Vomiting and nausea: what are the possible causes?

Vomiting and nausea: what are the possible causes?
Photo source: Getty images

Vomiting is an unpleasant condition that almost everyone has encountered during his life. It is a defense mechanism of the digestive system. What are all the possible causes of vomiting and upset stomach? What is the quick help and treatment?

When vomiting, our body gets rid of unwanted stomach contents. Vomiting is caused by several factors. In most cases, it is a dietary error or a viral infection.

Vomiting can signal a disease of the digestive and nervous system. Along with the feeling to vomit, there is often an unpalatability, dizziness and general weakness.

Causes, diagnosis, treatment, home help and many other interesting information can be found in the article.

Vomiting: why does it arise?

Professionally, vomiting is called vomitus.

Stomach upset does not necessarily mean that the individual will vomit. Irritation of the stomach can spontaneously disappear.

Otherwise, an unpleasant feeling of vomiting will arise in the stomach, and its contents will be emptied in the opposite direction - through the mouth.

Vomiting is a symptom of irritation or certain morbidity. Most often it is a dietary error or gastroenteritis of the digestive tract (stomach flu). The risk of vomiting is dehydration of the organism due to loss of water and nutrients.

Vomiting is a protective reflex of the digestive system by which the body rids itself of unwanted stomach contents. Excessive amounts of food or chemically irritating food may be undesirable.

The reason for vomiting can also be a central cause such as neurological disease, concussion, etc. A psychological factor is also possible.

Vomiting is possible due to backward peristalsis of the musculature of the alimentary canal upwards into the mouth.

During vomiting, there is a simultaneous violent contraction of the abdominal muscles.

The triggers and the vomiting process in the body are highly coordinated. When the nerves in the stomach come into contact with suspect substances during digestion, they send nerve signals to the vomiting centre in the CNS (central nervous system) and the affected individual becomes nauseous.

The vomiting nerve centre then responds. It starts to coordinate the process with the respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. The vomiting centre controls contractions of the diaphragm, abdominal muscles, peristalsis and relaxation of the oesophageal sphincter.

Vomiting is in most cases accompanied by other associated symptoms:

  • General weakness.
  • Nausea
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Migraine, headache
  • Cold sweat and pallor
  • Increased saliva production
  • Heartburn
  • Halitosis

When is it necessary to seek medical attention?

If there is a dietary error or if a small amount of alcohol is consumed, vomiting can be managed with home treatment. However, due to the risk of infection and dehydration, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

When to seek urgent professional help?

  • If vomiting does not subside within 24 hours
  • If you vomit blood or if the vomit is green or black in colour
  • If you have an elevated body temperature, fever
  • If the individual shows signs of dehydration
  • If the individual shows signs of dizziness and fainting
  • If vomiting is associated with an accident
  • If the individual has consumed large amounts of alcohol
  • If there is substance or food poisoning
  • If the individual is a young child

Causes and aetiology of vomiting

The etiology of vomiting varies. From psychogenic factor, pregnancy, dietary error, infectious disease, inflammation to serious diseases of the digestive or nervous system. The most common causes are listed below.

Dietary error

Dietary error is a common cause of stomach irritation and vomiting. It occurs after an improper diet, excessive amounts or inappropriate combination of food ingredients. After elimination of the ingested food, the health condition improves in a short time.

Improperly prepared or contaminated food can be a risk trigger for vomiting.

Psychological factor

The function of the digestive tract can also be affected psychosomatically.

With excessive psychological stress, stress and emotional events, the body may react with nausea and, in worse cases, vomiting. However, frequent abdominal pain, increased stool frequency and diarrhoea are more common.

Poisoning with an inappropriate substance

Consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol or inappropriate combinations can cause irritation of the chemical receptors of the stomach.

Consumption or administration of an inappropriate substance (drug, drug therapy...) may irritate the receptors and the vomiting centre. Professional diagnosis, treatment and exclusion of the risk of poisoning is necessary.

Food allergy and intolerance

Serious food allergies and intolerances can cause digestive problems shortly after ingestion of the allergen. They can cause abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting or difficulty in defecating. Potential allergens are, for example, gluten, some nuts, fruits, milk protein and others.

In addition to digestive problems, an allergy may also cause an immune reaction such as itching, swelling or skin rash, etc.

Infectious acute diseases of the digestive system

Infection of the digestive tract is most often viral, but can also be bacterial and parasitic. It occurs after contact with an infectious person or contaminated object.

It can be accompanied by fever, fever, general fatigue, lack of appetite and problems with defecation (diarrhoea, abdominal cramps...). With a gastrointestinal infection, there is a risk of dehydration.

Dietary modification and professional treatment by a physician is necessary. Specification of the pathogen and determination of treatment with antibiotics or other appropriate pharmacotherapy is necessary.

