What is Yellow Stool?
Looking at your faeces is not the most pleasant thing, but it is a good way to monitor your health. It reveals aspects of your physical and mental health, the type of bacteria in your gut and the presence of microbes that can lead to future health issues. The normal color of stool ranges from light to dark brown and although changes in its color are certain normal changes should still be examined. The color of stool can be affected by the consumption of various foods and medication. Stools get their brownish color from bile salts that are digestive agents created by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. An absence of bile salts in the digestion process can cause the stool to become yellow or pale. This shade of stool is also common for women who are breastfeeding and babies. If the yellow stool looks greasy and smells bad, it signifies the consumption of too much fat that your body is not able to digest properly. If your diarrhea is a bright/pale yellow, this signifies a condition called Giardiasis.
Causes of Yellow Stool
When the stool is a yellow color, it is often greasy and has a bad odour, and is commonly known as steatorrhea. It indicates that there is a lot of fat consumption. Fat is usually present in the stool when it is not properly absorbed and digested by the cells in the body- there is a mal-absorption problem in the digestive process. Typically, food is digested, and the nutrients present in them such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins are readily absorbed by the small intestine. This intestine is lined with small finger-like structures called Villi that help with absorption and its smaller version called Microvilli to increase the surface area of the intestine, making the absorption process easier. Interference with the digestion process causes malabsorption and indigestion.
The inability of the body to absorb necessary nutrients and fats causes people to lose weight even when they consume the required amount of food resulting in yellow, greasy stools. If bowel moments are yellowish, it is important to get examined by a doctor to rule out any serious health issues. They will determine if the yellow stool is caused by a digestive problem or a bacterial or parasite infection. The shape, odour, and volume are also examined to conclude.
The color of the food people consume also affects their stool. Turmeric, sweet potatoes and any food that contains yellow food coloring can result in a yellow stool. Another cause is the inability of the body to handle the protein called gluten which is present in wheat and barley. Gluten, commonly found in bread and pasta will cause the intestines to malfunction resulting in greasy, yellow stool.
‘A Ketogenic diet involves a carbohydrate consumption of 0 to 20 grams and a person following this diet would consume 0 to 70 per cent of their daily calories in the form of fat. On a regular 2000, a day calorie diet that’s only 155 grams of fat daily and your meal only consists of animal fat, leafy greens, and organ meat. If your diet includes a carbohydrate intake of 50-150 grams a day, it is unlikely to affect the color of your stool. However, a relatively low-carb diet like the Ketogenic diet is likely to affect your bowel moments and result in yellow stool.
Also known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease can also cause yellow stools. GERD causes people to digest food faster than normal. The food we digest enters the gastrointestinal tract in a green color. As the food goes through the track, it absorbs all the fats and bacteria and eliminates from the system as brown color. When this digestion process occurs rapidly, the food will not be able to absorb all the fat and bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract resulting in a yellow stool. Symptoms of GERD include chest pain, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
All parts of our bodies are connected. The brain and gastrointestinal system are also connected by what is called the gut-brain connection which is why we get gut-instincts and gut-feelings. Any stress or discomfort caused in the gastrointestinal system will send messages to the brain, and any distress in mind can also affect your digestion leading to malabsorption. When you are under high stress-levels, your flight or fight instinct is triggered, and this can affect the way proteins and nutrients pass through your digestive tract. It can cause yellow stools along with depression, fatigue, and anxiety. You can overcome the stress with lifestyle changes or therapy sessions.
4. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a hereditary disease that affects the small intestine. It causes problems in the digestion process because of a person’s inability to digest the protein gluten. This is because gluten produces antibodies that flatten out small structures on the walls of the small intestine called Villi and this leads to indigestion of food. In addition to yellow stool, one can also suffer from anaemia, mouth sores, and osteoporosis. People with celiac disease are advised to stay away from gluten products of food and are told to take iron and folate supplements to compensate for the lack of gluten in their diet. Celiac disease can increase the risk of cancers, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and liver cancer.
5. Pancreatic Disorder
Pancreatitis is when the pancreas, a long gland in the upper-abdomen behind the stomach is swollen. If the pancreatitis is chronic, the swelling lasts for many years and prohibits the pancreas from doing its job. The job of the pancreas is to produce enzymes that help with digestion and the processing of glucose. When the glucose is not fully processed, it can result in yellow stools in addition to abdominal pain and weight loss.
Giardiasis is caused by parasites that damage the small intestine. It is also known as ‘beaver fever’ and is caused when a person digests Giardia cysts. ‘The cysts are ingested by humans in many ways. The cysts are formed during water-borne diarrhea. This includes contaminated water in public restrooms, water that is not filtered properly and consumption of water in rivers and ponds. Another way to contract the disease is through contaminated food. If the food has not been washed properly or has come in contact with impure soil or fertiliser, consumption of the food can infect a person with Giardia cysts’ (Davis). The infection can be a result of poor hygiene practices. Anyone in contact with infected stool also has a high chance of getting infected.
7. Gilbert Syndrome
Gilbert Syndrome is a genetic disease that causes an enzyme in the liver to only function at a third of normal capacity. The enzyme breaks down a chemical called bilirubin which is created during the breakdown of blood cells. The bilirubin that enters the liver cannot be removed from the body. The enzyme reacts with the bilirubin, making it water-soluble, after which it can be excreted. When the enzyme is unable to convert the bilirubin into a water absorbent form, it collects in the bloodstream causing Jaundice. Bilirubin is a yellow color and is excreted through faeces from the body, when there is an adequate level of bilirubin in the system the faeces is a regular dark brown color, however, when not enough bilirubin is secreted it results in a yellow stool. Gilbert’s syndrome is an inherited abnormality.
8. Liver and Gallbladder Disorders
Cirrhosis is scarring in the liver and usually signifies the end-stage of liver disease. The scarring can occur as a result of contact with toxins and infections over long periods of time. Cirrhosis causes the liver to shrink preventing the nutrient-rich blood from flowing into it. When this blood can’t pass through the liver, it results in a ‘portal hypertension’ (Cirrhosis). This illness is caused by frequent alcohol consumption and Hepatitis. Hepatitis C can be transmitted during sexual intercourse or a blood transfusion, and Hepatitis B can cause the lung to inflame leading to Cirrhosis. Both Cirrhosis and Hepatitis cause the bile salts in your body to reduce and can cause yellow stool, nausea and abdominal pain. Similarly, Gallstones reduce bile salts in the body which can cause jaundice and yellow stool. Medication to dissolve the gallstones is prescribed as a treatment, but depending on its severity a person may need surgery.
Medication for Yellow Stool
Taking anti-diarrheal medicines containing bismuth subsalicylate in large quantities can turn stool into a light yellow. ‘Antacids with aluminium hydroxide, certain antibiotics, vitamin supplements, anti-fungal drugs and the barium used in barium x-rays sometimes result temporarily in a pale-colored stool, according to Dr Robynne K. Chutkan, the Assistant Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University Hospital.
If the yellow stool is a result of diet, it is best to avoid the foods that cause yellow bowel moments. If the stool is due to stress, you need to make some lifestyle changes, incorporate yoga in your daily routine or seek therapeutic treatment. When the yellow faeces are caused by a liver problem, you will need to schedule an appointment with the doctor to find the proper diagnosis and take the necessary medication. If there are changes in your mental state of mind and you suffer from nausea or have difficulty breathing you need to visit the doctor immediately to identify the nature of your illness.