What the Color of Your Stool Says About Your Health

What the Color of Your Stool Says About Your Health

Your stool is what remains after your gastrointestinal system breaks down and absorbs all the essential nutrients and fluid from what you eat and drink. Though mostly water, your stool also contains a mix of fiber, bacteria, cells, and mucus. 

Your bowel movements may not be a regular topic of conversation, but the color, texture, and smell of your poop can tell you a lot about your health. 

At Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, we specialize in diagnosing and treating anorectal disorders like hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Your bowel movements may play a role in the development of these uncomfortable conditions.

Our board-certified family physician, Dr. Betsy Clemens, wants you to know what the color of your stool says about your health.

Any shade of brown

The color of your stool varies, depending on what you eat and drink, as well as how much bile remains in your waste after digestion. Bile is a yellow-green pigmented substance made in your liver that helps digest fat in your small intestine. 

As food travels through your digestive tract, enzymes alter the pigments in your bile, causing them to turn brown. 

Brown is the normal color of stool. If you pass any shade of brown stool, your digestive system is working like it should. 

Green stool

Green-colored stool means you have too much bile in your poop. This may occur when food quickly moves through your digestive tract, preventing the enzymatic changes that alter the pigments in your blile. You may see green stools when you have diarrhea.

However, leafy greens and foods with green food coloring may also cause your poop to turn green. So, green-colored stool may not alway be a sign of a serious health issue. 

When you have green-colored stool, keep track of what you eat to see if you can find a connection. If you feel the color of your poop has nothing to do with the color of your food, schedule a visit, and we can see what’s going on. 

Gray stool

Gray stool means there’s not enough bile in your poop. Having gray, pale-colored stools may be a sign of an underlying health issue involving your pancreas, liver, or gallbladder, such as:

You may also have jaundice (yellow-colored skin) with gray-colored stool. If your stools remain pale, gray, or clay-colored for several days, you should schedule an appointment. 

Black or red stool

Black or red-colored stool is usually a sign of blood in stool. Black stools may indicate you have bleeding in your upper digestive tract such as your stomach. However, if you’re taking bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®), this could be the reason for tarry-looking stools.

Bright red stool or stool streaked with blood may mean there’s bleeding in the lower part of your digestive tract, such as your large intestine. Hemorrhoids often bleed, causing streaks of bright red blood on your stool or in the toilet bowl.

You should never ignore black or red-colored stool because it may be a sign of a more serious gastrointestinal condition like stomach or colon cancer.

Yellow stool

Yellow, greasy, foul-smelling stools means there’s too much fat in your poop. This means you're not breaking down and absorbing the fat you eat. You may develop yellow stools from an infection or a condition that causes malabsorption like celiac disease or pancreatitis. 

Checking out your stool before you flush may help you find problems before they cause major health complications. If you have concerns about the color of your stools, give our office a call at 636-228-3136, or schedule a consultation online with Dr. Clemens today. 

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