While it sounds unpleasant and unusual, it’s possible to vomit up your own fecal matter.
Known in medical literature as “feculent vomiting,” throwing up poop is usually due to some type of blockage in the intestines.
Learn what causes someone to throw up poop, and how to treat this condition.
There isn’t much scientific research available to explain why someone might throw up their own feces. But there are many anecdotal accounts of people describing this experience.
A 1956 article published in The American Journal of Surgery looked specifically at feculent vomiting. Researchers found that throwing up poop, while not common, was associated with some type of intestinal obstruction, including either of the following:
- Mechanical intestinal obstruction: A partial or complete blockage of the intestine that’s more common in the small bowel.
- Paralytic obstruction (adynamic ileus): With this condition, muscle or nerve problems disrupt the normal muscle contractions of the intestines. A paralytic ileus can cause symptoms of an intestinal blockage, but there’s not a physical blockage.
In a 2-year study period, the scientists identified 23 cases of feculent vomiting, finding that 19 of them resulted from mechanical intestinal obstruction while four were due to a paralytic obstruction, which is more common in older people.
Limited medical research suggests that fecal vomiting is due to an intestinal obstruction, which can have various causes.
Mechanical intestinal obstruction
Some causes of a mechanical intestinal obstruction include:
- Scar tissue: Adhesions can form after abdominal or pelvic surgery.
- Inflammation: Swelling is sometimes caused by other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis.
- Hernia: A hernia happens when areas of the intestine bulge into another part of the body.
- Impacted feces: This occurs when a large, hard mass of stool gets stuck in your colon or rectum.
- Twisting of the intestine: This condition is called volvulus.
- Intussusception: Happens when the intestine pulls inward into itself and is a common cause of blockages in children.
- Colon cancer or tumors
- Foreign matter in the intestines
- Other conditions or injuries
A paralytic obstruction may be caused by:
In anecdotal accounts, people describe throwing up poop as vomiting that’s accompanied by an odor of feces on the breath.
Symptoms of a bowel obstruction may include:
Seek medical care right away if you have symptoms of a bowel obstruction. Bowel obstructions can lead to serious complications if not treated.
If you have an intestinal blockage, your treatment will depend on:
- what’s causing the problem
- what type of obstruction you have
Typically, you’ll need to be hospitalized with this condition.
A complete obstruction usually requires surgery to alleviate the blockage.
A partial obstruction may not require any type of medical therapy. Your doctor might recommend a special diet and other measures. If the obstruction doesn’t go away on its own, you may need surgery.
With paralytic obstructions, doctors may recommend a feeding tube and IV, medications to promote muscle contractions, or rarely, surgery.
A procedure called decompression is also used in cases where the colon is enlarged. This is done by inserting a thin tube into the anus that’s then guided to the colon.
If a bowel obstruction isn’t treated, serious complications can occur, including:
- Tissue death. The blockage can cut off the blood supply to part of your intestine and cause tissue in the intestinal wall to die.
- Infection. Tissue death can result in a tear in the intestinal wall, which can cause an infection. This type of infection is considered life-threatening and requires swift medical attention.
There have been some publicized reports of patients with symptoms of fecal vomiting who have died.
In a 2018 Naples Daily News article, reporters describe the death of a 91-year-old Florida woman who threw up a mixture of “bile, blood, and fecal matter,” according to a police report.
The woman, who was being cared for in a nursing home, had a severe bowel obstruction and died of septic shock.
Throwing up poop is a possible indication that you have some type of bowel obstruction.
If this is an issue for you, talk to a medical professional so you can help discover what’s causing this unusual symptom.