Stool comes in a range of colors. All shades of brown and even green are considered normal. Only rarely does stool color indicate a potentially serious intestinal condition.
Stool color is generally influenced by what you eat as well as by the amount of bile — a yellow-green fluid that digests fats — in your stool. As bile pigments travel through your gastrointestinal tract, they are chemically altered by enzymes — changing the pigments from green to brown.
Consult your doctor if you're concerned about your stool color. If your stool is bright red or black — which may indicate the presence of blood — seek prompt medical attention.
Oct. 12, 2012
|Stool color||What it may mean||Possible dietary causes
||Food may be moving through the large intestine too quickly, such as due to diarrhea. As a result, bile doesn't have time to break down completely.
||Green leafy vegetables, green food coloring, such as in flavored drink mixes or ice pops, iron supplements.
|Light-colored, white or clay-colored
||A lack of bile in stool. This may indicate a bile duct obstruction.
||Certain medications, such as large doses of bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) and other anti-diarrheal drugs.
|Yellow, greasy, foul-smelling
||Excess fat in the stool, such as due to a malabsorption disorder, for example, celiac disease.
||Sometimes the protein gluten, such as in breads and cereals. But see a doctor for evaluation.
||Bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach.
||Iron supplements, bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol), black licorice.
||Bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, such as the large intestine or rectum, often from hemorrhoids.
||Red food coloring, beets, cranberries, tomato juice or soup, red gelatin or drink mixes.
See more Expert Answers
- LeBlond RF, ed., et al. DeGowin's Diagnostic Examination. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=534. Accessed July 31, 2012.
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed July 31, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online.18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Aug. 8, 2012.