colon health tips

- Bowel Movement Color -
Different Rainbow Colors for Human Feces Explained

Bowel movement color is not always consistent and variations can be explained by the pigment content of the stool.

Human feces contain digested food, some liquid, fat, and bile. These constituents all create the walnut color of bowel movements that is considered normal or usual.

Variations in human feces color palette occur depending on what you put into your colon, and the type and amount of the various liquids from the body that are secreted into the intestines to help digest food and aid in absorption of nutrients.

rainbow bowel movement colors

Normal human feces can be yellow or even green. There is one color however, that could indicate the presence of blood in your bowel movements and that is the color black. This is a bowel movement color you should pay attention to.

Temporary Changes in Bowel Movement Color

Since pancreatic enzymes and bacteria in the small and large intestine act on the contents of the bowel, if there is a change or an imbalance in the usual contents of your colon, then your bowel movement color may be changed temporarily. In other words too much or not enough of something can create different colors of bowel movements.

These variations may be temporary and benign, or they may be serious enough to warrant further exploration from a physician.

It all depends on whether or not there are other symptoms associated with the change in color of your bowel movements, and whether or not you can easily associate it with something you have ingested.

If your bowel movement color changes to....

A possible explanation is...

green

There are three main causes of green bowel movements.

  • over-ingestion of green pigments such as green jello, green foods, or supplements using chlorophyll or algae
  • rapid transit time through the colon such as when you have a viral gastroenteritis and green diarrhea
  • ingestion of pills containing iron
yellow

A yellow bowel movement could be a normal variation in bowel movement color or it could be caused by:

  • presence of parasites such as giardia
  • lack of pancreatic enzymes
  • lack of fat in the stool
black

Black bowel movements have two main causes:

  • bleeding in the stomach or small intestine
  • ingestion of substances that turn the colon contents black such as iron supplements, bismuth products used for stomach and intestinal upset, or lots of licorice.
maroon

A maroon colored stool could be a sign of bleeding into the colon from the mid colon area.

When the bleeding is in the mid colonic area there has not been sufficient exposure to pancreatic enzymes and bacteria to turn the stool completely black and a maroon color results.

red

You probably had beets for dinner!

Blood in bowel movements does not usually show up as red stools. Blood in bowel movements usually shows up as a black stool.

If there is blood on the stool and it is easily visible as a red streak or spot, that is most likely from bleeding in the rectum or the anus and the stool picks it up as it passes through.

white

A white bowel movement is not normal and should be reported to the doctor if it is not explainable by a recent ingestion of barium for an diagnostic Xray.

Pale, clay colored or white stools are a sign that there is an obstruction to the flow of bile into the stool.

orange

Over ingestion of foods with orange pigments such as carrot juice, sweet potatoes, or squash.

Consuming a large amount of artificial yellow or orange food coloring will also do it.

These are some of the most common causes of variations in bowel movement color.

There isn't exactly a rainbow of colors but there are many variations that can be considered normal and are usually easily explainable by what you have ingested.

You should see you doctor if you notice a change in the color of your bowel movements to black or white.

These are abnormal changes in the color of human feces, so if you experience such a color change in your bowel movements, if it is not otherwise explainable by some of the conditions listed on this page, there may be something serious going on that would warrant a physician's attention.

by Beverly OMalley

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