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Stool Colors and What They Mean

Stool Colors and What They Mean

Learning stool colors and what they mean will help in making quick and self-diagnosis of digestive problems. This article provides some information about its various colors and their meanings.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
As a part of medical examination routine, the doctor usually ask the affected people about the frequency of bowel movement and stool appearance. In fact, its color and consistency can tell a lot about the digestive health of an individual. This is where understanding stool colors and what they mean becomes important for all of us. Briefly speaking, the color of stool varies from person to person, based on the type of foods consumed and also, by the amount of bile juice (secreted by liver) present in the feces.
What is the Normal Stool Color?
As far as normal bowel movement is concerned, there is no specific definition as it depends on several criteria. However, according to the health experts, a medial brown colored stool (or any shade of brown) is considered normal. Occasional yellow stool also signifies normal bowel movement. Other factors that signify healthy digestive system are toothpaste like consistency, sinking in water, presence of little gas, and smooth passing of stool without straining.
What Stool Colors Mean?
Discoloration of stool is not always a subject of concern. However, in some cases, knowing stool color meanings comes handy as a simple way to diagnose specific health conditions. Of course, it is not the sole method for identifying medical problems. The doctor will perform diagnostic procedures to confirm, whether the individual is actually having the predicted condition or not.
Pale
Light, whitish, or gray stool is the sign for lack of bile juice in the bowel movement. This condition may be caused due to abnormalities in the bile duct that supplies bile juice. Probable medical conditions for these abnormal bowel movements include gallstones, giardia infection, hepatitis, and liver cirrhosis. If you are taking antidiarrheal medications at present, they might be the reason for passing pale-colored stool.
Yellow
Frequent passing of yellow stool may be a sign of medical condition. People diagnosed with acid reflux disease (GERD) often experience yellow-color stool. It is observed that when food particles pass through the digestive tract rapidly, thus, resulting in decreased absorption of useful nutrients. Other possible causes for yellow stool are bacterial infection and low amount of bile in stool.
Red
The most common cause for bloody stool is hemorrhoids, which may be internal type or external type. It is mostly observed at times of constipation. Stool with bright red color indicates bleeding in the rectum portion. The red color is an unoxidized blood, thus, suggesting that bleeding occurs immediately before the stool passes out. Another reason for blood in stool may be the consumption of beets and other red food items.
Green
Light-green colored stool may be because of excess amount of bile juice in the feces. This is not an unusual condition, until the frequency increases. In case of dark green stool, it is observed mostly in babies and toddlers. Other probable causes are too many greens in diet, less absorption of nutrients by the digestive tract, presence of bacteria, and medicine effect.
Black
The main black stool cause is bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the esophagus and stomach of the digestive system. As the partially digested food particles pass through the bleeding sites, they carry blood along with them. By the time, the indigestible particles are expelled as feces, the blood is already oxidized, resulting in black or tarry stool.
In case of passing unusual colored stool (besides brown color) consecutively for 1-2 days, get yourself checked by a trusted physician. The doctor will take a note of your diet and predict the probable cause for discolored bowel movement. If required, a stool analysis will be performed to rule out infection and probable medical conditions. And appropriate treatment will be directed based on the test result for combating the condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.