- When to see the Doctor
- Green Stool Meaning
- Stool Color Chart
- Foods That Change Stool Color
- Causes of Stool Color Change
- Symptoms of Stool Color Change
- When to Seek Medical Care
What is blood in the stool?
It is important to recognize the signs of blood in the stool early. Stool that is bright red, maroon colored, or black may be a sign of rectal bleeding. Several conditions can cause rectal bleeding, such as hemorrhoids, colon cancer, and polyps.
Not all red or black stool indicates the presence of blood. Certain foods can affect the color of your stool. Tomatoes, beets, and cranberries can all make stool look red, as can red food dye. Blueberries, black licorice, and dark leafy vegetables can all turn stool black.
Many causes of rectal bleeding will either resolve on their own or can be treated by a doctor.
Signs and symptoms of bloody stool
Pay attention to the color of your stool and whether it is mixed into the stool or covering it. This may be important information that helps your doctor make a diagnosis.
All of the following may indicate rectal bleeding:
- Dark blood in the stool
- Bright-red blood mixed with or covering the stool
- Black or tarry (resembling the color of tar) stool
- Bright-red bloody vomit
- Vomit that resembles coffee grounds
Bright-red stool may indicate that blood is coming from the rectum or lower digestive tract. Darker blood may suggest that it is coming from the upper digestive tract.
Abdominal cramps may indicate that blood in the stool is also irritating the stomach.
Causes of blood in the stool
Many things can cause blood in the stool. Common causes of rectal bleeding include:
Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the anus or rectum. They are the most common cause of rectal bleeding and are often related to constipation, pregnancy, heavy lifting, obesity, and diarrhea. They typically do not produce pain.
Anal fissures are tears in the lining of the anus. They can result from constipation, diarrhea, or inflammation. They frequently cause pain during and after bowel movements.
Proctitis is the inflammation of the rectum’s lining. It may be caused by an infection, radiation therapy, some medications, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Polyps are growths in the lining of the large bowel. Most do not cause symptoms. However, they may turn into colon cancer if left untreated.
It is important to catch colon cancer early when it can still be treated. It may or may not produce rectal bleeding. Other symptoms of colon cancer include.
- Abdominal cramping
- Unintended weight loss
Additional Blood in Stool Causes
Several other disorders may cause rectal bleeding, including:
- Peptic ulcers (sores in the lining of the esophagus)
- Crohn’s disease (chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract)
- Ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the large intestine)
- Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
- Diverticulitis (inflammation or infection of small pouches in your intestines)
- Intestinal infection
When to see the doctor for blood in the stool
Continuous rectal bleeding, large quantities of blood in the stool, or black or tarry stool can all be symptoms of serious diseases. In addition, the presence of a fever or excessive weakness combined with bloody stool requires a visit to the doctor.
Diagnosing blood in the stool
A doctor will need to locate which area of the gastrointestinal tract is causing the bleeding. In order to diagnose the cause of blood in the stool, your doctor may perform one or more of the following tests:
- Blood test
- Stool sample
- Colonoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the colon
- Endoscopy, where a camera is inserted through the mouth or rectum
- Capsule endoscopy, where a camera is swallowed
Treatments for blood in the stool
While some causes of blood in the stool may resolve on their own, your doctor may decide on an active treatment to stop the bleeding.
The most common method of treatment is endoscopy. In addition to being a diagnostic tool, it can be used to introduce a needle to inject chemicals or a cauterization device, which is used to burn a part of the body to close it or remove it.
Medication can also be used to control the recurrence of bleeding. Surgery may also be required to remove hemorrhoids or polyps.
What does green stool mean? Stool color chart
The normal color of the stool is brown, although green or greenish stool is also considered normal. The most common causes of green stool include
- Eating green veggies such as spinach and kale
- Ingesting green food coloring
- Taking iron supplements
Sometimes during diarrhea when the food moves through the intestine rapidly, there isn’t enough time for the bile to break down the food completely. This may also cause green stools.
Stool color chart
|Color||Potential Cause||What to Do|
|Black||Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding||It's an emergency|
|Black||Iron, bismuth||Cannot assume this to be the reason for the stool color|
|Maroon||GI bleeding||This is an emergency|
|Red||Hemorrhoids||Consult a physician|
|Red||Inflammatory bowel disease||Consult a physician|
|Red||Infection, diverticular bleed||Consult a physician|
|Red||Tumor, rapid upper GI bleeding||Consult a physician|
|Green||A diet high in green vegetables||Consult a physician|
|Green||Associated with diarrhea||Consult a physician|
|Green||Normal color||Consult a physician|
|Yellow||Diseases of the pancreas||Consult a physician|
|Yellow||Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis||Consult a physician|
|Yellow||Giardia infection||Consult a physician|
|Clay, pale yellow or white||Liver or biliary disease||Lack of bile in the stool|
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Which foods can change the color of stools?
Foods can play a major role in changing the color of stools, which include
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale (green)
- Green food coloring used in drinks or ice pops (green)
- Iron supplements (green or black)
- Gluten-rich foods such as wheat, barley or rye (yellow)
- Bread, pasta and cookies (yellow)
- Barium (black)
- Black licorice (black)
- Blueberries (black)
- Beets (red)
- Tomato soup (red)
- Gelatin dessert (red or orange)
- Red drinks (red)
- Carrots (orange)
- Winter squash (orange)
- Pumpkin (orange)
- Sweet potatoes (orange)
- Sodas (orange)
- Candy (orange)
What causes a color change in the stools?
