Causes of Severe Nausea, Vomiting & Diarrhea

Intermittent episodes of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are common and can occur for a number of reasons, from overeating to eating greasy or spicy foods. Severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that occur often or interfere with daily activities may indicate a more serious illness. A thorough examination by a physician can help determine the underlying cause as well as treatment options.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, is an intestinal infection commonly caused by contact with an infected person or ingestion of contaminated water or food. explains that symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, nausea, vomiting, occasional muscle aches, headaches and low-grade fevers.

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. No medical treatment exists for ridding the patient of the virus. Physicians commonly recommend patients drink clear liquids such as water or clear sodas or sports drinks with added electrolytes to keep from becoming dehydrated. Patients should stick with bland foods such as rice, toast and crackers until nausea subsides. Avoiding dairy, alcohol, caffeine, fatty, spicy foods and nicotine will help control nausea and vomiting.

Addison's Disease

Addison’s disease, also known as hypocortisolism, occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce a sufficient amount of the hormone cortisol. Addison’s disease can occur at any age and affects both men and women. If left untreated, Addison’s disease may be life threatening, according to Symptoms of Addison’s disease develop slowly and can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, fatigue, darkening of the skin, low blood pressure, fainting, low blood sugar, irritability, depression and salt cravings. Addison’s disease may lead to a condition known as acute adrenal failure or addisonian crisis, which can cause pain in the lower back abdomen or legs, severe vomiting and diarrhea, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness and high potassium.

Diagnosis of Addison’s disease includes blood tests, a test to measure the amount of cortisol in the blood, insulin-induced hypoglycemia testing and imaging studies of the adrenal glands. Treatment of Addison’s disease includes oral corticosteroids to replace aldosterone and cortisol, corticosteroid injections and androgen replacement therapy for women.

Acute Appendicitis

The appendix is a small pouch attached to the large intestine and located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. Appendicitis is a painful inflammation, swelling and infection of the appendix. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that obstruction of the appendical lumen causes mucus to back up, which allows normal bacteria to multiply. In turn the appendix swells and becomes infected. Symptoms of acute appendicitis include severe abdominal pain beginning near the belly button and radiating to the lower right side, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, a low-grade fever and abdominal swelling. Treatment of appendicitis involves surgical removal of the appendix. Prompt treatment of appendicitis reduces the possibility of a ruptured appendix, which can lead to severe complications.