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    6 causes of pale stool and how to treat them

    The occasional pale stool in adults is often not a cause for concern. However, long-lasting pale stool or stool that is white can indicate a serious issue with the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder. Learn more.

    Pale stool: Causes and treatments

    Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Zawn Villines on February 28, 2019

    Many things can change the color of stool, including vitamins, infections, and certain foods. Some underlying medical problems, such as gallbladder and liver disease, can also change stool color. Pale stool, especially if it is white or clay colored, can indicate a serious health problem.

    When adults have a pale stool with no other symptoms, it is usually safe to wait and see if the stool returns to normal. When children and babies have very pale or white poop, a doctor should see them as soon as possible.

    In this article, learn about the causes of pale stool, as well as their accompanying symptoms and how to treat them.

    Causes of pale stool

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    Consuming fatty foods may make a person’s stools pale in color.

    Bile from the liver creates the typical brown hue of a healthy bowel movement. When the stool is very pale, it often means that not enough bile is reaching the stool.

    Problems with the gallbladder, pancreas, or liver are reasons why stool may not contain enough bile. People who have consistently pale stools may want to talk to a doctor about conditions that affect these organs.

    The most common reasons for a pale stool color include:

    1. Foods

    Some foods may lighten the color of stool, especially fatty foods, or those containing food coloring. Vitamins that include iron can turn the color of stool dark brown.

    It is fine for bowel movements to be lighter than usual occasionally. If they are white or clay colored, however, it could mean a person has an underlying medical condition.

    2. Giardiasis

    Giardiasis is an infection that may turn the stool light or bright yellow. Giardia lamblia, the most common intestinal parasite in the world, causes the infection. A person can contract this parasite by drinking contaminated water or being in close contact with someone who has the infection.

    Giardiasis is more common in regions with inconsistent access to clean water.

    The most common symptoms of giardiasis include stomach pain, headache, swollen stomach, vomiting, and fever. A doctor can write a prescription for a drug that kills the parasite. With treatment, most people feel better in a few days.

    3. Medications

    Certain drugs and medications can damage the liver, especially when a person takes more than the dosage their doctor or the manufacturers recommend.

    Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, for example, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can harm the liver. A person who notices a pale stool after taking a new medication or after taking OTC pain relievers for a long time or in excess of the correct dose may have medication-related liver damage.

    It is best to stop taking the drug, if it is not a prescription medication, and see a doctor as soon as possible.

    4. Gallbladder disease

    The gallbladder holds bile and is located on the upper right side of the stomach, next to the liver. During digestion, the gallbladder releases bile into the intestines through the bile duct. Gallbladder diseases can change the color of stool.

    Gallstones, one of the most common gallbladder diseases, can block the bile duct, causing intense pain, nausea, vomiting, and pale stool. Without treatment, gallstones can cause problems with other organs, such as the pancreas and liver.

    Treatments for gallbladder problems depend on the cause. A doctor may have to remove gallstones, either surgically or with medication to dissolve them.

    A person can live a normal life without their gallbladder, and so a doctor may remove the gallbladder in the case of recurrent gallstones. Doctors may advise changes to a person’s diet after surgery.

    5. Liver problems

    Problems with the liver or bile ducts can turn the stool pale. There are many types of liver disease, including:

    infectious diseases, such as hepatitis A, B, and C

    liver damage from alcohol consumption

    fatty liver disease, most common in those with obesity or who eat a high-fat diet

    autoimmune diseases, which happen when the body attacks the cells of the liver

    failure of other organs

    liver cancer liver cysts

    Wilson disease, a genetic condition where the body retains too much copper

    Treatment for liver disease depends on the specific condition and how far it has progressed. For mild liver disease, a person may only need medication and to make lifestyle changes. Those with severe liver disease may need a liver transplant.

    When problems with another organ, such as the gallbladder, cause problems with the liver, a doctor must treat that condition as well.

    In addition to pale stool, other symptoms of liver disease include:

    nausea and vomiting fatigue very dark urine fatty stool itching

    swelling in the ankles or legs

    Anyone under a doctor’s care for liver disease should report any changes to stool color.