Some common causes of color change in the stools include
- Bleeding in the stomach (tar-colored stools)
- Bleeding in the lower parts of the intestines or colon (maroon-colored stools)
- Bismuth-containing medications (black stools)
- Tumor (red-colored stools)
- Piles (bright red blood in stools)
- Aluminum hydroxide containing antacids or antibiotics (yellowish-white stools)
- Iron pills (black stools)
- Pancreatic cancer (bright yellow stools)
- High fat foods (bright yellow stools)
- Weight loss medications
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Diarrhea (green stools)
- Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
- Cystic fibrosis (inherited life-threatening condition that damages the lungs and digestive system)
What are the symptoms associated with stool color changes?
Symptoms associated with the stool color may be due to an underlying condition. In many cases, there may be no symptoms at all. Accompanying symptoms include the following
- Weakness or dizziness due to loss of blood from the body
- Nausea, vomiting of blood, diarrhea and cramping due to the presence of blood in the stomach
- Abdominal pain due to the underlying cause of the bleeding, for example, an ulcer
- Weight loss due to cancers
- Foul-smelling stools
- Loose stools
When should I seek medical care for stool color changes?
If the stool color changes are due to changes in the diet, it will resolve on its own. If there’s a persistent change in the color of the stool, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Additionally, contact a physician if you observe the following symptoms
- Abdominal pain
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: "Understanding Minor Rectal Bleeding."
John Hopkins Medicine: "Health: Gastrointestinal Bleeding or Blood in the Stool."
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: "Stools with blood."
Medscape Medical Reference
Top When Should I Be Concerned About Blood in My Stool Related Articles
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Blood in the Stool (Rectal Bleeding) in AdultsIn most cases, bright red blood indicates bleeding in the lower intestine or rectum, whereas darker blood is a sign of bleeding in the small bowel or upper area of the gut. Very dark or black-red blood is often associated with bleeding in the stomach or other parts in the digestive system.
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castor oilCastor oil is an oil extracted from the seeds of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, which is used as a laxative to temporarily relieve constipation and to clear the colon before colonoscopy. Common side effects of castor oil include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte disturbances, pelvic congestion syndrome, low blood pressure (hypotension), and dizziness. Do not use during pregnancy, as it can cause premature labor. Castor oil use while breastfeeding is generally safe.
How Can I Stop Blood in My Stool?Bloody stools should be addressed, but there are many reasons for rectal bleeding that don’t warrant an emergency visit to the doctor.
Is Bright Red Blood in the Stool Serious?The presence of blood in the stool needs to be evaluated by your doctor. In most cases, the bright red blood in stools is not an immediate threat to life. The most common causes are piles, anal polyps, anal fissures and colitis (inflammation of the large bowel).
lactuloseLactulose is a synthetic sugar derived from lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Lactulose is used to relieve constipation and to prevent and treat portal systemic encephalopathy (PSE). Common side effects of lactulose include abdominal distention, abdominal cramping, excessive bowel activity, diarrhea, gas (flatulence), belching, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, high sodium levels (hypernatremia), and low potassium levels (hypokalemia). Use with caution in patients with diabetes (lactulose contains sugars). Use with caution in nursing mothers and during pregnancy.
magnesium hydroxideMagnesium hydroxide, also known as milk of magnesia, is used to relieve occasional constipation and to treat heartburn and acid indigestion. Common side effects of magnesium hydroxide include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, rectal bleeding, dehydration symptoms (dry mouth, extreme thirst, reduced urination, dizziness, electrolyte imbalance), and high magnesium in blood (hypermagnesemia). Occasional use of magnesium hydroxide in recommended doses during pregnancy and breastfeeding is generally considered safe.
psylliumPsyllium is a dietary fiber used to relieve occasional constipation and to maintain regularity of bowel movements. Psyllium is used to treat constipation, diarrhea, fecal incontinence, hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, and hyperlipidemia. Use psyllium with caution in elderly patients. Common side effects of psyllium include constipation, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, esophageal obstruction, intestinal obstruction, and allergic reaction in people sensitive to inhaled or ingested psyllium. Psyllium is generally safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
sennaSenna is a stimulant laxative medication available over the counter used to treat occasional constipation and bowel movement irregularity in both adults and children. Senna is also used for cleansing the colon before colonoscopy in adults. People also use senna for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and weight loss. Common side effects of senna include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or pain, gas (flatulence), urgent and frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, urine discoloration, kidney inflammation (nephritis), rash, low potassium level (hypokalemia), melanosis coli, finger clubbing (with chronic use), wheezing, and severe allergic (anaphylactoid) reaction. Avoid chronic use of senna; may lead to laxative dependence and electrolyte imbalance. Use senna with caution during pregnancy. Consult your doctor if planning to use senna while breastfeeding.
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What Can Blood in the Stool Mean?Blood in the stool can be caused by a variety of health conditions. Find out more about what it can mean if you have blood in your stool.