surgeries 15 to 20 years back, can lead to small intestinal obstruction. Small intestinal obstruction can also be caused by other disorders like hernias.
People with small intestinal obstruction have many symptoms like green vomit or vomiting green bile, severe abdominal pain, abdominal distension, inability to pass stools and gas (absolute constipation). This is a medical emergency and it needs an immediate referral to a surgeon.
Causes of bilious vomit or green vomit in neonates:
Just like the adults, neonates can also develop green vomit. The most common reasons for green vomit in neonates are duodenal atresia, malrotation with volvulus, jejunoileal atresia, meconium ileus, necrotizing ileus, etc.
Symptoms of Green vomit:
- People having green vomit can have one or all of the following symptoms:
- They can suffer from heartburn due to reflux of gastric acid along with bile into the esophagus, which leads to esophagitis.
- They can have severe nausea along with green vomit.
- They might lose weight as bile is getting vomited and not helping with digestion of fats. Weight loss is also due to loss of fluids through the green throw up.
- They might have severe abdominal pain or abdominal cramps.
- Sometimes the green vomit might enter the larynx and lead to coughing and hoarse voice.
Diagnosis of causes of green vomit:
Diagnosis of the exact causes of green vomit needs expert opinion or consultation from your physician. The main basis of diagnosis is a careful history and physical examination.
Your physician will take a detailed history of your symptoms, the foods that you have taken, whether they were contaminated or not, etc. he will perform a physical exam to rule out a small intestinal obstruction. If he thinks it is a small intestinal obstruction, he might order erect and supine abdominal x-rays to see the obstruction.
Treatment of green vomit:
First, your doctor will determine if your symptoms are being caused by any serious ailment or not. If you are suffering from any condition like small intestinal obstruction, then you will need immediate assessment and treatment by an expert surgeon. If you are suffering from food allergies that led to anaphylaxis too, you will need an urgent adrenaline or epinephrine injection.
If you are suffering from any infection of the gastrointestinal tract that led to green vomit, you will need to take antibiotics as per the prescription of your physician. The majority of other causes of green vomit are harmless (For example, the cyclical vomiting syndrome is harmless). So, they can be managed at home with simple home remedies. Let us learn about such remedies.
Home remedies for green vomit:
There are many simple home remedies that you can try to control green vomit. They also include certain tips for you to follow to prevent vomiting green bile. Let us look at them.
Keep yourself hydrated:
Green vomit when happens in large quantities depletes the body fluids. Sometimes it occurs along with diarrhea in conditions like gastroenteritis and food poisoning. So, they dehydrate the body even more. Dehydration when severe can have adverse implications on your body.
So, keep yourself hydrated properly. You can consume ORS (Oral rehydration solution) powder by mixing it with water according to the directions on the pack. You can mix a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt in a glass of water and drink it. You also can have tender coconut water. But, try to avoid packaged fruit juices containing excessive sugar as they can further worsen your condition.
Don’t drink excess alcohol:
If alcohol is your trigger, try to avoid drinking excess alcohol at once. Apart from green vomit, excess alcohol consumption can have many adverse effects on your body in the long term.
Avoid food allergens:
Try to identify the foods that you are allergic to and avoid eating them. You can even take the help of a physician specialized in allergy medicine to identify the foods that are triggering allergies in you.
Avoid eating foods outside:
Many times the roadside food vendors don’t maintain adequate hygiene. So, eating such contaminated foods leads to gastroenteritis, food poisoning, etc, which can lead to green vomit. So, try to avoid eating such foods. Always prefer eating packaged food and water.
You need to avoid stress as it can aggravate your green vomit even further. So, you need to follow proper relaxation techniques like sleeping, listening to soothing music, meditation to destress you.
Ginger is a very effective remedy to easy vomiting and to control nausea. You can prepare ginger tea by boiling a small piece of crushed ginger in water and drinking it. You can even add some honey to the ginger tea to make it more beneficial and appealing. Or else, you can simply place a small piece of ginger inside your mouth and keep sucking on it continuously. This is very helpful.
If you have had cholecystectomy for any gallbladder issues or if you are simply suffering from any problem with bile juice concentration, you can take bile salts supplements. But, you can consult your doctor for a correct dose prescription. They help in concentrating your bile and prevent bile reflux.
You have seen all the possible causes of green vomit, the ways of diagnosing vomiting green bile and also about the treatment options for green vomit. Be careful about your symptoms and visit your physician immediately if you have any symptoms of small bowel obstruction or anaphylaxis that we discussed above.