Orange Poop: What Causes It and What To Do

orange poop

Passing orange poop is sure to raise eyebrows in many people. In some, it can be even more distressing, especially if it occurs on more than occasion.

While it may seem embarrassing to discuss or pay attention to your poop, checking its color, smell, texture, shape and amount regularly is a good way to assess your health because it generally reflects how healthy you are.

When your poop is orange, it can trigger thoughts of a serious health issue being at play. In this article, we will discuss normal stool coloration, the possible causes of orange poop and what to do next.

Normal Poop Color

Poop is mostly made of food particles that were undigested. It also contains bacteria, dead cells, and water. During the process of digestion, food moves through the digestive system, passing through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, from the mouth.

In the small intestine, a light green substance produced by the liver called bile mixes with food. Bile helps in digestion of fat. When fatty meals are ingested, the gall bladder releases bile to help with the breakdown of fat for absorption.

When food moves further to the large intestine, bacteria living in parts of the digestive tract, and enzymes in the gut act on bile and turns its color brown, from green).

This is why normal poop is brownish in color.

Causes of Orange Poop

A change from the normal brown color of poop to orange may be seen in many instances. Some of these causes are pretty harmless while others may be incapacitating or life-threatening. Below are some causes of orange poop.

1. Excess Ingestion Of Beta-Carotene:

This is a common cause of orange poops. Usually found in carrots, tomatoes, apricots, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, beetroot, winter squash, some leafy vegetables, and some herbs. Beta-carotene is an orange pigment that can cause you to have orange poop, especially if ingested in excess.

Beta-carotene is a part of a larger group of substances called carotenoids that give some food their colors. When digestion of beta-carotene is completed, your poop returns to its normal color.

2. Ingestion Of Orange Dyes And Preservatives:

Some food items like candy and soft drinks are preserved with artificially made preservatives which may be orange. Other food items contain orange dyes.

These preservatives and dyes cannot be totally broken down by the body and are passed on to the large intestine where stool is aggregated. This may cause your poop to become orange, especially if you eat large doses of these food items.

3. Fish:

A special type of tropical fish called escolar can cause your poop to change to orange. This is due to the presence of indigestible fat in the fish that it stores on its body to provide buoyancy when swimming.

When ingested, the fish causes you to pass frequent accidental oily discharges and orange colored poop. You may also have nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

4. Medicines and Supplements:

Some medicines contain beta-carotene in them, which can cause poop to be temporarily orange.

Other medications cause stools to become orange, as a side effect of use, like rifampin, an antibiotic used for tuberculosis treatment and antacids containing Aluminium hydroxide. Some drugs cause poop to become orange when they interact with other drugs used in combination with them.

5. Diseases Of The Digestive System:

Diseases such as inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), liver disease, and bile duct blockage may cause your poop to become orange. They are however often accompanied by more symptoms like stomach pains, nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea.

6. Medical Investigations:

Having some tests done such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) and other related scans may cause a temporary change in poop color, hours after the test is done. The change in poop color occurs due to the preparatory medicines given before the tests, not due to the scans themselves.

What To Do Next If You Have Orange Poop

As said earlier, orange poop is mostly related to your diet and is generally not an emergency.

So, consider your diet, especially on the day before the first occasion of the poop discoloration and cut out the offenders. If it is due to medications use, discuss with your doctor who will review and/or replace these drugs. Drinking lots of water also helps.

When Should I See A Doctor?

If you do have orange poops, as well as other symptoms of general ill-health like stomach ache, abdominal pain, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, or you have been passing these stools for a few days, please consult your doctor.

How Is Orange Poop Treated?

Treatment is based on the individual affected as well as the accompanying symptoms. It is also determined by the cause of the change in color and the severity of the illness.

To make a diagnosis, your doctor will examine you and then order a few blood tests, after interviewing you.

A stool test or stool culture is often carried out to look for evidence of infection, allergies, disease-causing bacteria and viruses, blood and problems of the digestive system.

Summary

Orange poop seems altogether disconcerting and scary. However, it is mostly as a result of eating excess beta-carotene in natural food and preservatives. The poop is often back to normal after digestion is completed and this happens in roughly a day or two. If you do have other symptoms aside from orange poop or the poop persists, please consult your doctor.

Dr. Zubair Abdulahi

Dr. Zubair Abdulahi is a licensed medical practitioner with a degree in medicine and surgery who is interested in using new media to influence health decisions by providing information on health queries. When he's not working as a doctor, he enjoys the game of football as well as sight-seeing and listening to classical music.
Dr. Zubair Abdulahi