Vomiting and diarrhea are two common ailments which may not be due to any serious cause if the vomiting is once off or the diarrhea only lasts for a day. However, the presence of both vomiting and diarrhea simultaneously may be a cause for concern, especially if it is sudden in onset and violent or explosive.

In order to identify the cause, it is important to take note of other signs and symptoms like :

  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Site of pain
  • Event preceding the onset of vomiting and diarrhea
  • Other chronic conditions

Causes of Sudden Vomiting and Diarrhea

Many of the causes below may result in both vomiting AND diarrhea, however, at other times it could only cause vomiting OR diarrhea. The development of symptoms may be linked to the intensity or severity of a condition or concentration of exposure to toxins and may only cause nausea and loose stool.

Infections and Inflammation

  • Appendicitis
  • Gastroenteritis – refer to the articles on Stomach Bug Causes and Gastric Flu Causes.
  • Malaria
  • Meningococcemia
  • Opportunistic infections in immunocompromised patients (HIV/AIDS, cancer, use of immune suppressants)
  • Peritonitis
  • Septicemia

Drugs

  • Antibiotics – also refer to Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea
  • Certain types of antacids
  • Cytotoxic agents – chemotherapy for cancers
  • Laxatives
  • Narcotic drugs
  • NSAID’s
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

Foods and Drinks

  • Indigestible foods and fluids – may be related to pica
  • Food allergies, intolerance
  • Food poisoning/intoxication and food infection – refer to gastroenteritis (above)
  • Excessive alcohol intake

Environmental, Pollution and Poisoning

  • Bites and stings – snakes, spiders, and other insects
  • Contaminated food and water may contain bacterial toxins and other microbes as well as toxins, industrial chemicals and poisons.
  • Gases – air pollution by factories
  • Heavy metals – thallium, cadmium, arsenic poisoning
  • Herbal supplements used for purging
  • Mushrooms – refer to the article on Mushrooms and Diarrhea
  • Nicotine – excessive cigarette smoking, use of tobacco or nicotine replacement products
  • Oils like castor oil
  • Plant toxins
  • Scombrotoxic, ciguatera fish poisoning or paralytic shellfish toxin caused by dinoflagellates.
  • Swimming pools – ingestion of chlorinated water
  • Radiation exposure
  • Other causes of poisoning, accidental or intentional – refer to Antifreeze Poisoning

Pain and Psychogenic

  • Overeating
  • Eating disorders
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Intense emotions – anxiety, excitement, fear
  • Any cause of severe pain like kidney stones

Trauma

  • Closed head injury
  • Abdominal injury
  • Injury to the spinal column
  • Any cause of severe pain

Other

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Excessive/strenuous physical activity
  • Heart attack
  • Gastric bypass surgery, intestinal resection
  • Violent, vigorous motion
  • Pregnancy
  • Uremia

Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on July 3, 2010