The color of feces can be an indicator of your health and particularly the digestive system. Normal color of stool is brown-which is as a result of a substance known as bilirubin. Bilirubin is released by liver in bile production to assist in breaking down of aging red blood cells. Stool color can have different shades depending on what is causing the change. Having a pale or clay color of stool may be an indication of a disease.
Some conditions associated with change in stool shade can be life threatening while others might not be of big concern. Stools that look like putty or clay can be the result of insufficient or lack of bile, or a blocked bile duct. When the digestive system is unable to absorb fats, this could make the stool to appear light colored-either gray or yellow with greasy texture. A light colored stool is clinically referred to as acholic.
What are the causes of clay colored stool?
Stools appearing clay or putty colored may be because of problems in biliary system where bile and pancreatic juice are released. The liver releases bile salts that mix with stool making it attain a brown color. People with a liver infection or problem may have clay colored stool because there is insufficient bile production or flow out of liver is impaired.
Similarly, if there is a problem within the gallbladder, and the pancreas, they may also cause the color of stool to change. Here are the possible causes of clay colored stool.
The liver is responsible for gathering bilirubin and releasing it through the gallbladder into small intestine. Bilirubin is released through bile juice. Whenever there is a liver disorder, which affects the liver, it means that the production of bilirubin and its subsequent release to the small intestine is reduced.
There is no enough bilirubin that can create the right brown color for feces. Therefore, the feces appear lighter in color such as gray, putty, or clay. If the liver is unable to produce bile and eliminate bilirubin from blood, then it may lead to fatigue especially if you have an infection.
A blockage of bile ducts can occur in body. These ducts carry the bile juice from liver and gallbladder via the pancreas to small intestine. Bile from liver flows through two hepatic ducts i.e. right and left hepatic ducts. These ducts come together and form what is referred to as common hepatic duct, which further connects and joins with a duct that is connected to the gallbladder usually known as the cystic duct.
Both the common hepatic duct and cystic duct form the common bile duct, and this is the duct, which enters the small intestine through sphincter of Oddi. Some bile is secreted directly from liver to intestine especially during meals. Other bile is diverted into gallbladder through cystic duct for storage.
In essence, the top part of the bile duct is associated with the liver while the bottom part is associated with pancreas through which it passes before reaching the small intestine. Therefore, if there are problems with gallbladder, liver, pancreas, and this network of ducts, it will affect the bile that reaches the intestines. Obstruction of the bile duct may be caused by inflammation, cyst, or trauma. It may also be caused by tumors that affect the pancreas.
Gallstones and hepatitis
Gallstones can develop when too much cholesterol is present in the bile. Bile is supposed to dissolve and break down cholesterol but if there is more cholesterol being made by the liver than the bile is able to dissolve, it may result to hard stone. This hard stone blocks the ducts and therefore results to insufficient bile entering the intestines.
Other causes of gallstones are excess production of bilirubin by the liver. Bilirubin is the chemical substance that is produced by liver to help in destroying old blood cells. If there are conditions like blood disorders or cirrhosis of liver, they may cause the liver to release excess of the bilirubin. If the gallbladder is not able to break down the excess bilirubin, then stones may develop. These hard substances are known as the pigmented stones. High concentration of bile may also cause these stones.
Other causes of clay colored stool
Low levels of bilirubin reaching the intestine may also be caused by cancer, medications, cystic fibrosis, cirrhosis, acute pancreatitis, and pancreas cancer.
When to seek medical help
Seek medical attention if you experience any change in the color of your stool, consistency of bowel movements, or other signs of illness such as fever or fatigue. If your feces are not showing the normal brown color and they appear clay, putty, or gray, or any other color that may be caused by some other digestive problems, see a doctor.
A doctor will perform physical examination and ask questions about the past medical history as well as symptoms. The doctor may want to know whether the stool is always discolored or it happens occasionally. Other symptoms that occur alongside the stool color change may also be studied.
Clay Colored Stool – Pictures
Notice the color of the stool which is usually on the gray side.