Understanding the Colour of Your Poo
Have you noticed the colour of your poo will vary at different times? Poo also known as stool, faeces, or poop, consists of waste products that need to be eliminated from the body and it can vary in colour, texture, volume, and smell from person to person. It’s the presence of bile in the stool that gives it the characteristic brown colour.
Any shade of brown ranging from light brown to very dark is considered normal. Fresh stool contains approximately 75% water and the remaining organic solid fraction consists of bacterial biomass, protein or nitrogenous matter, carbohydrate or undigested plant matter and fat.
Certain foods will temporarily change the colour of your poo and once they are digested your poo will return to a brown colour. If colour changes occur only irregularly, they are less of a concern than those that are persistent. Please contact your doctor if your poo colour changes are persistent.
The colour of your poo can be a helpful indicator about what’s going on inside your body.
If it’s not sticky in texture and has no odour, the black colour can be caused by the ingestion of substances such as iron supplements, black liquorice, and bismuth-containing medications. Black poo that is sticky, tar-like and foul smelling may be an indicator of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Red or maroon
Vegetables with deep colours such as beetroot, cranberries, or red and purple food dyes can turn poo red or maroon or may indicate gastrointestinal bleeding. Small amounts of blood in the stool may indicate haemorrhoids.
If it’s white, grey or clay-coloured, the poo contains little or no bile which may indicate a problem with the liver or gallbladder. The colour change usually occurs gradually, as these medical conditions progress relatively slowly, and the stool becomes pale over time.
If it’s yellow, greasy, and foul smelling, it may suggest the presence of undigested fat in the poo and problems with the pancreas causing a reduction in the delivery of digestive enzymes to the intestines. Ingestion of very high-fat foods can cause yellow, soft, and foul-smelling poo. Weight loss medications can also lead to bulky, yellow, and greasy stools.
The large consumption of orange-coloured foods that are rich in beta-carotene such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin can create orange coloured poo. It may also be an indication of blocked bile ducts or certain medications including some antacids.
Eating excessive amounts of green foods, foods with green or purple dyes, and vegetables also can cause poo colour to turn more green than normal. When a stool passes through the intestines rapidly (diarrhoea), it can appear green due to the rapid transit.
What to look out for in the colour of your poo
Often your body will experience various symptoms, letting you know it’s time to contact your doctor:
- Persistent change in the colour of the poo
- Greasy fatty stools
- Pain when passing a stool
- Bleeding when passing a stool
- Excessive straining when passing a stool
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