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It may sound strange, but stool color can tell a lot about the state of the digestive tract and even some things about the rest of the body.

It is not rare for doctors to ask questions to their patients about their bowel movements, their frequency and appearance. Stool color varies depending on the food a person eats and on the amount of bile present in it.

Is there a normal stool color?

It is not easy to say what a normal bowel movement really is. There are several criteria to be kept in mind, and as far as the color is concerned, according to most experts any shade of brown is considered normal. This of course does not mean that stool must always be brown. Sometimes the color of the stool depends on the food a person ate, so eating a lot of spinach will most likely cause a green stool the next morning.

Other factors that make a normal and healthy bowel movement are consistency similar to the toothpaste, sinking, and not floating in the water, some gas and smooth passing, without straining.

Different stool colors and their meaning

Light-colored, gray or pale stool is usually a sign that there is not enough bile in it. This may be caused by abnormalities in bile ducts but also by gallstones, infection with giardia, hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Frequent yellow stool may be the sign of GERD (acid reflux disease), bacterial infection, low amount of bile or food passing too quickly through the digestive tract, which cause incomplete absorption of nutrients.

Red color of the stool usually comes from blood. Blood in stool may be caused by hemorrhoids or bleeding in rectum. When the blood is bright red, it means it did not oxidize, which suggests that the bleeding occurs in the rectal area, just before the stool is passed. On the other hand, consumption of foods with red pigment, like beets, may be causing this color in stool.

Green stool is mostly observed in babies and toddlers. It may indicate excessive bile in the stool. Green color may also indicate the presence of bacteria, poor absorption of certain nutrients, it may be a consequence of certain medications or it may simply mean a person is eating a lot of green vegetables.

Very dark or black stool indicates bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, usually in the esophagus or in the stomach. The color is dark because by the time the blood comes to the lower intestine, carried by food particles, it has already oxidized and it is no longer bright red.

In case of frequent stools of unusual colors it is recommended to see a doctor who will perform the tests to determine what is causing it and what kind of treatment is necessary.

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