Vomit color is a great indicator of a person’s health status and can help piece together a diagnosis. Yellow or green vomit can emerge with a flu virus or fasting, while black vomit is indicative of a more serious digestive problem that is causing internal bleeding.
Vomit is a normal response to the presence of foreign substances or microorganisms in the body, however it can be a sign of a gastric illness. Therefore, vomiting, especially if it persists, should be assessed and treated as quickly as possible.
Vomit color is a characteristic that can help a doctor during assessment and can even guide treatment, which is why it is an important symptom to discuss with your doctor.
What vomit colors mean
Vomit can range in color, from yellow/green, to black, to red/pink. Learn about what these different colors may indicate:
1. Yellow or green vomit
Yellow or green vomit is associated with bile that is in the stomach which can happen during fasting or as a result of a obstructed bowel. Bile is usually produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder and is used to breakdown fats and promote nutrient absorption.
An empty stomach or obstructed bowel usually stimulates vomiting to release the built-up bile. This leads to a greenish or yellow tinge to the vomit. However green or yellow vomit can also be caused by:
- Phlegm in the bile, which can happen particularly to children with a cold or flu
- Intake of green or yellow food or drinks
- Pus in the vomit from infection
- Food poisoning
Yellow or green vomit is usually not associated with serious illnesses, and it may just be a sign of an empty stomach. However, if you experience other symptoms or if occurs frequently, you should see your doctor.
What to do: In addition seeing your doctor, you should also ensure adequate fluid intake by drinking water or coconut water. It is important to prevent dehydration and worsening of symptoms.
2. Black vomit
Black vomit is usually a sign of bleeding somewhere along the digestive tract. Black vomit is usually associated with other symptoms like dizziness, cold sweats and bloody stool. Read more about what can cause black stool and what to do.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can occur high up along the digestive tract, or lower down, depending on the affected organ. Bleeding can happen with conditions like stomach ulcers, Crohn’s disease, intestinal cancer or stomach cancer, for example.
Learn more about the specific symptoms of stomach cancer and how it is treated.
What to do: If you notice black vomit, you should seek medical treatment immediately. The doctor will order testing to determine the location of bleeding and will start treatment promptly. Treatment may include a blood transfusion, medications or even surgery, depending on the cause. You should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
3. Red or pink vomit
Red or pink vomit is usually a sign of bleeding along the upper gastrointestinal tract. It can be caused by esophageal varices, gastritis, esophagitis, ulcers or stomach tumors. Bleeding can occur in small or large quantities, and should always be reported to a doctor. Learn more about what cause blood in vomit and how it is managed.
What to do: The presence of red or pink vomit should be urgently assessed. Identifying the underling cause will help to guide treatment, which may involve medications or surgery.
Check out our tips for vomiting safely and when it is appropriate to induce vomiting.