If you have ever witnessed orange-colored poop in your toilet bowl and are confused or afraid of the same, here is some information for you. Continue reading this article to know why you passed colorful stools and know what you can do.
Most people, or at least some of us, have the habit of visually inspecting the poop once we defecate. It is actually a good thing. If you happen to notice any change in its color, consistency, or smell, maybe it is telling you something regarding your health. The nature of stool and frequency of bowel movements discloses an individual’s health and how well their digestive system performs. That is why you probably would have had your stool tests ordered by your physician whenever you or someone you know had some problem with your digestive tract.
The Digestive System:
The human digestive system starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. Once we take food inside the mouth, our teeth grind the food by mixing it with saliva and forms a mixture known as bolus. We swallow this bolus that travels the esophagus (food pipe) to reach the stomach. Within the stomach, the food particles are broken down further and are mixed with gastric juices to form chyme (thick paste of food and gastric juices).
This chyme is pushed further into the small intestine, where maximum digestion takes place. It gets mixed with digestive juices like pancreatic juice from the pancreas, bile from the liver, and intestinal enzymes. Maximum nutrients are absorbed here. In the large intestine, remaining water, minerals, and some vitamins are reabsorbed, and the waste is pushed further to the rectum to be defecated.
The human digestive system and the way it functions are complex in nature, and any problem with this system will reflect in our poop.
Poop color definitely matters. The color of your poop is subject to change both in normal and mild to serious health conditions. Also, it varies with people. Food, supplements, medications, and the amount of bile influence your stool’s color. And in such conditions, the color change is not of concern. Drastic color change in the poop for extended periods definitely raises a concern.
Normal stool color is not the same for everyone, and the features of poop are unique to every individual. Slight variations in the hues of the stool may be present, and it is normal. Usually, stool appears brown in color (or shades of brown). Under normal circumstances, it can also range from light brown to slightly green to somewhat black.
As a sigh of relief, orange-colored poops are harmless and revert to their usual color once the causative factor is eliminated. Orange stools mostly remain temporary, and hence you do not have to worry if your stool is orange and you do not have associated symptoms. But this is not the case with other colors. If you notice passing red, white, green, or any other colored stool, you must not ignore or hesitate to reach a physician.
Below are some major causes for orange-colored poops,
The food you eat, especially orange-colored foods, can be a cause of your orange-colored stool. This is a less serious and more common cause. Foods containing a compound called beta carotene gives both the food and your poop the color. Such beta carotene-rich foods include,
Consuming food supplements containing beta carotene can also cause orangish poops.
3. Artificial Food Colors:
Food items like packed orange juice, orange-flavored candies, orange popsicles, and orange sodas contain added orange food colors or dyes that cause orange poops.
Vitamin A supplements containing beta carotene, antacids containing aluminum hydroxide, and Rifampin are known to cause the stool’s orange color.
5. Problems With Digestion:
Although orange stools are not of concern most of the time, sometimes they can be due to some medical conditions. Hence it is essential to be watchful of the body’s condition and the presence of extra symptoms if you have orange stools.
If you are not consuming orange-colored foods, supplements, or medicines mentioned above and still your poop is orange in color, it means there is a problem with your digestion. Usually, poop acquires its brown or shades of brown color due to the bile in it. Whenever your stool is deficient in this bile, it becomes orange. This can be due to,
Problems With Bile Absorption: In conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), short bowel syndrome (SBS), and diarrhea, the stool traverses the digestive tract quickly, thereby being unable to absorb bile in the tract.
Deficient Bile Production: Stools deficient in bile can be due to the body actually lacking bile, or it may also be due to some obstruction in the bile duct that prevents the movement of bile from the liver to the gallbladder to the small intestine. This obstruction may be caused by cysts and tumors, gallstones, or inflammation.
As previously mentioned, orange poop does not need any medical attention if it follows the intake of medications, orange-colored foods, and supplements. In such conditions, it remains for a temporary period only.
But if you recurrently have orange poop even after not consuming these eatables, and if you experience symptoms like dizziness, constipation, weakness, stomach pain, or diarrhea, you definitely need to consult a physician to rule out the cause and immediately get treated for it.
Suppose your stool color alarms you, and you happen to reach the hospital; in that case, your doctor might question you regarding your dietary habits of the past week, medication history, and existing health condition, if any. Based on that, a complete blood count (CBC) and stool test might be ordered. If a more serious cause is suspected, you also need to undergo diagnostic scans like the CT (computed tomography).
Do not worry if you have orange-colored stools. Just wait and watch. If food is causing the orange color, it should resolve gradually once you stop having those.
If you are taking any medicines that cause orange-colored stool, do not stop the medicine right away. Consult with your doctor. Once the given medicine course is finished and all the remaining medication gets flushed out from your body, your poop will turn to its normal color.
Hence there is no necessity of treatment if not accompanied by additional symptoms.
Colorful stools other than orange are alarming and might be caused by serious underlying medical conditions. Never ignore such symptoms. It is the body’s way of communicating with you. A gastroenterologist would be able to help you with it.
In most instances, orange-colored stools do not indicate anything serious. Rarely persistent orange-colored stools accompanied by constipation, diarrhea, weakness, or stomach pain might be concerning. It is indicative of problems with bile production and absorption, gallbladder cysts, tumors, and stones.
It is not bad or serious if you occasionally pass orange stools. They might be due to the orange-colored foods (pumpkin, carrot, apricot, etc.), beta carotene supplements, artificial colors in orange-flavored foods, and certain medications (antacids, vitamin A supplements, and Rifampin). Less commonly, digestive problems might be the cause which is a serious condition.
Malabsorption conditions like celiac disease lead to impaired absorption and excessive release of fat in the stools. This condition causes foul-smelling and pale-colored stools.
Orange and oily bowel movements are otherwise known as keriorrhea. These are not actual poops but an oil-like thing. It occurs when a person consumes snake mackerel fish which is rich in fatty esters. Steatorrhea can also cause oily pale feces. This is due to excessive consumption of oily and greasy foods or due to celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and pancreatitis.
Orange watery poops can be due to diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, short bowel syndrome, and problems with digestion. Whenever the stool traverses the digestive tract more quickly than the actual time span, it fails to absorb bile leading to orange poop.
The stool is pale, white, or clay-colored in people with liver diseases.
Excessive intake of dietary turmeric can cause more yellow-colored stools rather than orange stools.
Orange-colored stools in small babies are completely normal and are due to breastmilk and formula milk.
Gallstones can also cause orange-colored poop. These gallstones block the entry of bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine. This makes the stool deficient in bile, thereby resulting in orange-colored stools.
People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and those taking medicines for the same experience yellow-colored stools. Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide taken for GERD cause orange stools.
Having orange poop during pregnancy is not an alarming thing. Intake of Vitamin A-rich foods like carrots, other orange-colored vegetables, and fruits, vitamin supplements, and certain medications like antacids taken during pregnancy might be the cause.
Persistently experiencing orange stools accompanied by stomach aches is definitely a serious sign. Underlying gallstones, cysts or tumors in the gallbladder, or liver disorders might be causing it. Seek a gastroenterologist’s help immediately.
Last reviewed at:
21 Sep 2021 - 4 min read
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