Yellow Feces (stools) - What Does It Mean? What To Do?

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Yellow Feces (stools) - What Does It Mean? What To Do?
Yellow Feces (stools) - What Does It Mean? What To Do?

Yellow feces: what does it mean?

Yellow feces
Yellow feces

An unusual shade of feces can alert a person who monitors their health and become a reason to see a doctor. The first assumption when yellow stools appear is liver dysfunction. The dark yellow tint of feces usually does not bother, but the light yellow color of feces is most often a sign of trouble in the work of the gastrointestinal tract.

The composition of the solid fraction of feces is normal:

  • 30% - undigested food;
  • 30% bacteria;
  • 15% - inorganic substances;
  • 15% fat;
  • 5% protein.

Stool shade depends on the amount of bacteria present in the human body at the time of stool formation.


  • Factors affecting the appearance of yellow feces
  • When should you see a doctor?
  • What if the stool turns yellow?

Factors affecting the appearance of yellow feces


Stercobilin, a bilirubin derivative, gives stool its typical reddish-brown color. If there is not enough stercobilin in the body, the stool becomes yellow. The main reason for a low stercobilin content is a deficiency of bilirubin due to too rapid passage of feces through the intestines or due to too large a mass of feces. Bilirubin is produced in the liver as a result of the conversion of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the blood to the internal organs. If pathological processes occur in the liver, much less bilirubin is formed than normal.

Factors affecting stool discoloration:

  • Liver disease. Liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis (as well as gallbladder disorders) can reduce the amount of bile salt produced in the body. The combination of yellow stool with a change in its consistency is a sign of a deficiency in the body of bile salt, the introduction of infection, and impaired liver function.

    Viral, autoimmune or toxic hepatitis can also provoke a yellow tinge of stool. Most often, these changes are caused by a viral infection. The yellowing of the stool causes mononucleosis, a disease whose symptoms are found after a blood test.

  • Diseases of the pancreas. Diseases such as pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic cancer, and blockage of the pancreatic duct can cause yellow or pale stools.

    A pale yellow tint of feces can appear after prolonged consumption of large amounts of fatty foods. In this case, the feces acquire an extremely unpleasant odor. Such a reaction of the body to fatty foods may indicate a malfunction of the pancreas.

  • Cytomegalovirus. Cytomegalovirus infection can leave an imprint on the functioning of the liver, as well as infection with rubella, mumps, and alcohol abuse.

  • Bowel disorders. A change in the consistency of feces often accompanies intestinal disorders caused by the introduction of infection into the human body.

    Stress has also been shown to influence the onset of irritable bowel syndrome. Stress control is quite an important factor [1] (on the topic: 10 ways to relieve stress).

  • Celiac disease. If a person who has celiac disease eats gluten (a protein in wheat, rye, and barley), then their immune system attacks this undigested protein, including the tissue of the small intestine, damaging it and disrupting the ability to absorb nutrients.

    According to the National Celiac Foundation, over 300 different symptoms are associated with celiac disease. This makes diagnosis difficult. [2]

  • Giardiasis is a common intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite. One of the symptoms of giardiasis is yellow, foul-smelling diarrhea.

  • Products are yellow. Carrots (especially fresh carrot juice), sweet potatoes, turmeric, and other yellow foods can turn your stools yellow. If you regularly get yellow stools due to your diet, then you should avoid fatty and processed foods, as well as gluten. In addition, yellowing of the stool can be a side effect of taking drugs with an increased β-carotene content.

A change in stool color from green to yellow can be observed with an infection of the intestine, because the rate of transport of digested foods through the intestines in this case is extremely high. In this case, the feces do not have time to acquire the usual color. Another reason for the acquisition of a yellow tint by feces is a deficiency of bile in the body.

Yellow stools in babies - what does it mean?

If, when changing a baby's diaper, you sometimes see yellow stools, this indicates a shorter transit time for food through the intestinal tract. Different colors (darker) may indicate that travel time is slowing down. The stool often changes color. You should definitely see a doctor only if you notice blood in your stool, this can mean a serious health problem.

When should you see a doctor?

When to contact
When to contact

Before seeking medical advice, you should look for the reasons for the appearance of a yellow stool that are available for self-analysis. First you need to make changes to your diet and temporarily give up milk and dairy products. If at this time some drugs are being treated, it is advisable to give them up for a few days in order to see the reaction of the stool to such changes.

Only after 5-7 days of staying in this mode should you contact a gastroenterologist for diagnostics. The doctor will prescribe tests and, based on the data obtained, determine the tactics of treatment.

If a yellow tint of feces is accompanied by frequent diarrhea, fever, weakness, drowsiness, you do not need to wait for several days, you should get emergency help. It is possible that the cause of these symptoms is an infection or inflammation of the intestines, gallbladder, stomach. Such conditions can provoke death and serious complications, so you should immediately get qualified help.

What if the stool turns yellow?

What to do if stool turns yellow
What to do if stool turns yellow

Liver dysfunction, which changes the color of feces to a light yellow hue, occurs after taking the following drugs:

  • Medicines for the treatment of tuberculosis, epilepsy;
  • Antibacterial agents;
  • Oral contraceptives;
  • Methotrexate;
  • Paracetamol;
  • NSAIDs.

When such side effects appear, the patient needs the advice of a medical professional. If the light yellow color of the feces is not caused by side effects of drugs or gastrointestinal diseases, after 2-4 days it will return to normal, changing its color to a reddish brown tint. Under normal health conditions, there will be no signs of trouble.

Signs of the disease when combined with a light yellow stool:

  • Hyperthermia,
  • Dark urine
  • Yellow skin tone.
  • Weight loss,
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Pronounced putrid stool odor.

A coprogram, prescribed by an infectious disease specialist or gastroenterologist, will help identify the cause of poor health and a change in the color of feces to a light yellow tint.

Links to sources

  1. Stress and Your Gut
  2. Despite popular belief, celiac disease is a SERIOUS GENETIC AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE, not the latest fad diet.

The author of the article: Volkov Dmitry Sergeevich | c. m. n. surgeon, phlebologist

Education: Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry (1996). In 2003 he received a diploma from the Educational and Scientific Medical Center of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation.

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