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What Can Cause Vomiting Foam?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Most causes of vomiting foam are not serious, and they may include air coming back up with the food, throwing up stomach bile, or even vomiting swallowed saliva. Other times, vomiting foam can be a sign of a serious medical condition such as pancreatitis or heart conditions. In dogs, foamy vomit can be the sign of bloat, a life threatening medical condition.

In the majority of cases, vomiting foam will be nothing to worry about. Many times it simply means that there wasn't much food left in the stomach at the time, so stomach bile or even previously swallowed saliva comes up instead. Liquid vomit can also come up mixed with air, giving it a foamy appearance. This may be more likely in those who have been throwing up a lot previously or who have felt nauseated for a long period of time, since this means that an empty stomach is more likely.

Vomiting foam can also be caused by throwing up stomach bile. In some cases this could be indicative of a more serious health condition, such as liver failure, but much of the time it is caused by drinking too much alcohol or having a empty stomach. When someone throws up all of their stomach contents and doesn't replenish them, that person may have to vomit again but have nothing to come up. Eventually, the gagging associated with vomiting can bring bile up instead.

In some cases, vomiting foam can be caused for concern. It can be the sign of certain digestive disorders of the pancreas or liver, especially if the foam is persistent or if vomiting only results in the regurgitation of foam rather than food. In many cases, there will be other symptoms present along with the vomiting. These can include abdominal pain, cramping, and in the case of liver problems, a discoloration of the skin.

Many times, vomiting foam is associated with dogs and cats. In animals, this could be the sign of a serious medical conditions known as bloat. Bloat is a flipping of the stomach, and it is most common in large breed dogs. Cats may also have foamy vomit with some health conditions, including heart problems.

Anyone with vomit containing foam should seek medical attention, especially if other symptoms are present and vomiting is persistent. If an animal is throwing up, emergency vet care may be needed. If bloat is to blame, it can kill an animal fairly quickly so immediate treatment is required.

Throwing Up White Foam

There are a wide variety of reasons that you may be throwing up white foam. Most of the reasons for throwing up foam are uncomfortable but nothing to be concerned about.

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

If you had a little too much fun at the house party, chances are your stomach isn't feeling so great. Drinking alcohol in excess can cause irritation to your digestive system and lead to indigestion, pain, and vomiting. If you continue to vomit after the alcohol and food are out of your system, you may vomit stomach acid, which looks like white foam.

Eating Acidic Foods

Overeating can cause vomiting and that is especially true if the foods you indulged in were highly acidic and your stomach was otherwise empty. Typically, acidic foods include junk foods, such as potato chips as well as carbonated drinks like Coca-Cola or Sprite.

Medication Side Effects

Sometimes, the medication you take has vomiting as a side effect. If it causes an upset stomach too often, you may vomit before you've eaten, causing stomach bile to come up as white foam. This is especially true of controlled substances such as morphine but is also possible with some over-the-counter medications, including ibuprofen.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy makes the body have major changes in hormone levels, which can often lead to an upset stomach known as morning sickness. Despite its moniker, morning sickness can affect a pregnant person at any time of the day or night. If pregnancy causes you to vomit at night or before you've eaten in the morning, you may find that you vomit foam.

Stomach Infection

If you have food poisoning or an influenza strain, you have a bacterial or viral stomach infection. These types of infections often leave you dealing with constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea for much longer than you have food in the system. When you continue to vomit after your stomach is empty, you will throw up white foam.

Medical Conditions That Cause You To Vomit Foam

There are some more serious medical conditions that may cause you to vomit white foam and that need a doctor's diagnosis and treatment to fix. These include candidiasis, hiatal hernias, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (commonly referred to as GERD).

Candidiasis is an infection caused by the candida fungus, which can affect the vagina, the esophagus, and other parts of the body. When the yeast spreads to the stomach area, it can cause you to vomit white foam or have other symptoms. You are more likely to get a yeast infection if you eat a lot of sugar, have diabetes, or have a weakened immune system. Treatment includes pain medication and antifungal medication.

Sometimes, the top of your stomach starts to push into your chest through a gap in your diaphragm. This is known as a hiatal hernia and may cause stomach acid to reach into the esophagus. If you have a hiatal hernia, you might burp often, have heartburn, feel short of breath, feel a burning in your chest, or have a bad taste in your mouth. Typically, a hiatal hernia requires surgical treatment that tightens the diaphragm and stitches your stomach into its proper place.

Perhaps one of the most common medical causes of throwing up white foam is gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD is a digestive disorder that weakens the ring between your esophagus and stomach. When that ring is weak, it makes it easier for food to be pushed up into your esophagus. People who have GERD often have heartburn or indigestion, may cough a lot, and may vomit foam. Treatment typically includes antacid tablets and an H2 blocker to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach.

Treatment To Try First

Naturally, throwing up white foam is uncomfortable. If you'd like to stop the problem from occurring, it is important to watch what you eat and drink and to get plenty of exercise and sleep. Cut down on alcohol if you drink more than a couple of times per week, and avoid food and drink known to cause heartburn. This includes chocolate, caffeine, tomato products, citrus products, fried foods, and even ice cream.

