Chronic Vomiting & Weight Loss

By Sarah Harding ; Updated July 18, 2017

Chronic vomiting has several possible causes, each with different characteristics. Some short-term illnesses, like the flu, can cause persistent vomiting that results in weight loss. Other long-lasting issues, such as bulimia or cyclic vomiting disorder, may persist on an almost daily basis for many months or even years. A health care professional can make a proper diagnosis to assist the patient in obtaining treatment.


What defines an illness or symptom as chronic can vary from one institution to another. Typically, recurrent episodes of vomiting that persist beyond a few days suggest a chronic problem. Simply having a bad case of food poisoning or the flu doesn't make the vomiting persistent or chronic. It is possible to lose weight from these short and sometimes severe cases of vomiting.

When vomiting occurs, passes and returns several times over the course of days, weeks or months then an individual is likely to have chronic vomiting. It is not likely that a diagnosis can be made just by examining the frequency of vomiting and the significance of weight that is lost. The additional symptoms that accompany the vomiting will need to be examined.


Cyclic vomiting is a rare syndrome that affects children between the ages of three and seven states MayoClinic.com. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse points out that this illness is no longer just a pediatric problem as it can affect people of all ages. It is characterized by severe nausea and vomiting with occasional migraines and some weight loss that is considered chronic or persistent. Other types of chronic vomiting include abdominal migraines, gastrointestinal illness and bulimia.


In all cases of persistent vomiting an individual can lose weight. The symptoms of each chronic vomiting cause vary, some only slightly. Cyclic vomiting has four phases. It begins with no symptoms and is followed by warning signs of vomiting, such as abdominal pain or nausea. There is a chance that vomiting will occur suddenly, which is the third phase of the illness states the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The length of this phase varies from one individual to another. It can last several hours or even days. Following this phase, the individual will begin to feel better with their appetite returning and the nausea and vomiting subsiding.

Gastrointestinal illnesses that cause nausea and vomiting are vast. Until the illness is identified and treated the vomiting will persist. Examples include frequent constipation, heartburn, ulcers, infection of various parts of the gastrointestinal tract and inflammatory bowel diseases. Symptoms of each of these illnesses vary greatly ranging from persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, bleeding of the rectum or having blood in the stools.

Bulimia is easier to differentiate from other chronic vomiting causes. It is characterized by regular binge eating followed by inappropriate behavior to purge the food, which can include inducing vomiting. HelpGuide.org explains that this behavior is cyclic and occurs when the individual feels remorse over binge eating or feels inadequate due to a distorted body image. Sometimes bulimia is less about weight and more about exercising control.

Weight Loss Considerations

Any time an individual vomits some weight loss is possible. This should be short term and have no serious health risks. With chronic vomiting illnesses an individual is at a greater risk of health complications associated with weight loss. First, the weight that is lost initially is most often from water. The result of losing too much water is dehydration. The effects of dehydration can include reduced urination, dry mouth, lethargy and darkening under the eyes. Over time dehydration can become more severe and result in the body shutting down and the individual needing emergency medical care, including an intravenous line of fluids.

Persistent vomiting, such as with cyclic vomiting or bulimia, can result in the body becoming malnourished. When foods are consumed but ejected the body does not receive all the important nutrients. Even though the individual has no appetite when suffering and recovering from a bout of vomiting, the body is often needing fuel.


Treating chronic vomiting is the first step in improving weight loss. A proper diagnosis must be made first, which may require various tests especially if the underlying cause is some sort of gastrointestinal problem, such as an infection or ulcer. Cyclic vomiting is treated with various prescription medications to control the potential causes including antidepressants and pain relievers according to MayoClinic.com.

Gastrointestinal illnesses have a wide variety of treatment options ranging from steroids to reduce inflammation to antibiotics to treat infection and even dietary changes to reduce flare-ups suggests the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The primary treatment for bulimia, as indicated by HealthGuide.org, is therapy with a qualified mental health professional. The first step in improving this condition is to break the unhealthy eating habits and then to changes the negative self-image by creating new thinking patterns and resolving underlying emotional issues.

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