Visiting the washroom is part of our daily routine. For some, it seems a necessary inconvenience. For others, it is a pleasant and satisfying part of digestion.

Some of us know this body waste as poop, others refer to it as fecal matter or feces but most clinicians refer to it as a stool. Whatever name you are accustomed to, this waste normally comes in a variety of colors which can be significant in a person’s state of health.

What then is stool? Stool is the undigested food, proteins, bacteria, salts, and other waste that are produced and released by the intestines. It is unique in size, shape, and smell. Its color can indicate a few things about being healthy or unhealthy.

  • Normal Stool: Normal stool color is brown. This is due to the presence of a broken-down form of bile in the stool known as Stercobilin. Normal stool color ranges from light yellow to brown to almost black. 
  • Green Stool: Most often, green or greenish stool is normal. Some causes of green stool are:
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach.
  • Green food coloring in flavored drink mixes and ice-pops.
  • Iron supplements.

In cases of green diarrhea, the color of your food may not be the culprit. It is most likely the meal taken moved through your gut too quick for the fat-digesting bile to have time to turn brown.

  • Yellow Stool: This shade of stool is normal for most people. It is common for babies, especially those being breastfed. However, if your stool is yellow, looks greasy, and has a foul smell, it may contain excess fat. It is an indication that your body is not digesting food properly.

Persons with celiac disease; a condition where the body cannot digest a protein called gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye normally have this form of stool.

Anyone having this condition and eats foods rich in gluten such as bread, pasta, and cookies would have their intestines not working as they should.

If the nature of stool persists see a health practitioner for evaluation. 

  • White or Light-colored Stool: If your stool is pale or white in color, it probably means you are lacking bile in your stool. Bile is a digestive fluid that comes from your liver and is stored in your gallbladder. Hence, if you are producing white stool, it probably means your bile ducts which are supposed to channel bile into your gut are blocked.

Blockage of the bile duct could be as a result of numerous conditions. Including the following:

  • Gallstones
  • Tumors
  • A congenital condition called biliary atresia

Pale or light-colored stool could also be a side-effect of certain medications such as anti-diarrhea medications. In all cases, if it persists, you should consult a doctor.

  • Black Stool: Black stool can be sticky or non-sticky. Causes of non-sticky black stool include iron supplements or bismuth-containing medications (e.g. bismuth subsalicylate or Pepto-Bismol). Black non-sticky stool is usually not foul-smelling.

The main cause of black sticky stool is from bleeding in the stomach (due to gastritis or an ulcer) or the upper intestines. If bleeding occurs in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine, stool turns black and sticky described clinically as black tarry stool (melena).

Black tarry stool is usually foul-smelling. 

  • Red or reddish Stool: This shade of stool occurs from bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, i.e. the large intestine or rectum. It is more often from hemorrhoids. No need to be afraid if you notice red stool and your diet includes foods such as beets, cranberries, red gelatin, or tomato juice. These food sources can also turn your stool red as well.

In a nutshell, it is important to pay attention to signs of blood in your stool. If you do not eat any of the foods described above that could change your stool color, you should consult a doctor if your stool contains blood.

Even as we are quick to eliminate it from our minds, our stool provides a vast knowledge about our health and ourselves. The next time you visit the washroom be curious about what is going on. The toilet bowl is a doorway into your health.