    6. Pancreas problems

    Diseases of the pancreas can make it hard for this organ to secrete pancreatic juices into the digestive system. This can lead to the food moving too quickly through the gut, causing a pale and fatty-looking stool.

    Some conditions can cause pancreatitis, which is swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. These include:

    Source : www.medicalnewstoday.com

    White Poop: Causes, Treatment and More

    White stool is not considered normal, so it’s important to understand the different colors of stool. Read more in this article.

    It’s normal for your stools to range slightly in color.

    Different foods and medications can affect poops, so some variation is to be expected.

    If your poop is white, it does not necessarily mean something is wrong, but it may be the sign of an underlying health condition.

    This article will discuss in details what white poop may signify, causes of white poop, treatment, the normal poop color as well as when you should see a doctor.

    Normal Poop Color

    Most shades of brown poop are considered normal—and in some cases, greenish brown hues can be normal as well.

    Stool color is generally determined by what you eat and the amount of bile in your poop.

    Bile is a thick, yellowish-green liquid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.

    It plays an important role in digestion, as it is responsible for breaking fats down into digestible fatty acids, and it also helps remove waste products from the body.

    As bile travels through your digestive system, it changes from a lighter yellowish-green to darker green and brown shades.

    This happens because of bilirubin, a waste product made up of red blood cells. Bilirubin makes poop its usual brown color.

    Bristol stool chart

    The Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS), more commonly known as the Bristol stool chart, classifies poop into seven different types of consistency.

    It doesn’t distinguish different colors of stool—instead, it focuses on texture.

    This can be helpful for providers to determine if there is any cause for concern with change in consistency.

    Doctors use the chart as a quick and easy way to assess a person’s digestive health.

    People can also use the classifications themselves if they are concerned about their poop.

    The categories are:

    Type 1: Separate, hard lumpsType 2: Lumpy and sausage likeType 3: Sausage shaped with cracks in the surfaceType 4: A smooth, soft sausageType 5: Soft blobs with distinct edgesType 6: Mushy consistency with ragged edgesType 7: Liquid with no solid pieces



    What White Poop Means

    If your stool is white or pale, there may be something wrong. In some cases, it may resolve on its own in a few days.

    However, if it doesn’t go away, you will need to see a doctor.

    White poop happens when there is a lack of bile in the stool. As discussed earlier, bile—and the waste product bilirubin—gives poop its color.

    If there isn’t enough bile in your poop, it will be very light in color.

    A lack of bile may mean a bile duct is blocked.

    Bile is stored in the gallbladder, so if a duct is squeezed or blocked by something, like a gallstone, bile can’t enter the small intestine.

    However, this isn’t always the case.

    Some medications, like Pepto-Bismol, can turn poop white.

    This is because they contain bismuth subsalicylate, an antacid medication that can cause light stools.

    Causes of White Stool

    There are many possible causes of white poop.

    Diseases or infections affecting the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are all common reasons.

    Some medical conditions that can cause pale stool include:

    Liver disease Alcoholic hepatitis Biliary cirrhosis

    Gallbladder conditions

    Bile duct cysts Biliary atresia

    Narrowing of the bile ducts


    Sclerosing cholangitis

    Viral hepatitis

    Tumor on the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas

    Some medications can also cause white poop, such as antidiarrheals like Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate.


    Infants’ poops go through a great deal of change early in life, and it’s important to pay attention to their color and texture.

    At first, their bowel movements will be dark, black, and tarry.

    Within a few days, they will get lighter in color and become a pale yellow.

    They’ll also develop a runny, seedy texture.

    While it’s normal for baby’s stools to be a light yellow color, they should not be white.

    If an infant’s poops are very pale, it may mean something is going on in their digestive system.

    You should contact your pediatrician right away.

    In rare cases, white stool has been shown to be an early sign of cystic fibrosis in infants.

    However, it has only been reported in a few case studies and is very uncommon, so it may not be the cause of white poops.

    Pregnant people

    The most likely cause of pale stools in pregnant people is a condition called cholestasis of pregnancy.

    This is a liver problem that stops bile from flowing out of the gallbladder.

    Over time, bile can accumulate in the liver and spill into the bloodstream, which can be dangerous.

