The color of a normal stool is brown due to healthy levels of excreted bilirubin and bile. Sometimes a person may notice stool of a different color, including yellow.
Stool can change color for a variety of reasons, including diet and underlying medical conditions.
In this article, we look at the causes of yellow stool in adults and infants, as well as when to see a doctor.
Possible causes of yellow stool include:
Turmeric in the diet can turn stool yellow.
What a person eats can affect the color of their stool.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, turmeric, and foods that contain yellow food coloring may turn someone’s stool yellow.
A diet high in fat or gluten can also lead to yellow stool.
If a person regularly has yellow stool due to their diet, they should try avoiding fatty foods, processed foods, gluten, or anything that causes an upset stomach.
Stress and anxiety can have many physical effects on the body, including speeding up the digestive process.
As a result, the body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients in food, which may lead to diarrhea or yellow stool.
Taking steps to relieve stress by reducing commitments, practicing yoga, or seeing a therapist, may help reduce the physical symptoms.
3. Celiac disease
If people with celiac disease eat gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley, their immune system responds by attacking the tissues of their small intestine.
This immune response causes tissue damage and compromises the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients.
In addition to yellow stool, symptoms of celiac disease can include:
There is no cure for celiac disease, but a person can effectively manage the condition by avoiding gluten.
4. Disorders of the pancreas
Different disorders of the pancreas can cause yellow or pale stool. These problems include:
In people with these conditions, the pancreas is unable to provide enough enzymes for the intestines to digest food. Undigested fat can lead to yellow stool that also looks greasy or frothy.
5. Liver disorders
Disorders of the liver, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lower or eliminate bile salts in the body.
Bile salts are essential for digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Removal of these salts can result in yellow stool.
6. Gallbladder disorders
Gallbladder problems and gallstones can also reduce the level of bile salts in the body. This reduction can lead to a variety of symptoms, including:
- abdominal pain
- jaundice, or yellowing skin and whites of the eyes
- pale stool
The treatment will depend on the specific gallbladder issue. Treatment for gallstones, for example, may include medication to dissolve the stones. In some cases, a person may need surgery.
7. Gilbert syndrome
Gilbert syndrome is a genetic liver disorder that affects 3 to 7 percent of people in the United States.
People with Gilbert syndrome have periods when their bilirubin levels are too high. Symptoms include mild jaundice and yellow stool.
However, the symptoms can be so mild that most people do not notice them or know they have the condition.
Giardiasis is a common intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite. It is commonly called “beaver fever.” A person can contract the giardia parasite by ingesting giardia cysts, usually through unclean food or water.
Symptoms of giardiasis include:
- stomach cramps
- foul-smelling diarrhea
- yellow diarrhea
- weight loss
A doctor can diagnose giardiasis by testing a stool sample. Treatment involves antibiotics and can last for up to a few weeks. Rarely, the infection can be long-term.
In infants, shades of yellow, brown, and green are all common stool colors. The best stool color for breastfed babies and infants is a mustard-like yellow.
People should speak to a doctor if an infant has red, black, or white poop, as this can indicate a problem.
When to see a doctor
Speak to a doctor if color changes last for several days.
Yellow stool is usually due to dietary changes or food colors. However, if the color change continues for several days or other symptoms are present as well, it is best to see a doctor.
A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms with yellow stool:
- a fever
- abdominal pain
- pus-filled stool
- inability to urinate
- trouble breathing
- passing out
- lack of awareness
- confusion or mental changes
The cause of yellow stool is usually related to a person’s diet, but it can also be the result of underlying health problems.
It is essential to look out for additional symptoms and see a doctor if the yellow color persists. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause.