Unusual Colors of the Stool

Change in the color of the stool can be frightening and equally annoying. Unusual stools colors must never be ignored. They might be a sign of some underlying medical problem. The various unusual colors of the stool observed in people are – black, green, clay colored, red or orange. Unusual stool colors are not necessarily always harmful. Sometimes, particular medicine or ingestion of some specific food might result in unusual color of stool. It is still advisable to consult a doctor if the signs persist.

Causes of black colored stools

Black stool is often associated with internal bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Black and tarry stool with a distinct odor is the result of bleeding in the upper digestive tract or acidified blood. Such stool is also called melena. The various other causes of black colored stools are –

  • Ingestion of dark colored foods
  • Ingestion of iron supplements or foods rich in iron content
  • Blueberries
  • Black licorice
  • Consuming spinach or other green-leafy vegetables in more quantities
  • Medicines like Pepto-Bismol or others with bismuth in them

Causes of red colored stools

Red stools indicate bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. The redness is due to the blood present in the stool. Such a condition is called hematochezia. In such cases, the blood either forms a coat around the stool or mixed with the stool. In some cases, the blood even passes without any association with the stool. The various causes of red colored stools are –

  • Ingestion of beets in large amounts
  • Eating foods containing artificial red coloring agent in them; e.g. – red gelatin, popsicles etc.
  • Drinking tomato juice or tomato soup

Causes of pale or clay colored stools

The various causes leading to pale colored or clay-colored stools are as follows –

  • Antacids containing aluminium hydroxide
  • Ingestion of barium contained in a barium enema test
  • Liver disease (obstruction of bile ducts, hepatitis)

Causes of green colored stools

Green colored stool can be caused due to –

  • Infections like gastroenteritis
  • Iron supplement ingestion
  • Consumption of green leafy vegetables in excess quantities
  • Eating foods containing green or purple artificial coloring agents like – gelatin, popsicles, Kool-Aid etc.
  • Decreased transit time of the colon (rapid transit of the bowel through the colon)

Causes of orange colored stools

Orange colored stools are the results of the following –

  • Medicines like (Rifampen and Beta-carotene)
  • Ingestion of foods rich in beta-carotene; e.g. – apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, mango, sweet potatoes and winter squash.

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