People may throw up bile — a yellow or greenish liquid — for many reasons. These include pregnancy, bile reflux, an intestinal blockage, and alcohol consumption. Some of the causes may require urgent medical attention.

People may also use the term “bilious vomiting” to refer to throwing up bile.

This article will explain when a person who throws up bile may need to seek medical care and when they may be able to treat the vomiting with home remedies.

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Bile is a greenish or yellow liquid that the liver makes. The body stores it in the gallbladder.

It consists of:

Bile aids food digestion by breaking down fats and turning them into fatty acids.

A person may throw up bile for many reasons, such as the following:

Vomiting when the stomach is empty

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), vomiting bile can occur when a person throws up and their stomach is empty.

This can happen when someone has stomach flu or food poisoning and has already thrown up all the food in their stomach. It may also occur if a person has not eaten for a long time.

Excessive alcohol consumption

People may vomit after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. They may be more likely to throw up bile if they have been drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

Individuals who frequently engage in excessive alcohol consumption may wish to consider speaking with a healthcare professional who can offer support for limiting their alcohol intake.

Learn more about throwing up after drinking.


Many people experience morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy. Some individuals may throw up bile as a result of morning sickness.

Some people may also vomit bile due to a severe form of morning sickness that doctors call hyperemesis gravidarum. This may cause intense vomiting that can endanger the health of the pregnant person and the fetus.

It is best for pregnant individuals to speak with a healthcare professional if they experience severe morning sickness.

Bile reflux

Bile reflux is not the same as acid reflux, though their symptoms are similar. Bile reflux is when bile backs up into a person’s stomach and esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat and stomach.

This kind of reflux often occurs because of peptic ulcers or after surgery, such as a gastric bypass or gallbladder removal.

If a person vomits bile due to bile reflux, they may also experience several other symptoms, including:

People with symptoms of bile reflux need to speak with a doctor. Proper diagnosis is crucial for treating bile reflux, as acid reflux treatments do not work for this condition.

Intestinal blockages

Intestinal blockages — which people may also refer to as bowel obstructions — are a common cause of throwing up bile. They require urgent medical attention to prevent complications, including sepsis and tissue death.

The following are some possible causes of bowel obstructions:

Congenital conditions

One of the most common causes of vomiting in newborns and young infants is duodenal atresia, which is a condition where the small bowel does not develop properly. This is a congenital condition, which means it is present from birth.

Another possible cause is Hirschsprung disease, a congenital intestinal disorder that affects the large intestine’s ability to move stool.

Certain medications

Some medications, such as opioids and antibiotics, may cause vomiting as a side effect.

It is important to speak with a healthcare professional before taking any medications and to ask about potential side effects. People can report any severe or persistent side effects to their doctor, who may be able to recommend an alternative treatment.

Anyone who is persistently throwing up bile should see a doctor. Similarly, people who are throwing up bile and have signs of dehydration should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Additional concerning symptoms

According to the NHS, people should also seek emergency medical care if they experience any of the following symptoms in addition to throwing up bile:

Intestinal blockages

Symptoms of intestinal blockages may vary, depending on the underlying cause. A person who is throwing up bile should visit a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

Symptoms in infants and young children

Carers of young children and infants should seek immediate medical attention if the child has any of the following symptoms of intussusception and is throwing up bile:

Infants can quickly become dehydrated and may need medical intervention to rehydrate much sooner than adults.

In an infant or newborn, doctors usually assume that bilious vomiting is due to an obstruction somewhere in the intestinal tract. For this reason, they will likely treat bilious vomiting as an emergency.

They will order imaging tests, including an X-ray or contrast imaging, which involves injecting dye into the body and then performing a scan.

In adults, doctors will assess the wider context in which bilious vomiting occurs. They may:

  • ask about recent illness or order a pregnancy test
  • ask whether the person vomited on an empty stomach
  • perform an exam to look for other symptoms, such as upper abdominal tenderness
  • order tests to look for gallstones or an obstruction

Treatment depends on the likely cause of a person’s vomiting.

When there is no obvious cause, a doctor may recommend waiting to see if a person’s condition improves.

However, doctors treat vomiting bile as an emergency when it occurs in infants. Surgery can treat the condition if doctors determine the cause is a blockage, such as duodenal atresia. Without surgery, an infant may be unable to absorb nutrients. For this reason, a doctor may recommend surgery immediately.

Some other potential treatments include:

A person’s overall outlook depends mainly on the reason why they are throwing up bile. In acute cases, such as after a night of drinking or a bout of food poisoning, a person will likely make a full recovery with minor treatments.

People with underlying medical conditions may also experience a full recovery, but treatment will vary based on the condition.

To help prevent vomiting bile, a person can:

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about vomiting green or yellow bile.

Should I drink water after throwing up bile?

The NHS recommends people frequently drink small amounts of water if they experience vomiting. This can help prevent dehydration.

Should I lie down after vomiting bile?

Lying down may help prevent further nausea. However, people should avoid lying flat to prevent inhaling any vomit if vomiting occurs suddenly.

What foods should people avoid after throwing up bile?

It may be best to avoid consuming dairy products and sugary or fatty foods after throwing up. Instead, when people start to feel well enough to eat again, they may try eating bland foods, such as rice, toast, bananas, and applesauce.

A person may throw up bile for many reasons, such as bile reflux, intestinal blockages, and pregnancy.

Each cause requires different types of treatment, and, in some cases, a person may require emergency medical attention. Therefore, anyone experiencing unexplained or persistent bilious vomiting should contact a doctor for a proper diagnosis and to avoid complications.

Parents and caregivers should always treat bilious vomiting in newborns and infants as a medical emergency requiring immediate care.

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