Sudden Vomiting and Diarrhea – List of Causes

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


  • 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


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


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

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  • gary esdale

    drank out 2_litre bottle of water which on previous occasions had anti freeze mixed in only 30 minutes has past , water from tap into bottle tonight clean but should i worry or seek help,dont seem to have symptoms,can you help

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Gary

      You should seek medical attention. In all likelihood any residual traces of anti-freeze is too small to case any significant problems as mentioned in Antifreeze Poisoning apart from minor and temporary gastrointestinal upset. But you can never be sure. You should see a doctor immediately.

  • Valerie Harper Martin

    Several years ago, while on vacation, I had no symptoms of illness when all of a sudden, I had the urge to vomit and it was very explosive. I vomited once an hour, on the hour for about 13 hours straight and also developed severe, explosive diarrhea. I was having this violent diarrhea and vomiting at the same time, all these hours! What could it have been? Could someone have given me something to give me this? Or was it probably food-borne? I had also been in a pool for a long time that day.