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What Are the Most Common Causes of Brown Vomit?

Brown vomit can be caused by eating brown foods.
Blood in the gastrointestinal tract can make vomit appear brown.
Eating dark foods like chocolate cake can make vomit look brown.
A bland diet that includes rice is recommended for a person who has experienced bouts of vomiting.
On rare occasions, a person can throw up brown vomit due to an intestinal blockage.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Sarah Sullins
  • Revised By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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Brown vomit is usually most often caused by having eaten brown food, but it can also be a sign of bile in the regurgitated stomach contents. Gastrointestinal bleeding can also appear brown in throw up. Rarely, a person might throw up brown material because of severe constipation or an intestinal blockage. The treatment for brown vomit depends on the cause, but most cases resolve themselves without medical care. Excessive or frequent episodes can be a sign of a serious medical condition, and should be reported to a health care professional immediately.

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Food and Bile

The most common cause of brown vomit is throwing up brown food, or several foods that look brown when mixed together or mixed with bile. For instance, red and green foods could look brown if eaten together and then vomited, as could very dark red foods if they're mixed with bile. Additionally, though bile is usually yellow or greenish, it can also look brown when thrown up. This is particularly true if it's coming from an empty stomach; people often get greenish-brown or very dark yellow vomit if they throw up repeatedly. Most of the time this type of vomiting is caused by something relatively benign, like food poisoning, and will resolve on its own after a few days with no other treatment than a bland diet and lots of water or sports drinks.

Blood

Vomit can also look brown because of blood in the gastrointestinal tract. This is often called "coffee ground" regurgitation, since it looks like ground coffee after being regurgitated. Most of the time, blood that looks brown in vomit is a little old or partially digested, while that which looks bright red is fresh. There are many different causes of throwing up blood, but one of the most common ones is an inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining. This can be caused by excessive use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), over-use of alcohol, stomach infections, and pernicious anemia, among other things.

Ulcers can also cause gastrointestinal bleeding, particularly if they start to erode the stomach lining around them. Likewise, cancers related to the gastrointestinal system, including stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer can cause bloody vomit, as can severe liver damage. Some people also throw up blood if they swallow a lot of it during a nosebleed, or because of swallowing blood that they cough up due to respiratory disorders. Though the blood in these cases is more likely to be fresh and look red, it can look brown if the bleeding has been going on for a long time or is not active when the person regurgitates. Since so many serious medical conditions can cause bloody vomit, anyone experiencing it should see a health care professional for treatment.

Intestinal Blockage

Rarely, brown vomit may occur when a person has prolonged constipation or an intestinal blockage. When substances in the intestine cannot pass through the obstruction, they may travel back up through the stomach and esophagus. The color of vomit in this situation can range from greenish yellow to dark brown, depending on how far down in the intestines the blockage is. Though this is often called fecal vomiting, a person may not throw up actual feces, but rather digested food.

Bowel obstructions generally require immediate medical intervention. Imaging studies can be used to determine the location and possible cause for the obstruction; and treatment depends on the reason for the obstruction. In some cases, the obstruction can be treated with an enema or stent. In severe cases, the obstruction inhibits blood flow, which causes part of the intestine to die. In these cases, surgery is necessary to remove the blockage and dead tissue and reconnect the bowel.

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Discuss this Article

anon346970
Post 9

I will usually start to vomit brown liquid during stomach flu after I've thrown up all the food I've eaten that day because there's nothing else left in my stomach.

anon335373
Post 8

@Galen: Same problems here. I've been trying to figure it out for a couple years, but no answers. Have you made any progress?

anon335265
Post 7

I battle with H-Pylori which infects the stomach and intestines. It's bacterial infection that doc's can write a Prev-Pak RX. It includes two antibiotics and a super pepto bismol combo. It helps.

What happens is I vomit continuously and violently for days, with a high fever, sometimes diarrhea and mucho gas. Horrible disease. A blood test will confirm if you have it.

A natural preventative is to take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. Drink two glasses a day. Just saying it works better than the prescription.

anon278223
Post 5

I haven’t been officially diagnosed with CVS, but I’m sure that’s what I have. Every three or four months since I was about 17, I have become sick to my stomach and vomited continuously for several days to a week. At first I thought it was the flu, because this started when I had a particularly nasty stomach bug. I have always been susceptible to these and vomited easily, but it has not stopped over the years.

Last night, it started again. I knew by the way I felt that it was going to happen again so I got a bucket leaned over and threw up until my stomach was empty, my stomach and ribs hurt, I threw up out my nose, and I just brought up a huge amount of tan vomit. I have been to doctors, but they can’t find anything wrong, but this gets annoying when I can’t keep even water down.

The nausea hasn’t abated but I’ve brought up everything in there. This happens at least three times a year. I have vomited in school, at work and in public toilets. It’s not a nice, lady-like sickness. It’s loud, noisy, smelly and gross since when it starts, I’ll throw up whatever I ate last. Ironically, I have an identical twin sister who is an emetophobe and rarely vomits, and she can’t stand it when I do.

anon137915
Post 4

I have an ulcer that was diagnosed a few months ago and my appointment for my first round of camera tests isn't until February, but lately I have noticed blood in my stools and when I get really bad pain in my stomach I vomit and my vomit is brown in colour. Should I be worried or wait for my appointment in February? I am worried but I don't know what to do (can't go back to GP's as there is nothing more she can do at the moment).

closerfan12
Post 3

Here's a cause of brown vomit in children for you: brownie mix.

When I was little, my mom used to bake all the time, and one time she left a bowl of brownie mix in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours before she baked it.

I got into it, and ended up eating the entire bowl! Needless to say, the aftereffects were, well...spectacular. I was sick as a dog, and seriously, I have never seen that shade of brown since -- not that I really want to.

Anyway, just another possible cause if your child starts throwing up brown.

musicshaman
Post 2

Recently, my dog has started vomiting brown bile, and I am really starting to get concerned about it.

Before, I just thought that it could be something she ate, since she's an outdoor dog, and you know how dogs vomit pretty easily anyway, but now I'm not so sure.

It's almost like she's got a lot of brown pus that's coming up with the vomit, instead of the vomit itself being brown, now that I think about it.

Do you know what could be causing this? Do the same brown vomit causes apply for dogs, or should I be looking for something different?

I'm taking her to the vet next week anyway to find out what's going on, but I'd love to have some more information as soon as I can.

Thanks!

galen84basc
Post 1

This is a bit embarrassing, but I'm really desperate for information. OK, this past week I've been vomiting a lot -- like two or three times a day, and it's starting to come up brown.

I have only been eating the BRAT diet, nothing brown, but I'm not getting the "coffee ground" look that you always hear about with blood in the vomit. It almost looks more like brown mucus.

I have also not been having any intestinal pain, so I don't think it's a blockage or anything (I really, really, really hope it's not because that's just gross).

So what could be causing this? I don't have a fever or anything, and I feel OK most of the time, except I keep getting nauseous a few times a day. As soon as I throw up I feel better, until the next time.

Does anybody have any idea what could be causing this?

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