Diseases of the digestive tract

Chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract can also cause nausea and vomiting. These are mainly chronic inflammatory bowel diseases in an aggravated acute phase, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

IBD = Inflammatory Bowel Disease = inflammatory bowel disease = idiopathic bowel disease = non-specific inflammatory bowel disease

Other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers, peptic ulcers, reflux and other problems can cause abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and in some cases vomiting.

Neurological factor

Head injuries, concussions or bleeding in the central nervous system can cause vomiting. Infections of the nervous system, meningitis, migraines or balance disorders are no exception.

Nausea and vomiting may also occur in more sensitive individuals when changing balance while driving a car, in an airplane or other means of transport.


Stomach upset and vomiting are more common in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is caused by hormonal changes in the body and increased pressure acting on the uterus and surrounding organs in early pregnancy.

The condition is mainly caused by higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which reduces the tone and motility of the digestive tract.

Morning vomiting and morning sickness are particularly typical. If the vomiting is too frequent, prolonged or the vomit is of an atypical colour, it is necessary to see a doctor. If blood is present, it is necessary to see a doctor immediately.

Other diseases

Vomiting does not have to be accompanied exclusively by diseases of the digestive system. It can be an accompanying symptom of influenza, kidney inflammation, gallbladder inflammation or oncological diseases and many others.

Vomiting and nausea are also a consequence of strong drug treatment, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Vomiting in young children

Children have the same mechanism of vomiting as adults.

Young children vomit slightly more often than adults. This is mainly due to a more sensitive immune and digestive system.

Vomiting or regurgitation after feeding is a common condition that gradually disappears as the child develops.

If the child shows frequent unusual vomiting or other signs of illness (diarrhea, constipation, blood and mucus in the stool, increased temperature, fever, etc.), an urgent visit to a pediatrician is necessary.

The cause of vomiting in young children can be an infection of the digestive tract (gastroenteritis), food allergy, concussion, meningitis, otitis media and others.

Therefore, diagnosis by a doctor is important.

Food poisoning - vomiting
Food poisoning: symptoms, risk factors, prevention and treatment. Source: Getty Images

Diagnosis and treatment of vomiting

Initial diagnosis consists of taking a medical history, assessing clinical symptoms and a basic examination of the abdominal cavity by palpation and listening. Ultrasound examination of the abdominal organs is also common.

In the case of trauma, imaging X-ray, CT or MRI is chosen to rule out a neurological problem or bleeding. If infection and inflammation are suspected, a sample of blood, urine and possibly stool is taken from the patient.

In some cases, a gastroscopy, an imaging examination of the stomach using a camera, may be indicated. In a gastroscopy, a special camera is inserted through the mouth and esophagus into the digestive tract, through which the examining physician can see into the upper part of the digestive tract.

Depending on the diagnosis and the aetiology of the vomiting, the exact course of treatment is then selected. This is usually determined by a gastroenterologist.

Treatment can generally be divided into conservative treatment in the form of rest and diet modification and medical treatment.

The basis of the treatment of vomiting is rest and sufficient intake of fluids, vitamins and minerals that the body has lost. Pure water, mineral water, sweetened tea or rehydration solution are suitable. Black or chamomile tea is suitable for soothing the digestive tract.

An essential part of the regimen is a diet that does not overload the stomach. Spicy, hot, dairy, acidic and fatty foods should be avoided. Caffeine and alcohol are not recommended.

Examples of suitable home-cooked food are bananas, biscuits, biscuits, boiled potatoes, rice, boiled carrots, bare pasta, lean boiled chicken and other foods for easy digestion and elimination.

Read also:
What diet is good for diarrhea, constipation or vomiting? How to stop them?

The most commonly administered medications are antiemetics, which suppress vomiting. In case of bacterial gastroenteritis, antibiotics are indicated to the patient.

Probiotics are also useful to restore the balance of the intestinal microflora.

In the case of chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract, in turn, anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and aminosalicylates.

Treatment is selected according to the cause of vomiting. It may vary from patient to patient. In the case of food allergies or chronic inflammatory diseases, the condition is managed in the long term by lifestyle modification, dietary changes, supportive pharmacotherapy, health monitoring and prevention.

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Interesting resources

  • solen.cz - Cyclic vomiting in adulthood. Solen. MUDr. Ivan Buran, CSc.
  • healthline.com - Causes of vomiting and treatments in adults, children and pregnancy. Healthline. Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
  • pediatriepropraxi.com - Vomiting in a child. Pediatrician for practice. Katarína Mitrová, MD, PhD.
  • medicalnewstoday.com - What are the best ways to get rid of nausea? Medical News Today. Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH
  • praktickelekarenstvi.cz - Functional intestinal disorders and their treatment. Practical Pharmacy. Peter Minárik, Daniela Mináriková
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