    Cholestasis of pregnancy can make stools light in color, and it can also cause other symptoms including:

    Severe itching (pruritus)

    Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

    Abdominal pain

    Experts don’t know why cholestasis of pregnancy happens, but they do know that it’s more common in the second and third trimesters.

    Sometimes, it resolves on its own without treatment.

    But if it doesn’t go away, doctors can manage the condition by prescribing medication and monitoring the baby.


    Source : khealth.com

    White Stool After Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

    Large doses of certain antidiarrheal drugs, such as Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, might cause very light stools. White stools, however, could be a symptom of a more serious condition. Learn about these conditions, including causes, symptoms, and treatment.

    White Stool After Diarrhea: Should You Be Concerned?

    Medically reviewed by Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH — Written by Scott Frothingham on September 25, 2019

    Yes — see a doctor

    Yes, be concerned if you have white stool after diarrhea.

    If you’ve been taking large doses of certain antidiarrheal drugs, such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate), this could result in very light stools.

    White stools, however, could be a symptom of a more serious condition. If your poop is white, get a diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

    Keep reading to learn about the more serious causes of white stool, including symptoms and treatments.

    Blocked bile duct

    A lack of bile can often cause white stool or stool that has a claylike consistency. A lack of bile could be a sign of a serious problem.

    What is bile?

    Bile is a digestive fluid. Your liver produces it, and it’s stored in your gallbladder. During the digestive process, bile is excreted into your small intestine to break down fats into fatty acids.

    Among other important functions, bile helps in the elimination of cholesterol and waste products, such as bilirubin. Bile gives your stool its typical brownish color.

    A lack of bile in your stool is often the result of a blockage in the bile duct. The bile duct is a tube that delivers the bile to the small intestine. A number of conditions can cause a blockage, including:


    tumors (bile ducts or pancreas)

    bile duct inflammation

    enlarged lymph nodes in the transverse fissure of the liver (porta hepatis)

    bile duct cysts

    parasites (liver flukes)

    Symptoms of bile duct obstruction

    Along with white stools, you may also experience symptoms such as:

    jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)

    abdominal pain (upper right side)

    nausea vomiting fever dark urine

    Treatment for a blocked bile duct

    Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the underlying cause. For example, for gallstones, your doctor might suggest a cholecystectomy. That’s surgery to remove the gallbladder.

    For liver flukes, you doctor may prescribe albendazole or praziquantel.

    Liver disease

    White stool can sometimes be a symptom of liver disease. There are many causes for liver disease, including:

    infection, such as: hepatitis A hepatitis B hepatitis C

    cancer (and other growths), such as:

    liver cancer bile duct cancer liver adenoma genetics, such as:

    alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency


    hyperoxaluria and oxalosis

    Wilson’s disease

    immune system abnormality, such as:

    autoimmune hepatitis

    primary biliary cirrhosis

    primary sclerosing cholangitis

    other conditions, such as:

    chronic, heavy alcohol use

    nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

    Symptoms of liver disease

    Along with white stools, you may also experience symptoms such as:

    jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)

    abdominal swelling and pain

    chronic fatigue nausea vomiting

    swelling in ankles and legs

    dark urine bruising skin itchiness loss of appetite

    Treatment for liver disease

    Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the diagnosis. While some liver problems require medication or surgery, many can be addressed with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or stopping alcohol use.

    In all cases, treatment for liver disease should include careful monitoring of your liver function. Liver disease that leads to liver failure may ultimately require a liver transplant.

    The takeaway

    Bowel movement colors can reveal information about your health.

    Having white stool after diarrhea might just be the result of taking large doses of certain antidiarrheal drugs. However, it could also be a symptom of a serious medical condition, such as liver disease or a blocked bile duct.

    To be sure, get a full diagnosis from your doctor if you’re experiencing white bowel movements.

    Last medically reviewed on September 25, 2019

    6 sources collapsed

    Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

    Boyer JL. (2013). Bile formation and secretion. DOI:


    Liver flukes. (2019).


    Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Liver problems.


    Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Gallstones.


    Rajan E. (2017). White stool: Should I be concerned?


    Stool changes and what they mean. (2019).



    Source : www.healthline.com

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