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What causes pale coloured stools / poo?

Updated on November 5, 2011
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If you are reading this article there is a very good chance that you found it via my original article that was called Have you examined your stools / poo lately? That article has attracted a vast amount of views, so proving that many people are worrying about unusual aspects of their stools or poo, be it the colour, the consistency or the regularity. Because of the popularity of that article I rapidly realised that thousands of people are too shy, self conscious or too embarrassed to feel comfortable talking face to face with other people about their bowel movements, (ironic when you consider how many people are totally comfortable talking about farts and breaking wind). Apparently the fear extends even to the point that a trip to the doctor is only a last resort, and then only if a trip to the Internet has given the individual affected a good reason to believe such a trip is necessary in order to preserve their health. If you are reading this I am assuming that your problem is that your stools or poo (whichever term you prefer), have changed to a pale, clay or even beige colouring, and that you want to know why this has happened and if you should be worried about it.

The Causes of Pale or Clay Coloured Stools / Poo

Stools that are pale in colour, or even clay / beige coloured would naturally cause concern when you are used to seeing a brown stool arriving in your toilet bowl. The following is a list of reasons that might explain why your brown bowel movements have changed to this insipid and unhealthy looking colour instead.

  • A lack of bile or a blockage in the bile ducts can cause pale or clay coloured stools (acholic being the correct medical term for pale coloured stools)
  • If your digestive system is unable to absorb fats properly it can also cause 'greasy' stools that are pale in colour
  • Side effects from medicines such as antibiotics
  • Liver infections
  • Liver disease (look out for jaundice which will appear in the form of yellowing skin and yellow whites to the eyes. Seek urgent medical attention if you see evidence of jaundice)
  • Tumours
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis
  • Strictures
  • Sclerosing cholangitis
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Cysts of the bile ducts
  • Strictures or narrowing of the bile ducts
  • Gallstones
  • Use of antacids that contain aluminum hydroxide
  • Congenital birth defects in the biliary system
  • Eating high amounts of fatty foods


Disclaimer: Please remember to treat this article as a guideline only. If you are worrying about the fact your stools / poo appear to have become pale, clay or even beige in colour, then I would strongly advise a trip to your Doctor in order to give you peace of mind based on a sound medical diagnosis, as opposed to Internet based information.

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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Red, I would guess that the colour and consistency of your stools is due to the yogurt you have been eating. If they haven't returned to normal within a couple of days of you bring on a normal diet again I would suggest a visit to your doctor (take a stool sample with you to allow it to be checked out).

    • profile image

      red 3 years ago

      I have had food poisoning the past four days with very bad diarrhea to the point of the just a liquid bowel movements, yesterday and today i ate greek yogurt to try to pull my bowels back together. And now ive had softer stool but clay colored and beige... should i be worried or could this just be a side effect of my body getting realighned after such a system shock?? Im 27 and don't show any sign of these diseases that accompany these stool characteristics. ..

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Good luck Henrik, I hope they find out the cause for you soon.

    • profile image

      Henrik 4 years ago

      Hi, I've been having thin yellow/beige stools for about 4-5 months now. Sometimes i also see mucus in my stool. It was hell when it all started, i could go to the bathroom up to 10 times on a day and it was always mucus in the stool. Sometimes when i had to go only mucus came out, very strange. I got it after use of antibiotics. I've done all the blood tests that can be done, they have checked all my organs, my anus, tests for cancer, infections, inflammatory diseases, bacteria, parasites, celiac, thyroid function and much more. They can't find anything. Im not having any pain but i have to go to the toilet between 2-5 times a day. Ive been looking for answers for so long now im getting crazy about this. Im much better since it all started so I hope I'll be totally healed one day since im only 22 years old.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Glad you found this helpful Carter, I am sure the doctor can confirm if it is your medication that has caused this.

    • profile image

      Carter 5 years ago

      Thank you for this very imformative article! Every morning for the past five days I have beige-colored stool and I kept wondering if there was something different in my diet. I got anxious so I searched online, stopped at this article, and the next thing I figured out is my propranolol medication is probably causing it. Calling my doctor about it. Thanks!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks RiCk, I appreciate your feedback :)

    • profile image

      RiCk 6 years ago

      Very informative set of articles Misty, Thanks for taking the time and sharing !

