Vomiting is as unpleasant as it could be and leaves you all shaky and feeling sick. Throwing up what you ate or drank is bad, but it could worsen if this feeling does not stop and you have to make repeat trips to the bathroom. The color of your vomit can tell a lot about why you are throwing up. Seek medical attention urgently for accurate diagnosis and treatment if your vomit is red, brown, or black colored and accompanied by unsettling symptoms like abdominal pain, chest pain, fever, chills, and signs of dehydration. The doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology determine what made you sick in the first place and help you feel better with the best treatment options. The specialists focus on your symptoms and look for underlying conditions to ensure these painful episodes do not occur again.

Vomit Color– Green, Yellow, Brown, Black, Clear
Vomit Color

Vomiting is an involuntary action that pushes food from the stomach and bowels out through your mouth. For many, vomiting is a frequently occurring symptom of ill health that has many causes. At times it is harmless and may result from overeating or eating something that did not go well with you. It could also be an infection, food allergy, or intolerance when your stomach does not digest or absorb certain foods.

Your vomit may consist of food particles that are partly, or fully digested. They are mixed with digestive fluids or other elements like blood, which can influence the color of the vomit. In case of an infection, the bacteria or the effects of an ailment on stomach contents may affect its color too.

Knowing about common vomit colors or what may be causing them can help with identifying your condition and seeking the best treatment to stop them.

Green or Yellow Vomit

Green or yellow vomit after having a few episodes of vomiting may indicate that you are bringing up bile from the stomach, which is yellow or green. This fluid is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile is not always a cause for concern and is usually spotted when the stomach is empty, either because you have been throwing up continuously or you have nothing else left in the stomach.

People with morning sickness often wake up with an empty stomach and vomit bile. It could also be too much of something green or yellow you ate that did not go well with you. If this green vomit lasts for more than a few days or is accompanied by severe pain, fever, weakness, constipation, or other concerning symptoms, you should get it checked by a healthcare provider.

Gastroenteritis from food poisoning may result in yellow vomit.

Brown Vomit

There are two possible causes of brown vomit. It could be a shade of blood or severe constipation. Brown vomit could result from eating too many chocolates, chocolate brownies, or too much dark-colored food that did not go well with the digestive system. On the other hand, it could also be a result of some critical health issues.

You should check if this brown vomit is actually blood, as old blood can turn into a dark brown color and sometimes look like dark brown coffee grounds. If you have brown vomit, without eating a ton of brownies or chocolates, and it looks like coffee grounds, it is a concerning matter. Bleeding in the stomach can lead to the presence of blood in the vomit that turns a darker shade by the time it gets thrown out, and it should not be taken lightly.

Sometimes it could also be a sign of peptic ulcers, amyloidosis, or other serious condition. If you have a history of abdominal pain, ulcers or acid reflux, and heartburn, you should get it checked to be sure this brown vomit is not blood. Your doctor will run a test to determine the presence of blood in the vomit.

Severe constipation can also result in brown vomiting. This condition inhibits digestion. As a result, your vomit may smell like fecal matter. Other symptoms associated with this type of vomit include bloating and severe abdominal pain.

Black or Coffee-Ground Vomit

If you are throwing up black or very dark brown vomit, it could be blood again if it appears like coffee grounds. If you are not sure about the actual color of the discharge, take a bit of vomit and smear it on a white paper towel. This will help see if it is really dark green in color or truly black. The black color could also be resulting from all the kale and spinach you have been eating, or it could be the dark-colored drinks and cakes you had the night before.

On the other hand, if your vomit appears to be black, red, or coffee-ground color and you did not eat or drink anything that seems to be the culprit, it is time to visit a doctor. Old blood from further down the digestive tract can turn black over time, especially if you have a history of pain, stomach upset, or digestive issues.

In rare cases, black vomit may be the outcome of a fungal infection like phaeohyphomycosis. This infection can develop after contact with black mold cultures. You are more likely to develop this condition if you have had a bone marrow or organ transplant, or if you were exposed to soil through farming or other outdoor work. Black vomit is not normal, and it should be checked and carefully diagnosed right away unless you know what is causing it.

