Vomiting is the body’s way of ridding itself of harmful substances from the stomach, or it may be a reaction to something that has irritated the gut. Nausea and vomiting are usually not dangerous and last only a day or two. However, if you continue to throw up yellow-colored bile or notice the presence of bile in your vomit, it may be a sign of some medical condition and should be checked by an expert. The experienced and board-certified gastroenterologists at Manhattan Gastroenterology specialize in diagnosing and treating all types of diseases and disorders related to the gastrointestinal tract. The gastro doctors investigate your symptoms and causes of what you may be going through and guide you in the right direction based on your specific condition and personal needs. They come up with highly personalized and comprehensive solutions to treat and manage your digestive issues and help you return to a healthy life.

The feeling of nausea can be very unpleasant, and it can turn even worse if you start vomiting. It is the body’s natural defense against poisons and harmful substances, but it leaves you all shaky and weak. The color of vomit can say a lot about its causes and what you should do to relieve your discomfort.

Throwing up bile, a yellow or greenish fluid that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth can happen for several reasons, some of which may be harmless and go away on their own. If your yellow bile is accompanied by symptoms like abdominal pain, dehydration, and weakness, it is not a good sign, and you must call your doctor right away.

What Is Bile?

Bile is a greenish-yellow liquid that is produced and released by the liver. The liver makes about half a liter of bile, which is stored in the gallbladder, where it helps in the digestion of food and fluids by breaking down fats into fatty acids. The body then takes these acids into the digestive tract.

Without bile, most fats in the food would pass through without the body digesting them. Bile helps the body in breaking down the following:

  • Cholesterol
  • Salts
  • Bile acids
  • Bilirubin or breakdown agent of red blood cells
  • Water
  • Certain minerals

Bile is greenish-yellow due to bilirubin, which is yellow, and green biliverdin. They both combine to form the color of feces.

Why Do You Throw Up Bile?

Normally, the bile is secreted into the small intestine and does not enter the stomach. However, during vomiting, the sphincter between the small intestine and stomach relaxes due to which, the contents of the small intestine can move up into the stomach. The powerful muscles of the gastrointestinal tract sweep up the contents and throw them up like vomit.

Why Do You Throw up Yellow Bile?

Throwing up yellow bile
Throwing up yellow bile

Yellow-colored vomit can happen for several reasons. If you have an empty stomach and the only content of the vomit is bile, you will notice yellow-colored bile in your vomit. It can also happen when you have morning sickness or dehydration, and lack of fluids is affecting the color of the bile content in the vomit.

On the other hand, it could also result from too much drinking or a side effect of chemotherapy.

Some more serious underlying health issues could be the culprit behind the presence of yellow bile in vomit. They include:

Yellow Bile Reflux

Bile reflux is a disabling condition that affects the normal functioning of the stomach. It is similar to acid reflux but different as the contents of the reflux are not stomach acid. It occurs when the bile backs up from the liver into the stomach and esophagus instead of moving through the small intestines. This condition is identified by abdominal pain, bilious vomiting, and weight loss.

Acid reflux treatments do not work for bile reflux, and only a qualified gastroenterologist can understand and treat this problem.

Intestinal Blockage

Intestinal blockage is another reason you could be throwing up yellow bile. It is a grave condition that keeps the food or liquid from passing through the small or large intestine, causing it to move in the opposite direction and inducing vomiting. It is not easy to detect intestinal blockage. Symptoms of intestinal blockages include:

  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal cramps and pain that comes and passes in waves
  • Not being able to pass gas
  • Abdominal swelling

Symptoms of intestinal blockages may vary, depending on the underlying causes.

Intestinal blockage may be caused by any of the following:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cancerous tumors
  • Hernia
  • Diverticulitis or infection in the digestive tract
  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Gallstones
  • Impacted stool
  • Adhesions and scar tissue from surgery
  • Volvulus, otherwise known as twisted intestines
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Ileus, a condition that causes bowel problems

The most common causes of bowel obstruction are colon cancer and adhesions or scar tissues that form in the intestines after abdominal or pelvic surgery. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention as its complications could be life-threatening.

Other Causes of Yellow Bile in the Vomit

Some other reasons for the presence of yellow, bitter bile in your vomit include:

  • Hiatal hernia in which the upper part of the stomach pushes upwards into the chest through an opening in your diaphragm
  • Increased pressure on the abdomen from being overweight or obese
  • Certain medications you are taking, such as antihistamines, pain relievers, sedatives, antidepressants, and medications for asthma
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Certain neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy

Knowing how and why something happens can help find a solution. Throwing up yellow fluid over a long time may indicate a critical issue that should be checked by a doctor immediately. Excessive vomiting increases the risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance which can turn life-threatening.

Not all vomiting is dangerous, as it may be something triggered by a viral infection or something you ate, but it does not mean you should neglect frequently recurring symptoms.

How to Stop Throwing Up Bile?

If you are throwing up yellow bile due to an empty stomach first thing in the morning due to heavy drinking, or other such reasons, making some lifestyle changes can improve your condition. Here are some tips to help you avoid vomiting:

  • Avoid smoking as it damages the mucous membranes and saliva that are essential in cushioning and guarding the windpipe, potentially leading to bile vomiting.
  • Stay away from alcohol as it irritates the esophagus and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, creating the ideal environment for reflux and subsequent bile vomiting.
  • Take small frequent meals instead of eating large meals at one time to lessen the pressure on the intestines. Large meals can force the digestive system to work hard to digest the food, and it leads to dysfunction in the pyloric valve, resulting in bile reflux.
  • Sit upright after eating and wait for at least two to three hours before lying down to give food ample time for digestion.
  • Limit your fat consumption to reduce the production of bile
  • Avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and carbonated beverages as they can lead to acid reflux.
  • Shed the extra pounds as excessive weight gain has been linked to putting undue pressure on the stomach and internal organs, which leads to acid reflux or vomiting.
  • Drink plenty of water for hydration
  • Avoid stressful situations and try to relax as much as possible.

Healthy lifestyle changes, clean eating, and avoiding triggers can play a crucial role in controlling your symptoms.

When to Call Your Doctor?

Call your doctor if your nausea or vomiting is not getting better and you have reflux. Seek immediate medical help if you are having:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Chest pain
  • Red or black colored vomits
  • Non-stop vomits full of bile

These symptoms should not be taken lightly, as they can become serious very quickly in some cases. The doctor may be able to recommend personalized treatments depending on your symptoms and for any medical problems, you may be suffering from.

If you are experiencing unexplained or persistent vomiting, schedule an appointment to see an experienced doctor and have your condition accurately diagnosed to avoid complications. Certain conditions that trigger the throw up of yellow bile require prompt medical attention as they could be resulting from an underlying health issue related to the stomach, pancreas, or liver that could turn serious. The award-winning gastroenterologists at Manhattan Gastroenterology are experts in treating gastrointestinal disorders and come up with the best solutions to stop the disturbing symptoms and enhance your quality of life.

Updated on Sep 1, 2023 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology