Why do I have yellow stool?

There are instances in which an individual ends up with yellow stool. The stool is comprised of 75% water while the remaining components include fat, bilirubin, mineral salts, protein, bacteria, undigested food and mucus from the digestive tract.

What provides color to stool?

Bile and bilirubin provide stool with its normal brownish color. It is important to note that bilirubin is a byproduct of the red blood cells. It is generated in the liver and moves to the gallbladder where it combines with bile. From there, most of the bilirubin moves into the intestines where it is degraded by bacteria and eliminated via the urine or feces.

What causes yellow stool?

It is considered normal for the stool to change color. This is true since most have varied diet and changes in the diet can affect the stool. Yellow stool is oftentimes called as pale stool which can indicate various health issues.


Yellow stool

Among older adults and the elderly who have yellow stool, it might be an indication of an underlying health condition

Having yellow stool might be due to the diet such as eating foods that contain large amounts of food coloring, sweet potatoes or carrots. It can also be due to certain gluten products or a diet that is high in fats.


Part of the response of the body to stress and anxiety is hastening the digestive process. This limits the number of nutrients that the body can absorb and might trigger diarrhea and yellow stool.

Pancreatic disorders

Pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis and obstruction in the pancreatic duct or cystic fibrosis can cause yellow stool. These conditions prevent the pancreas from supplying enough enzymes that the intestines need to properly digest food. The undigested fat can provide stool a yellow, greasy appearance that causes it to appear frothy or float.

The other causes of yellow stool include celiac disease, liver and gallbladder diseases, giardiasis and Gilbert’s syndrome.

Yellow stool among the elderly

Among older adults and the elderly who have yellow stool, it might be an indication of an underlying health condition such as the following:

  • GERD
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal tumor
  • Cholestasis
  • Gallbladder, liver or pancreatic disease

Possible complications

Some of the complications of untreated yellow stool might include dehydration, low red blood cell count, growth issues among children, poor nutrition and risk of spreading infections or cancers. Some of the warning indications of digestive issues include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Indigestion and gas
  • Foul-smelling stool
  • Bloating and swelling in the abdomen

When to consult a doctor

In case the stool turns yellow in color, it is often due to dietary changes. If it lasts for several days or accompanied by other symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor. A doctor should be consulted if an individual with yellow stool is accompanied by the following:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Passing out
  • Pus-filled stool
  • Lack of awareness
  • Confusion or mental changes
  • Lack of urine
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain


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