4 common causes of abnormal stool color

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Changes in stool, including color, consistency, and frequency, can be a cause for concern. Therefore, it is important to note these changes and know when to consult a doctor.

The color of stools varies but typically falls within the brown color spectrum, depending on the foods you eat. Stools that are deep red, maroon, black, or "tarry," especially if they have a noticeable odor, may indicate blood in the stool and require urgent medical intervention.

Here are some of the most common and significant causes of abnormal color stool:

  • Food is the most common cause of abnormal stool color. Consumption of certain foods may change the color of the stool, such as:
    • Dark green leafy vegetables can make the stool bright green.
    • Beets may change the stool color to red and give a false appearance of blood in the stool.
    • Carrots contain beta-carotene, and excess intake can make the stool orange in color.
    • Blueberries and cherries consumed in large amounts can make the stool color blue or sometimes black.
  • Gastrointestinal tract (GIT) bleeding is the most severe cause of abnormal stool color. Bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract due to an intestinal polyp, bowel inflammation, diverticulitis, colon cancer, etc., can change the stool color to fresh or dark red. Additionally, bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract can result in black, tarry stools with a foul smell.
  • Other GIT concerns related to the pancreas or the bile ducts make the stool grey or clay-colored.
  • Medications and supplements such as iron supplements and certain antibiotics can lead to yellowish-green or dark brown stool.

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