Poop or feces is normally yellowish or brown in color. It gets its color from iron and bilirubin which is present in large amounts in stool. The yellowish-orange bilirubin is present in the intestines and passed into stool.
Causes of orange poop
Orange poop may occur due to many different reasons. A few common causes of orange poop are listed below:
- Certain foods: Eating some types of foods, especially those contain vitamin A or beta carotene, on a daily basis can cause orange poop. Some of these foods include carrots, cilantro, pumpkins, turnip greens, collard greens, sweet potatoes, apricots, fresh thyme, winter squash, spinach, and kale.
- Escolar is a type of fish with high levels of fat. This fish suffers from a digestive condition which prevents it from breaking down waxes that are the main components of its diet. Subsequently the wax gets stored in its body as oil; this is the reason why the fish is very sticky when eating. Fat from escolar cannot be digested/absorbed by the human body as well; it gets removed along with feces thereby causing orange poop.
- Intake of foods with lots of orange food coloring can cause orange stools.
- Preserved foods such as junk foods, jellies, carbonated beverages, sodas, and artificial fruit juices have artificial coloring. The body does not have the capacity to absorb these colorants, which then get eliminated from the body via stool. Hence, excess consumption of preserved foods can cause orange poop.
- Medications and supplements: Intake of antacids, betacarotene containing medicines, and drugs with aluminum hydroxide can change the color of poop to orange. Vitamin A or betacarotene supplements also cause orange poop.
- Gallstones: Gallstones are stones that form from the liquid secreted by the gallbladder. Gallstones tend to block the bile ducts and cause a variety of problems, including orange poop.
- Digestive conditions: Orange poop can also be a symptom of varied digestive disorders, including short bowel syndrome/SBS, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. These condition also cause diarrhea that may be orange color.
- Bile salt deficiencies/problems: Stool gets its normal color due to bile salts. Bile is naturally green yellow in color. It reacts with the enzymes occurring in the bowels and imparts the brown/yellow color to stool. Lack of bile salts in the body or the inability of digested food in the intestines to efficiently use and mix with bile salts can therefore cause stool color anomalies, including orange poop.
- Bile salt deficiency can occur due to varied reasons such as blockage of bile ducts which prevents it from passing to the bowels and/or insufficient production of bile salts by the liver. Bile duct obstruction can occur due to cysts, gallstones, tumors, and inflammation.
- GERD or gastro-esophageal reflux disease is a digestive disorder marked by upward flow of digestive juices including bile from the stomach to the throat via the esophagus. This causes shortage of bile; thus, lower amounts of bile salts pass to the small intestines where it can mix with stool, thereby causing orange poop. Additional symptoms of GERD include heartburn, pain in chest, excessive coughing, and sore throat.
- Deficient bile absorption or reduced use of bile or ineffective reaction of bile with stool in bowels can occur due to varied conditions like cysts, gallstones, etc. or due to rapid passing of feces across the bowel. The latter is usually associated with digestive diseases like IBS, SBS, and diarrhea, etc.
- Presence of hepatitis, liver scarring/damage in alcoholics, or other kinds of liver diseases are marked by increasing damage to the liver and increased excretion of bilirubin bile salt, and stool color changes. Patients may experience jaundice, ascites, and generalized itchiness, etc.
- Parasites and other infections: Orange poop can also occur due to infection by parasites. Parasitic infections usually cause illnesses and symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea, etc.
- Presence of some harmless bacteria can also cause poop color changes. Such bacteria may not cause any harm or other symptoms besides orange feces.
- Other causes: People with hemorrhoids or fissures may suffer from stool color changes when constipated.
- Undergoing diagnostic tests such as an MRI, CT scan, or Nuclear Meds study, etc., can leave contrasts and dyes for a short time. The stool can attain some incredulous colors, including orange poop, during this period.
- Toxins such as cytotoxin, etc., used during chemotherapy sessions can also cause orange poop or other stool color changes.
Treatment of orange poop
As discussed above, orange poop can occur due to normal causes like diet or severe underlying conditions. Patients may visit a doctor and seek treatment if orange poop is accompanied by additional symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, weakness, constipation, and dizziness, etc.
Modifying the diet to limit beta carotene intake, exclude junk foods, or avoid food with increased artificial colorants can help resolve minor instances of orange poop.
Orange stools caused due to underlying causes are treated as per the diagnosis and relevant treatment options.