What causes white stool? Should I be concerned?

Answer From Elizabeth Rajan, M.D.

White stool isn't typical. If you have white stool, you should see a medical professional right away. A lack of bile causes white or clay-like stool. That may mean a serious underlying problem.

Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Stool gets its typical brownish color from bile, which flows into the small intestine during the digestive process. If the liver doesn't produce bile or if bile gets stuck in the liver, stool will be light colored or white.

Often the problem occurs in the tube that delivers the bile to the small intestine. This tube is the bile duct. A tumor, a gallstone or something else can squeeze or block the bile duct. When this happens, the bile can't enter the small intestine. As a result, your stool may be white. You also may have belly pain, fever, nausea, itching and yellowing of the skin and eyes, known as jaundice. Some babies are born with narrowed bile ducts. This is a condition known as biliary atresia.

Liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, sometimes can cause white stool. Barium, a white substance used for X-rays of the digestive tract, also can cause white stool. So can certain medicines that contain aluminum hydroxide, including antacids.


Elizabeth Rajan, M.D.

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Nov. 28, 2023 See more Expert Answers