Orange Poop: What Causes It and What To Do

Passing orange poop is sure to freak many people out. When it happens more than once, it can become very alarming.

Most times, it is not a sign of something very serious, but having a recurrence may warrant medical attention.

In this article, we will try to explain the possible causes of orange poop and what to do next.

What Determines Poop Color?

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 from green to brown.

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This is why normal poop is brownish in color. Here’s a guide explaining what different poop colors mean.

Causes of Orange Poop

Below are some causes of orange poop:

1. Excess Ingestion Of Beta-Carotene:

This is a common cause of orange poop. 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 color. 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 an orange poop color when they interact with other drugs used in combination with them.

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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 abdominal pain, 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

Orange poop is mostly related to your diet and is generally not an emergency.

So, consider your diet, especially on the day before you noticed the change in color and try to make some adjustments as necessary. If it is due to medication 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 there are accompanying symptoms like abdominal pain, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, or you have been passing orange stools for a few days, please consult your doctor.

How Is Orange Poop Treated?

Treatment is based on the cause and the accompanying symptoms present.

To make a diagnosis, your doctor will examine you and may 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 have other symptoms aside from orange poop or the poop persists, please consult your doctor.

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Zubair Abdulahi, MBBS

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.
Zubair Abdulahi, MBBS
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