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I totally agree kelleyward, and thanks for your input :)

    • profile image

      kelleyward 6 years ago

      You and Dr. Oz are bringing new knowledge to what happens in the toliet. Thanks for the info. As a nurse I know that one time of light colored stools doesn't mean anything its when it happens frequently that one needs to be more concerned.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I would always suggest 'giving it a couple of days', before worrying too much. Sounds like what you have drunk explains your stool colour.

    • profile image

      Lauren 6 years ago

      Yesterday morning I had a normal colored bowel movement. Later in the morning I had on an empty stomach a large cafe latte. When I got home from my friends house and went to the bathroom my stool was very light beige just the the color of my latte. I thought that could be why, but today I had another one that color. Possibly a little darker but not much. Still very beige. Should I be concerned or give it a couple of days. I have no other symptoms. Thanks

    • takingcontrol profile image

      takingcontrol 6 years ago

      Thank you. That brings some relief! :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi There 'takingcontrol', this could be as a result of a sudden diet change, but I can't be certain. It would be quite a concidence for your stools to change colour at the same time as a major diet change I have to say. I would give it a few days to see if the colour normalises again, and if not go and see a Doctor to be on the safe side.

    • takingcontrol profile image

      takingcontrol 6 years ago

      It's 11/13/11 and a few days ago I started a healthy diet and stretching program before I plan to start really working out. (i'm an almost 39 year old female, by the way). I omitted all unnatural sugars, white breads, pasta etc from my diet and have been eating nothing but wheat bread with sliced turkey with dijon mustard for taste, a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese, a few spoonfuls of a cheese/broccoli mix, apples, bananas, grapes, diet green tea with ginsing, fish, chicken breast and a small amount of baked lays potato chips. I eat every 3 hours (the normal breakfast, lunch and dinner and then some fruit for in between 'snacks' if I need it).

      I've always had darker stools, but the last two days I noticed my poop has been getting lighter. Today it was almost... sandy looking and a very pale light grey, almost whitish looking at the end. I read the reasons why and couldn't possibly think any of those are happening to me. Is it because of my diet change? I just dove right in to it and used to eat nothing but starchy, sugar filled, junk food and snacks and red meat and beef constantly.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      LOL Hubert, that sounds truly gross.

      Pleased the articles are already proving useful though.

    • profile image

      Hubertsvoice 6 years ago

      Amen to the expensive medication. The articles are already useful. My wife is always asking about poop color and why one of her family has a different color poop. Your article and the one by james watkins inspired my poetic entry today. It's entitled Poop Soup.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Hubertsvoice, I hope each of these articles comes in useful to you, and maybe even helps you to avoid some of those expensive medications :)

    • profile image

      Hubertsvoice 6 years ago

      Misty each one of your articles on the color of poo has been appreciated by me and accepted as needed information, because of the amount a variety of medications doctors prescribe for me. The internet does provide more info like this and cheaper too. I could not resist all the crappy jokes, though. Thank you for the articles.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I think the Doctors get just as embarrassed as the patients about broaching the subject Bob. They so need to take this more seriously as the stool can answer lots of questions as to certain symptoms people are experiencing and what is causing them.

      LOL re-your last comment. If I passed '5 or 6 healthy floaters' all at once I would lose half my body weight. I think 1 - 2 is about my maximum, and they don't always float, (it depends largely on what you have been eating as opposed to your health as to whether they 'sink or swim').

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Evidently, many people have worms and things like nematodes, etc., they don't know about. The bowel is definitely ignored by NHS doctors.

      ...and is there any greater joy than a good healthy dump of 5 or 6 healthy 'floaters? We have a common interest, Missy! Bob

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
      Author

      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Bob, it is a sensitive subject that needs to be talked about more I agree. Not sure the German idea sounds very appealing though, I hope that is in private homes and not public toilets, as the idea of people in public loos probing their poo is not pleasant. Glad you liked the hub and thanks for the feedback :)

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yes, I quite agree, Misty, people shy away from talking about their emmisions in the UK and the States. In some more enlightened countrie, such as Germany, the toilets are designed so that the stools fall on a ledge and can be probed and examined before being flushed. Constipation, for example, is one of the largest "silent" (ahem) killers we suffer from. Very good hub. Bob

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