Stool Color Changes (cont.)

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When should I contact my doctor about stool color or texture changes?

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Aside from black, red or maroon stools that may signify bleeding and require urgent assessment and treatment, most poop color changes are not an emergency. Their significance needs to be determined based on other symptoms that might be present.

Women who are pregnant often note changes in their bowel pattern. Stool can turn black because of iron and vitamin supplements. Iron can also turn stool greenish. As the uterus enlarges and increases pressure within the pelvis, constipation may occur and hemorrhoids can develop and cause blood in the stool.

If there is no underlying problem, stool color changes are often due to changes in the diet and will resolve in a couple of days. If this is not the case and changes persist, it is appropriate to contact your doctor and seek medical attention.

Contact your doctor if you have stool color changes and have associated symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever or abdominal pain.

It is important to remember that every person is different and changes in bowel habit be it color, size, frequency or consistency (hard or soft) may be normal for one person or a sign of a potential problem for another.

Stool color chart

Stool Color Changes
Potential Cause Comment Sub-Header
Black GI bleeding This is an emergency
Black Iron, bismuth Cannot presume this to be the reason for the stool color
Maroon GI bleeding This is an emergency
Red Hemorrhoids Only one of the potential causes. Do not ignore
Red Inflammatory bowel disease Consult doctor
Red Infection, diverticular bleed Consult doctor
Red Tumor, rapid upper GI bleed Consult doctor
Green May be normal Consult doctor
Green Diet high in green vegetables Consult doctor
Green Associated with diarrhea Consult doctor
Brown Poop's normal color Consult doctor
Yellow Diseases of the pancreas Malabsorption
Yellow Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis Consult doctor
Yellow Giardia infection Consult doctor
Clay, pale yellow or white Liver or biliary disease Lack of bile in the stool

REFERENCE: Longo DL. et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. McGraw-Hill Professional. 18th edition. 2011.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2013

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Stool Color Changes - Color and Experience Question: What color, texture, or smell; is or was your stool when it changed? Please share your experience.
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