Have you ever noticed white poop in a toilet bowl and wondered what might be causing it? If so, this blog is for you.
The color and texture of your poop say a lot about your health, especially the function of your digestive system. Normal poop usually ranges from light to dark brown, and it changes with your diet. This color is due to the presence of a pigment called bilirubin.
However, if you notice your poop coming out white, pale, or clay, it can be problematic and a bit concerning. Not to freak you out, but you have to know this “White poop is not at all normal” and needs immediate consultation. But what's causing it white?
Let me tell you.
In a general sense, white poop is caused by a lack of digestive fluid in your gut, also known as bile. It can also occur as a result of several health conditions associated with the liver or pancreas.
However, there's some good side to it. It's 100% treatable only if you find it out sooner and consult your doctor without hesitating.
While not everyone experiences white stools, it's important to understand its underlying causes, associated symptoms, and ways to prevent it. Read this blog to know everything in detail.
What Does White Poop Mean?
White stool is a condition where your poops appear pale or clay-like in color rather than the usual brown. In most cases, white poop can result from various reasons, such as food choices, infection, or underlying medical conditions associated with the liver or gallbladder.
Normally, the color of the stool is because of bile. Bile is a thick digestive fluid produced by your liver, stored in the gallbladder. It's responsible for breaking down the fat into digestible fatty acids.
It consists mainly of bile salts, bilirubin, and cholesterol and collectively helps remove waste products from the body.
When you eat something, your gallbladder supplies bile to your small intestine via the bile duct. After reaching the small intestine, bile assists in the digestion of food and absorbs nutrients by breaking down fats into fatty acids.
Following this, the wastes from the digestive process are excreted from your body as feces, which are normally brown in color.
When your liver fails to supply enough bile, or if the bile can't reach your small intestine, your stools will turn white.
White Poop – Symptoms
White poop, by itself, is a noticeable symptom, but it can be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, depending on what's causing them. Some of the associated symptoms include:
- Severe abdominal and joint pain
- Abdominal swelling and bloating
- Foul smell
- Frequent changes in stool consistency
- Diarrhea and gas
- Fatigue and weakness
- High fever
- Sudden weight loss
These are just a few of the light symptoms that you may notice at the beginning.
However, in some cases, white poops can be a sign of a critical condition. So, if you notice severe cramps, lack of urine, foul-smelling urine, or sudden behavior change, immediately see the doctor and get tested as early as possible.
Some of the critical and life-threatening conditions may include:
- Acute Hepatitis (Liver inflammation)
- Acute Cholecystitis
- Liver failure
What Causes White Poop?
As explained earlier, there are various health issues that contribute to white stool.
Let's start with the most common one: Liver disease
i). Liver diseases
The most common cause of stool turning pale or white is due to liver problems.
Certain liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and hepatitis are the major cause of white stool.
As a result of these diseases, when the liver stops working properly, bile and bilirubin cannot reach the small intestine, which in turn changes color. Some common symptoms of liver hepatitis include jaundice, dark urine, chronic fatigue, and abdominal pain.
- i) Viral Hepatitis – Viral Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver caused by viruses such as Hepatitis A, B, or C viruses. Commonly, Hepatitis C leads to liver disease.
- ii) Alcoholic Hepatitis – As the name suggests, alcoholic hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver due to excessive alcohol consumption. It can cause liver failure or liver disease. In severe cases, liver transplantation is necessary.
ii). Gallbladder and bile duct diseases
A gallbladder blockage or disease that affects that gallbladder may cause white stool.
Sometimes, the gallbladder gets blocked, and bile and bilirubin can't flow into the digestive system, which results in clay-colored stools.
The most common biliary obstruction is gallstones, which are hard, pebble-like pieces of bile that develop in your gallbladder. These gallstones get lodged in the bile duct and prevent the flow of the bile into the intestines.
Gallstones can be fatal, particularly if a person needs emergency surgery, as there is a high risk of complications. Other conditions like gallbladder, pancreatic, and bile duct cancer can also stop the flow of bile into the small intestine and change your poop color.
iii). Bile duct cyst
Bile duct cysts are another major cause of white poops, especially in children. It is indicated by dilation in the biliary ducts that deliver bile and may occur once the baby is born.
Affected children may exhibit symptoms attributed to abnormal bile drainages, such as white poops, jaundice, and abdominal expansion.
While extremely rare, tumors in or around the bile ducts can also cause discoloration in stool. Both Benign and malignant tumors in the system can interfere with the bile flow or cause inflammation of the liver.
At first, these tumors do not show any symptoms, but over time, they start to appear. Treatment depends on the type of the tumor, but usually, it's via surgical removal.
Several drugs and medications can strain your liver, particularly in people who consume high doses of medications. Be it prescription or Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, they have the potential to harm the liver to the greatest extent.
Some of the medications are:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Aluminum hydroxide – Antacids contain huge amounts of aluminum hydroxide, which causes stool to lighten in shade. Example: Pepto-Bismol
- Barium sulfate, which is used for X-ray scans of the digestive tract, may also cause white poop.
Other medications causing white stool include diet supplements, analgesics, and homeopathic medications, birth control pills, anabolic steroids, among others.
Certain medications can also cause drug-induced hepatitis, which means the swelling or inflammation of the liver.
