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 1.

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.

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 23. Addison’s disease can occur at any age and affects both men and women 23. If left untreated, Addison’s disease may be life threatening, according to 23. 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
  • salt cravings 23

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. 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.