By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
Bowel movement color
A bowel movement can provide invaluable insight as to one’s digestive health.
When stool is an unusual color, it might have been caused by ingesting a particular food or by a dietary supplement; or it might indicate a serious underlying problem.
A normal bowel movement is usually some shade of brown. Slight changes in stool color may be temporary and considered normal. However, a persistent change in color or changes that are accompanied by certain symptoms need closer evaluation.
This might indicate that the liver is not secreting enough bile. Bile is a normal part of the digestion process. It also gives color to stool.
When there is little or no bile, stool is pale or clay-colored. This may be an indication of biliary duct obstruction or liver disease. If you are taking antacids containing aluminium hydroxide, this may also cause bowel movements to be chalky and pale in color.
Bile duct obstruction is associated with improper digestion. Consult your physician for further advice.
Green colored stools can be due to a number of things.
Red shades of stool may be due to eating beets, tomato sauce, cranberries, red gelatin, tomato mixes and paprika in large amounts.
If stools are bright red in color, it might indicate fresh bleeding, which can be due to hemorrhoids, polyps or anal fissures. These conditions are often associated with constipation and painful bowel movements.
If you have hemorrhoids, polyps or anal fissures, consult your health care provider and increase your intake of fiber and water to facilitate normal bowel movements.
A lack of magnesium in one’s diet may be a factor in constipation, and adding a magnesium supplement can go a long way in providing long-term constipation relief.
Getting enough magnesium can also result in numerous health benefits.
Yellow stool is unusual and may indicate a serious disease. Yellow stool may be caused by:
A black stool may indicate bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach. Black stools have a tarry texture and foul odor.
Certain iron medications can also cause black colored stool. If you are on iron medications, there is no need for concern.
If you are not on an iron supplement or if you have cause to suspect stomach or intestinal bleeding, consult your doctor as soon as possible, as the color may indicate bleeding oesophageal varices, gastric ulcers or duodenal ulcers.
This can be caused by certain medications, including rifampen or beta-carotene.
It may also be caused by foods rich in beta-carotene, like mangoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Changes in the color and consistency of stool from time to time are perfectly normal. What you eat has a huge impact on bowel movement color.
If the change in color is temporary, then there is usually nothing to worry about. However, if the problems persists, seek medical help.