What Causes Yellow Stool?

Your stool can be used as an indicator that there may be something wrong with your health. So noting your other symptoms will help determine the root cause.

Yellow or pale stools are a usually a sign that you are suffering from some type of illness. There are a number of illnesses that can contribute to the presence of yellow stools. You may need to undergo a physical examination or provide a sample of your stool to your physician to fully determine what is causing your stool to exhibit a yellowish color. This will help determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a digestive disorder, viral or bacterial infection or if you may have developed a parasite. Your doctor will also check the consistency and color of the stool as well as check for odor, shape, blood or overall volume to help determine what may be wrong.

Causes of Yellow Stools

1. Bile-salts Related Causes

Your stool may become yellow due to the absence or reduction of bile salts. This can be caused by a liver disease such as cirrhosis or hepatitis. Tumors in the gallbladder, pancreas, bile ducts or liver, sclerosing cholangitis, gallstones, biliary cirrhosis, biliary atresia or biliary stricture. If a blockage is limiting the body's ability to transmit bile salts to your intestines, it can also cause your stool to change colors. This can be caused by inflammation, external compression or gallstones. You may notice fever, itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes and nausea in this case.

2. Pancreatic Causes

The pancreas produces enzyme lipase and other substances that help you to break down fat. If your stool is yellow in color and appears to float or have an oily appearance that smells foul you may not be breaking down fats properly. If your pancreas is failing to produce lipase, this can be a sign of cystic fibrosis, pancreatic disease, pancreatic cancer or an abnormality in your lipase production that was present from birth.

3. Intestinal Causes

Some intestinal causes that cause your body to fail to absorb fat properly may cause yellow stools. Parasites such as giardia that are present in contaminated water are an example of conditions that may cause this side effect. Note any flu-like symptoms or fever that may accompany this change in stool color to help determine what may be the root cause.

  • GERD. Gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) can cause your body to digest food at a more rapid pace. This will cause food to enter your gastrointestinal tract with a greenish color. As the bacteria and fat from this food are absorbed your stool will normally take on a brown hue, but if it is moving too quickly, these items will not be absorbed properly, leaving it more yellow.
  • Celiac Disease. Celiac disease or celiac sprue is a genetic disorder that limits a person's ability to digest gluten properly because their intestines have damage. Those that suffer from this condition will frequently have diarrhea, irregular bowel movements or discolored stool, particularly when they attempt to consume foods they cannot break down properly.
  • Steatorrhea. This condition causes your stool to contain an abnormally high level of fat, causing yellow stools. Those that suffer from celiac disease, inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis can develop this condition. If you have steatorrhea food will move too quickly through the digestive system, so the body will not be able to absorb the nutrients from the food properly before it is expelled.

4. Emotional Factors

Studies have indicated that those that frequently suffer from stress or anxiety may be more prone to expelling food from their body too quickly. It is believed that the fight or flight mechanism causes the body to redistribute fluids in the body and releases hormones that will intensify and cause your hormones to behave erratically. This can lead to your digestive system speeding up, causing malabsorption and diarrhea.

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