Clear Vomit

A stomach bug, lots of water on an empty stomach, or some infection can result in a clear vomit. This discharge will look like clear liquid or water, and there is nothing to worry about unless this persists for some days or you cannot make out what is causing it. Clear vomit is normal when you have an empty stomach, and you feel lighter after it throwing up.

If you have hit your head and start vomiting clear fluid, get yourself checked as it may be a consequence of brain injury or trauma which could be serious. Another sign of danger is clear vomiting that does not go away or improves after 24 hours or when accompanied by the inability to ingest food or liquids.

Red or Pink Vomit

Red or pink vomit indicates the presence of blood. It should be checked immediately by a doctor unless you were in a fight, got a bloody nose, and swallowed some blood. In such a case, a small amount of blood is not dangerous as blood can irritate the stomach and lead to vomit. If you swallow it, chances are it will come back again. There is no need to worry about it if it happens once or twice and stops when you are not vomiting for long. Vomiting with a little blood that happens once but clears right after is not a big problem.

If you have been persistently vomiting for the 14th or 15th time due to some stomach bug, it is not abnormal to see a little amount of blood in your vomit. With constant throwing up, your esophagus can also develop tiny tears that can lead to traces of blood. As long it goes away quickly, there is no need to panic. You can also consult your doctor on this to know more about it.

Large amounts of blood that fill the toilet bowl, coffee grounds, or dark red vomiting should not be ignored. It may be a warning sign of an underlying condition or something serious with your liver, a tear in your esophagus, or a life-threatening emergency. Also, persistent blood vomit is not natural unless you know what you ate that is causing it, such as red Kool-Aid, Pepto-Bismol, or that red Popsicle you love.

Rainbow Colored Vomiting

Instead of panicking and googling your symptoms to find out what you may be going through, call your healthcare provider. Searching the web for vomit colors and what they mean can be scary without having your condition diagnosed by a licensed medical professional.

More critical causes of blood in vomit are:

  • A stomach ulcer that has burst which is a medical emergency
  • Injury to the mouth or gum
  • Diet intolerances

For some people, birth defects could also be responsible for bloody or red-colored vomit.

When to See Your Doctor?

Contact your doctor immediately or visit the emergency room if you see a significant amount of blood in your vomit. The blood in your vomit may range from red to brown and black.

Bloody vomit accompanied by dizziness, rapid or shallow breathing, or other signs of shock should not be taken lightly, as it could lead to dehydration and serious consequences. Green or yellow vomit may be a warning sign of some underlying issue like bile reflux. If you have risk factors or experience other symptoms, medical attention can help you prevent further complications.

Seeing your gastroenterologist may be a good idea in the following situations:

  • Your vomiting has lasted 48 hours and does not seem to be stopping
  • You are unable to keep down any fluids
  • You are developing signs of dehydration, including dizziness or headache
  • You have intense stomach or abdominal pain
  • You have lost weight from vomiting
  • You are diabetic, as repeated vomiting may impact your blood sugar levels
  • You develop severe chest pain as it may indicate a heart attack

Explain your symptoms in detail to the healthcare provider if you experience frequent episodes of vomiting. It could be a sign of cyclic vomiting disorder that is brought on by certain physiological and neurological conditions such as stress or excitement and infections or menstruation. With cyclic vomiting, you may throw up at the same time each day for a certain period.

Vomiting is irritating but not life-threatening. The color, texture, and type of vomit you see may have to do with its causes and what you have been eating unless some underlying medical condition is the culprit that needs diagnosis. Set up an appointment with your doctor if your vomit has unusual shades or if it has lasted more than two days and making you feel sick. The award-winning gastroenterologists at Manhattan Gastroenterology are experts at identifying and treating gastrointestinal diseases and disorders and strive to provide quick relief. They help you get to the root of nausea and vomiting and make you feel better with the most appropriate treatments.

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