By Kerry Weiss

Medically reviewed by Shannon Chang, MD

Abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency—these are all common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. But can vomiting be related to IBD, too?

Vomiting and IBD

While it’s less common, vomiting can sometimes be a symptom of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the two main types of IBD. It tends to occur in more severe cases of Crohn’s, particularly with an intestinal obstruction, or it may actually be a sign of a specific type of Crohn’s disease that affects the stomach and duodenum. So if you’re experiencing vomiting, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor to determine the underlying cause and get the proper treatment.

Can Biologics Be the Reason You’re Vomiting?

While vomiting can be a side effect of biologic treatment for IBD, it’s pretty rare. “During an infusion, you may feel nauseous and want to vomit, but that’s not common,” says Aline Charabaty, MD (Twitter: @DCharabaty), director of the IBD center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Washington DC and spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association.

“Typically, vomiting does not occur with a biologic unless you’re having a bad reaction,” adds Dr. Charabaty. “If a patient is telling me they’re vomiting, I would worry about other things, like a flare, bowel obstruction, or pancreatitis, which can be due to IBD itself or certain IBD drugs.”

If you do experience vomiting—or any other potential medication side effects—it’s important to notify your doctor. “Any time there’s a side effect, we need to look at how severe it is to determine if we should stop the drug, or if it’s a side effect that can be controlled so we can continue the medication—especially if the medication is working well to control the inflammatory bowel disease,” says Charabaty.

Diet Tips to Manage Vomiting

Meanwhile, if you’re experiencing persistent vomiting, once you’ve talked to your doctor, you can also see if making few changes to your diet can help settle your stomach. Try these tips:

  • Eat a bland diet (think clear liquids and saltine crackers)
  • Avoid fried, greasy foods, as well as sweets
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Eat slowly
  • Avoid activity after eating—focus on resting

Remember to Stay Hydrated

IBD symptoms like nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhea can increase your risk of dehydration, so if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to take steps to stay hydrated. Start by:

  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day—even before you feel thirsty
  • Incorporating plenty of potassium- and sodium-rich foods in your diet, such as avocados and bananas, which can help your body maintain a proper electrolyte balance
  • Choosing electrolyte-fortified beverages in certain situations, especially those that provoke excessive sweating, like when you’re exposed to extremely hot weather or when you’re very active
  • Avoiding dehydrating drinks like alcohol

If you start to feel dizzy, experience muscle cramps, or have pale, dry skin and sunken eyes, you may have a more serious case of dehydration that requires medical attention. What’s more, if you’re feeling confused or disoriented, having difficulty rousing, feeling irritable or lethargic, or having a rapid breath or pulse, you might be severely dehydrated and in need of urgent medical care.

Medical reviewer and Oshi physician-partner Shannon Chang, MD is a gastroenterologist specializing in IBD at NYU Langone Health’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center in New York City. Her clinical interests include J-pouches, pregnancy in IBD, and in-patient IBD management. Dr. Chang is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, as well as the Associate Program Director for the Gastroenterology Fellowship. She completed her internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital and her gastroenterology fellowship at NYU.

Oshi is a tracking tool and content resource. It does not render medical advice or services, and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always review this information with your healthcare professionals.