Vomiting – Causes, Treatment


Vomiting or throwing up , nausea and vomiting are terms for surge-like emptying processes of the stomach or esophagus against the normal direction. Vomiting is usually associated with a burning sensation in the esophagus (heartburn) caused by stomach acid.

What is vomiting?

Vomiting is the emptying of the stomach or esophagus through the mouth. The partially digested food is transported out of the body against the natural direction. Sometimes it can also come out through the nose.

In addition to food, vomit also contains stomach acid, which can cause a burning sensation. Vomiting is usually the symptom of overriding diseases or triggers. Vomiting is controlled by a complex reflex mechanism from the brainstem’s vomiting center.


Causes of vomiting or nausea are mostly drugs, alcohol and external stimuli, such as disgust and physical stimuli (e.g. sticking fingers down the throat), diseases of the brain, diseases of the digestive organs, mental disorders, vomiting during pregnancy and vomiting after anesthesia.

Vomiting therefore does not have a single cause, but can be initiated by a variety of triggers. One of them is external influences. Visual stimuli that trigger disgust can lead to vomiting, but also in the case of a balance disorder – for example due to a ship voyage . Diseases of the brain are closely related to this complex of causes. Disturbances in the vomiting center, for example due to excessive intracranial pressure, cause the body to vomit.

However, the most common cause is diseases of the digestive tract. Vomiting often occurs with food poisoning , ingestion of harmful substances such as alcohol in large quantities, or infection with bacteria and viruses. At the same time, vomiting can be a symptom of more serious diseases, such as a change in blood sugar levels or uremia.

Another complex of causes are mental disorders. The most well-known psychological reasons for vomiting are eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia . Vomiting is used specifically as a method to become slim and lose weight beyond a healthy level. Other psychological problems can also cause vomiting – an example of this is dissociative disorders.

Vomiting occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy . The severity of the symptom varies from woman to woman. Some feel nothing, while others can only eat at certain times of the day without vomiting. Vomiting can also occur during the normal female menstrual cycle.

diseases with this symptom


Vomiting is usually very uncomfortable, but usually it does not seriously endanger your health. With a weakened immune system or chronic vomiting, various complications can still occur that must be treated urgently.

Vomiting can result in the loss of large amounts of fluid ( dehydration ) and electrolytes such as potassium and sodium . Mild dehydration is usually not a problem. In the worst case, progressive dehydration can be fatal because the body is deprived of fluids and salts on a large scale. Babies and small children are among the risk groups, as they have fewer endogenous reserves. Older people are also more likely to suffer from dehydration than younger people. In addition, vomiting shifts the electrolyte balance. If it is more severe, the pH value in the blood can change and lead to nerve damage and cardiac arrhythmia .

In addition, vomiting can irritate the esophagus and tear the lower part of the esophagus. Stomach rupture may occur and stomach contents may be inhaled. The acidic contents of the stomach can also damage the teeth. Chronic vomiting can cause malnutrition .

If vomiting is treated with medication, the active ingredients may not be absorbed through the stomach or intestines . The active ingredients should therefore better be administered in a different way, eg intravenously.

When should you go to the doctor?

Everyone knows vomiting from their own experience. Laypeople often know the cause of their nausea. Sometimes they couldn’t stand a meal, other times it was due to exam anxiety and some of them can’t stand driving. Also known is the vomiting of pregnancy . Luckily, the causes of vomiting are often harmless, and it would be overkill to see a doctor every time the cause is known.

However, if vomiting occurs more frequently or over a longer period of time and there is no apparent reason for it, a doctor’s visit is urgently recommended. Vomiting can be a symptom of various diseases that require treatment. In addition, there is the threat of fluid loss from the body due to severe or frequent vomiting, during which valuable electrolytes and other substances important to the body are also lost.

Impairments associated with vomiting, such as pain, fever or even clouding of consciousness, are an alarm signal. It may even be necessary to call an ambulance right away .

The nature of the vomit is also of great importance. So-called coffee grounds vomiting is a sign of blood altered by stomach acid. This is caused by damaged stomach skin or stomach wall or a duodenal ulcer. Here, too, a usual family doctor appointment is no longer sufficient, but the emergency doctor must be called. This form of vomiting can be associated with a large loss of blood and can be life-threatening.

Treatment & Therapy

A doctor should be consulted if vomiting persists for several days. The treatment of vomiting should be based on the medication for the causes.

Depending on the cause, vomiting has to be treated differently. A distinction must first be made as to whether the cause is psychological or physical. It also depends on the specific cause and the severity of the disease. In the case of mental illnesses, it is not the vomiting itself that needs to be treated, but the underlying illness. Depending on the nature of the cause, different types of psychotherapy are required.

Harmless vomiting, such as travel sickness , can be treated with simple remedies. These are usually freely available and act on the vomiting center of the brain. In this way, they relieve the nausea early on.

However, if there is a disease, action must be taken against it. In the case of bacteria and viruses, the administration of antibiotics or corresponding preparations is usually sufficient to stop the vomiting. If it does not go away after this or has another cause, further investigation should be initiated as a serious condition may be present.

Outlook & Forecast

Vomiting usually occurs in a person whenever there is something in the stomach that could upset the stomach. Therefore, the body tries to get rid of these foods from the stomach by vomiting. In this case, the patient should induce vomiting, as it is usually necessary for healing to proceed.

Only in very few cases does the patient need to contact a doctor if they vomit. Vomiting usually stops on its own when the stomach calms down or when food is no longer fed to the stomach. Since vomiting is an automatic protective reflex of the body, you should not prevent vomiting.

Without special treatment, the vomiting usually stops after a few minutes, but in rare cases it can last for a few hours and occur again and again. It occurs mainly with food poisoning or alcohol poisoning .

If the vomiting does not stop after a few hours or if it occurs suddenly without food being eaten, a doctor should be consulted to be on the safe side.


Effective prevention of vomiting can only be done in some cases. You have no influence on bacterial or viral infections or mental illnesses – but you can on other causes. If you vomit during pregnancy or before your period, you should see your doctor and ask for a preventive medication. A similar approach should be taken with motion sickness and seasickness . Anti-vomiting medication can be obtained beforehand and taken early.

You can do that yourself

In most cases, vomiting can be treated with home remedies and does not necessarily have to be examined by a doctor. It is important to find out the reason for vomiting, as the reasons can be very varied. This is usually a protective reaction of the body. It is advisable to allow vomiting as long as the body demands it. Holding back vomiting slows healing. Often the sufferer feels much better and relieved after vomiting.

Bed rest and a relaxed atmosphere generally help against the symptom . You should only eat light food and drink a lot . Water, juices and soothing teas are ideal here . Food should be easily tolerated by the stomach and contain a lot of minerals and vitamins , since they are carried out from the body during vomiting.

In order to counteract the vomiting quickly, funds can also be obtained from the pharmacy . These calm the stomach and stop the reflex that leads to vomiting. If the vomiting does not stop or is associated with other severe pain, the family doctor should be consulted. This also applies if blood comes out of the mouth when you vomit.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.