What is the meaning of yellow loose stools?

Written by hannah wahlig
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What is the meaning of yellow loose stools?
The state of a person's stool is a good indicator of potential health concerns. (toilet paper image by araraadt from Fotolia.com)

Doctors often request stool samples from patients who are experiencing a wide variety of symptoms. Stool samples provide insight into the overall health of the digestive system. Stool that differs from the norm in terms of colour and consistency could indicate illness or infection. Yellow, loose stools are an uncommon stool variety and may indicate a medical issue.

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Identification

Healthy stools are brown and well-formed, indicating a healthy diet and high-functioning digestive system. Yellow, loose stools may be anywhere from light green to bright yellow. This type of stool is usually not well-formed and falls apart upon contact with toilet water. The stool may also seem to have a high water or moisture content that makes it appear like liquid. There is no singular odour associated with yellow stools, though an unusual odour not typical of normal bowel movements may accompany the stool.

Significance

Yellow, loose stools may indicate one of several conditions. Less serious causes of yellow stool include a natural reaction to a diet high in foods with yellow or green dyes. Orange-yellow, loose stools may be the result of a diet high in beta-carotene. Very yellow stools may indicate low levels of healthy bile and bacteria present in the digestive tract. The bacteria responsible for turning stool brown may not have had enough time to interact with the stool before the body expelled it.

Chronic occurrences of yellow, loose stools may indicate more serious problems. Gilbert's Syndrome is a disorder in which the liver overproduces bilirubin which can lead to not only yellow stools but also a yellow tint to the skin or eyes. Malabsorption of fat is another possible cause of yellow stools. If your body is not absorbing fats properly, excess fat may end up in your bowels, giving stool a yellow tint. Malabsorption could indicate a serious condition such as coeliac disease. Yellow stools may be a sign of gall bladder disease or even pancreatic cancer, conditions which require immediate medical attention. Rarely, yellow, loose stools are caused by a parasite called giardia that invades the intestines and interferes with digestion.

Treatment

The specific treatment for yellow, loose stools depends on the cause of the condition, which can be determined through an examination and blood or stool sample tests. If the stool is the result of a fluctuation in a person's diet, a doctor may advise an alternative diet that is high in fibre and probiotics, both of which promote healthy bowel function. Chronic yellow, loose stools are often indicative of something more serious. If yellow, loose stools are the result of a gall bladder illness, the gall bladder may need to be removed. Liver disorders that contribute to yellow stools may be managed through diet or prescription medication. Chronic loose stools may also contribute to dehydration. Excess liquids or intravenous liquids may be prescribed in extreme dehydration cases.

Prevention

A diet rich in fibre and green vegetables helps regulate the bowels and promotes normal digestion. High-fibre diets assist in firming up a stool's consistency during digestion. Monitor the intake of dyed foods to reduce the likelihood of passing stool with an abnormal colour like yellow. Iron and magnesium-rich foods help promote healthy liver functioning to reduce the likelihood of excess bilirubin production.

Considerations

Normal bowel movements include occasional discoloured or loose stools. Loose or yellow stools are not always indicative of a serious problem. However, chronic yellow, loose stools require attention from a doctor who can diagnose the cause of the abnormal bowel movements and monitor the patient for signs of dehydration as a result of diarrhoea.

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