The food that we eat is broken down into smaller particles with the help of wave-like muscle contractions that push food particles further down from the esophagus to the stomach. This process helps in churning food into a liquid mixture called chyme. As chyme moves back and forth in the small intestine, nutrients are extracted and assimilated into the bloodstream. The wave-like contractions in the large intestine facilitate the absorption of water into the bloodstream, and the waste that is left behind after the absorption of chyme and extraction of water, is excreted out of the body in the form of stool. Stool is the principle waste product of digestion.
Characteristic Features of an Ideal Stool
- Stool color should be light to medium brown.
- It should have the texture or consistency of peanut butter.
- Its length should be between 4-8 inches.
- It should leave the body comfortably, without any strain.
Stool Color Chart
|Stool Color||Meaning||Probable Health or Dietary Causes|
|Light to medium brown||Normal||Normal|
|Very light brown||Too much fat in the body, liver problem, or constipation||Insufficient fiber content in the diet|
|Black||Duodenal ulcer, internal bleeding in the upper section of the GI tract, i.e. esophagus, stomach or first section of the small intestine||Consumption of highly concentrated iron supplements, large quantities of olives, licorice, blue berries; heavy intake of alcohol, improper blood flow to the intestine, and vascular malformation|
|Dark red or maroon||Internal bleeding of the lower section of the GI tract, internal hemorrhoids, anal fissure, colon polyps, diverticulitis, or colon cancer||Internal bleeding causes blood to seep into the colon and get mixed with the waste|
|Bright red||Hemorrhoids, digestive system disorders or colon cancer||Consumption of foods that are rich in red dyes such as licorice, candy, and other food items containing artificial color cause black or dark red colored stool|
|Orange||Gallbladder malfunctioning, fast transit time||Gallbladder malfunction, fast transit time, consumption of medicines or foods containing beta-carotene (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin etc.), antacids containing aluminum hydroxide and artificially synthesized food items|
|Yellow||Gilbert's syndrome, malabsorption, giardiasis, and pancreatic cancer||Gilbert's syndrome leads to poor processing of red blood cells; undigested fat mixes with stool in case of malabsorption of fats; a parasitic infection called giardiasis can cause yellow stool color and diarrhea|
|Dark Green Stool||Undigested green vegetables such as spinach, a fast transit time, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease||Consumption of green leafy vegetables, foods flavored with lime, iron supplements, vitamin supplements containing chlorophyll or foods that contain green dyes such as Kool-Aid and gelatin|
|Gray||Malabsorption||Blockage of bile from gallbladder to intestine. The most probable reason is presence of tumor in the bile ducts or pancreas|
|Clay||Malabsorption, hepatitis, gallbladder disorders||Hepatitis and gallbladder problems disrupt the flow of bile out of the liver, and hence the stool color changes from brown to clay|
This was a brief overview on the medical conditions that may cause stool color to change. I hope that the aforementioned stool color chart provided you with the required information on stool color meanings and the possible causes. If you have been experiencing abnormal bowel movement with abnormal stool color, consult a doctor immediately. A timely diagnosis and treatment will certainly ensure a speedy recovery.
The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.