In many cases, when a person discontinues the medications, the symptoms of white stools usually go away within a few weeks.
Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by infectious tiny parasites. This infectious disease may turn the stools yellow or pale.
A person may easily contract this intestinal parasite by drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with a stool that contains the parasite.
vii). Malabsorption Syndrome
Several medical conditions that interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients may cause fatty, foul-smelling, or white stools. Some conditions causing malabsorption include liver diseases and cystic fibrosis.
Food is always the major reason for the change of color in stools. However, certain foods, especially fatty foods, may lead to pale-colored poops. A diet high in dairy or calcium-containing foods can also cause temporary changes in stool color.
Regardless, the occasional defecation is unlikely to be a cause for concern. Further, changing your diet may cause stools to return to their normal brownish color.
ix). Pancreatic Problems
Any diseases related to the pancreas can make it difficult for this organ to secret pancreatic fluids into the digestive system. This can lead to the food moving too quickly through the gut, resulting in a white stool.
Pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis are the common examples associated with it. Pancreatitis is nothing but the swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. It can be triggered by infections, gallstones, or autoimmune diseases.
Diagnosis of White Poop
Before beginning any diagnostic tests, doctors will ask you a series of screening questions, such as:
- How long have you been noticing white poops?
- What medications are you taking lately?
- Do you have some other symptoms?
- Have you had white or pale stools before?
- Do you have any other health conditions?
They may then conduct numerous medical tests to diagnose the actual cause. The tests could be:
i) Blood test – To monitor liver function and look for any diseases or abnormalities.
ii) Abdominal ultrasound – This is done to get a clearer image of the liver, gallbladder, and biliary ducts.
iii) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) – It is used for scanning the liver and abdominal region.
iv) Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – This test involves the use of endoscopy to see inside the biliary and pancreatic ductal system.
How Can White Poop Be Treated?
White stool treatment usually depends on the underlying cause. Some of the treatments include:
- Gallstone surgery
- Minimizing alcohol intake
- Changing your medications
- Treating pancreatic or liver disease with surgery
- Taking up vitamin supplements
The best approach to treat white poop is to consult your doctor and seek treatment accordingly.
White Poop: Prevention
Some of the causes of white poop are not preventable. For example, liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. However, others can be prevented with a few lifestyle tips. Follow them to have access to a healthy and active life.
- Certain types of liver hepatitis can be prevented by vaccination.
- Avoid excessive drinking to prevent yourself from alcoholic hepatitis.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and fiber-rich foods to boost your digestive system.
- Drink plenty of water (Usually 8 glasses a day)
- Take probiotics, which help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut naturally.
- Avoid smoking, manage stress, exercise, and change lifestyle habits to help control bowel movements.
White Poop in Children
It is extremely common for children to have different colored stools in early life, ranging from yellow to light brown. But, if you notice your child's poop coming out white or pale often, it certainly is not normal. It indicates that your child's liver is problematic and needs emergency treatment.
In rare cases, pale poop in children could be a sign of medical conditions like cystic fibrosis or cholestasis. A milk-only diet is another reason for the change of color.
Do contact their pediatrician if this condition continues for more than two days or shows other symptoms.
White Stool in Pregnant Women
White or pale-colored stools during pregnancy typically indicate issues associated with a woman's liver, gallbladder, biliary ducts, or pancreas. The most common health condition is cholestasis of pregnancy.
This is a liver issue that halts bile from flowing out of the gallbladder. Bile can be stored in the liver and spilled into the bloodstream, which can be harmful.
Experts don't know what exactly causes cholestasis, but pregnant hormones might affect liver functioning. It can be treated with prescribed medication and regular monitoring.
When To See a Doctor?
However, this does not apply to pregnant women and children. If a baby, child, or pregnant woman notices white poops for even a day, they should head to the doctor immediately.
Regardless of the circumstances behind the clay-colored poop, it is always best to get tested and treated as early as possible to avoid further complications.
The color and consistency of your stool can be an essential indicator of your digestive health. White poop in adults is a rare occurrence and can be a red flag if not diagnosed and treated on time. It could be a sign of medical conditions like liver or gallbladder disease and shouldn't be ignored.
Certain medications like Pepto-Bismol can also result in poop turning white or pale. Hence, if you or your child notice a pale stool, consult a healthcare specialist and seek treatment immediately.
1. Why is my poop white?
Ans: White poop can result from a variety of factors, including diet, medication, or any disease linked with the liver or gallbladder. It is usually due to a lack of bile which causes your poop to become pale in color.
2. What causes light-colored poop?
Ans: A light-colored poop suggests there might be a problem with your liver, bile duct, or gallbladder. Basically, the color of the poop is due to a bilirubin pigment produced in the liver. When there is not enough bile reaching the intestine, your poop may turn pale or light-color.
3. How do I fix white poop?
Ans: If you notice white stools for more than two days, you should consult your doctor right away. The doctor will conduct diagnostic tests and provide treatment accordingly.
4. Can white stools be temporary?
Ans: Yes, white stools are usually temporary. Certain medications or health conditions, such as liver disease and gallbladder infection, can be the reason behind it.
5. When should I be worried about white poop?
Ans: If you notice white or clay-colored poop for more than two days, you should see your doctor right away. It could be a sign of serious conditions related to the liver or gallbladder.