How you eat matters as well. Chew and swallow slowly to avoid trapping air that can cause uncomfortable heartburn. Avoid large meals in favor of eating small meals throughout the day. Finally, wear loose clothing that doesn't constrict your stomach or chest. If these treatment options do not help the problem, visit your family doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe medication or recommend other treatment options.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Pat3 — On Sep 05, 2014

I have started vomiting white fluffy stuff. I have lost my appetite and feel nauseous a lot of the time. I have told my gp about it but he doesn't seem concerned (I am). I have no pain.

By anon962791 — On Jul 25, 2014

I've been vomiting yellowish fluids/ bubbly/ foamy saliva every morning, as in consistently every morning as I wake up before taking a bath. It started five months ago, but there were months in between when it stopped. What to do?

By anon950327 — On May 09, 2014

My 9 month old baby is throwing up foam and she's not been gaining weight. Please help!

By anon925876 — On Jan 14, 2014

Vomiting up foam and bile is really not fun at all. Once when I had food poisoning, I was vomiting terribly to the point I became very dehydrated and went into hypovolemic shock. My boyfriend had to call an ambulance for me and I ended up in hospital overnight.

My only other encounter with vomiting up foam was after I nearly drowned due to a surfing accident. I was vomiting up salty water, sand, foam and even a bit of sea weed. It was horrible.

By Turquoise28 — On Dec 17, 2013

Someone please give me good advice rather than a 'go see a doctor.' Yesterday, I got a runny nose and I kept sneezing. My throat started to feel coarse and dry. I made myself a honey and lemon drink to soothe down the pain. My throat was feeling a bit better but my throat still felt like sandpaper.

After a while, I got in bed then I fell asleep at around 11pm. I woke up about 2 a.m. after I had problems breathing. I found out that I was drooling a lot (I don't usually drool in my sleep) and I kept swallowing it as I was breathing. Then I had the urge to puke.

I went to the bathroom and faced my toilet, but no puke came out. I tried forcing out the puke because the feeling of it was terrible and I just wanted to get it over with. Instead of puke, half a mouthful of foam came out and I was confused and scared. Today I took strepsils for my throat. I haven't puked again but I've been burping a lot. Can someone please tell me what could have been the cause of this? Thanks.

By turquoise — On Mar 09, 2012

My dog vomits white and yellow foam sometimes. I've had him checked out by the vet and he didn't find anything wrong. The vet said that it's possibly because of stomach upset and excess bile. My dog only does this when he eats grass, so he eats grass on purpose to vomit.

I think he feels nauseated and doesn't know what else to do. He also doesn't want to eat, which is why he is vomiting bile and not food.

I feel sad when it happens but it's not often. And I'm glad there is nothing wrong with him otherwise. I was fearful that he had a problem with his liver, thankfully all his tests came back normal. When he vomits foam, I let him get some fresh air first. Then I keep him warm and feed him dog biscuits which seem to settle his stomach.

By discographer — On Mar 08, 2012

I had this happen to me once and it was horrible! I got food poisoning while traveling. I had bad food for dinner and I got sick in the middle of the night. I threw up so much that after the food, I started to vomit bile and eventually foam. I had never experienced something like that before. I didn't even know that it's possible to throw up bile.

I was taken to the ER and given an IV with antibiotics. I immediately started feeling better and stopped vomiting foam only then. I hope I never experience this again. Not fun!

By StarJo — On Mar 07, 2012

My sister's cat got food poisoning and began throwing up foam. At first, my sister didn't know why her cat was sick. Then, she saw that it had managed to open the trash can and get inside.

My sister had thrown out some old cat food a few days earlier, and it had gone bad inside the trash can. The cat had lifted the lid and eaten a bunch of it.

She took the cat to the vet, who gave her fluids and antibiotics through an IV. The old cat food was full of bacteria, which had to be flushed out of her system.

By OeKc05 — On Mar 07, 2012

Sometimes, a dog will vomit white foam and be just fine. My dog tends to eat grass to make herself vomit when she is feeling ill, and afterward, she returns to normal. Most dog owners have seen their dogs doing this at some point, and if they are otherwise behaving normally, it isn't a cause for concern.

However, if a dog is experiencing bloat, then you can tell something is wrong. The foamy vomit is the same, but she will act scared and her abdomen will feel hard and appear bigger than normal.

My neighbor's Doberman had bloat, and luckily, she lived only minutes from a vet. Dogs with bloat can die in an hour if not treated.

By seag47 — On Mar 06, 2012

@lighth0se33 – Once you get to the point that you are vomiting foam, if you vomit several more times, it is best to seek treatment. I experienced this when I was nine years old, and I just could not quit vomiting, even after I had nothing left but bubbly bile.

My parents feared I was about to become dehydrated, so they took me to the doctor right away. He put me in the hospital, where I received an IV to replace my fluids.

They discovered that I had rotavirus. I had to stay in the hospital for a week, because at home, I would have dehydrated from all the vomiting and diarrhea. The only treatment was fluids and anti-nausea shots, and I had to be on a liquid diet for days.

By lighth0se33 — On Mar 05, 2012
Throwing up foam and bile is disgusting. I got sick a lot as a child, and after I had thrown up all the food I had inside of me, I would often throw up this gross mixture.

It tasted so bitter in my mouth. I don't even know what to compare it to, because it doesn't taste like anything you would purposely put in your mouth. Only someone who has vomited it up can really know what it's like.

It is terrible to keep vomiting once you have nothing left but foamy bile. It makes you dread the next vomiting episode even more.

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