Your poop is a quick and easy way to check the state of your health. Many times, white or pale stools occur when bile cannot get to the small intestine.
Bile is a greenish substance produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder that mixes with food in a section of the small intestine.
This greenish mixture is then converted into a brownish mass due to the action of enzymes and bacteria in the large intestine. This is what gives stool its normal brown color.
If you pass white poop, you should see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
A white, pale or clay-colored stool may mean that there is a decreased amount of bile in the intestines.
This is maybe due to:
- failure of the production of bile.
- a blockage of the ducts that ferry bile from the liver to the gall bladder.
- a blockage in the ducts responsible for carrying bile from the gall bladder to the intestines.
Milk or nuts only diets may cause you to have a pale poop. This is a common cause in children.
2. Liver disease
This may be caused by viruses (chiefly Hepatitis A, B, C viruses), and prolonged excessive alcohol intake (alcoholic hepatitis). Here, the liver is swollen and inflamed. The production of bile and other chemicals can be affected.
3. Pancreatic disease
Several factors may cause pancreatic disease, including heavy alcohol use, genetic disease, and autoimmune disease (when the body fights against itself).
Symptoms that may accompany the passage of pale poop include nausea and vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea. There may also be abdominal cramps and bloating. Pancreatic cancer has also been known to cause pale stools.
These are hardened deposits of bile products that develop in the gallbladder. They can block the flow of bile. A tumor in the gall bladder may also stop the flow of bile through the ducts.
5. Parasites and bacterial overgrowth
Parasites may cause the digestive process to become less efficient, causing a reduction in fat absorption. Bacteria may also breakdown bile salts rapidly before their action is completed.
6. Other Diseases of the digestive system
This includes tropical sprue (a rare disease and thought to be responsible for the damage to the absorptive surfaces of the intestine), and celiac disease (gluten insensitivity causing fat malabsorption). These diseases are responsible for the reduced efficiency of the digestive system which in turn causes a reduction in fat absorption.
Some medications may cause you to have pale stools. These include antibiotics (like tetracycline), painkillers (like ibuprofen), anticoagulants, birth control pills, and antacids. These medications can cause inflammation of the liver (drug-induced hepatitis) but often resolve once the drugs are stopped.
Barium from barium swallow or enema may also cause your poop to become pale.
You should see your doctor if you notice white stools. Other symptoms that may accompany the passage of a discolored poop are very important in making a diagnosis. These symptoms must be reported to your doctor. Some of these symptoms are:
- Dark urine
- Abdominal pain
- Swollen male breasts
- Loss of muscle tissue
- Easy bruising
To make a diagnosis of the specific cause of white or clay-colored stool, your doctor will ask some detailed questions about the passage of these stools, examine you, then order for one or more of the following tests, to make an accurate diagnosis.
- Blood tests to assess liver function and check for infections,
- Computed tomography (CT) scan to check if you have any liver or gall bladder swelling or swelling in any of the ducts
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), a pictorial analysis of the liver and gall bladder
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), the use of a probe with a camera attached to visualize the inside of the pancreas and bile ducts.
- Abdominal ultrasound, for a picture of the state of affected organs
- Stool assessment/culture, for fat quantification in poop and to check for infections.
The treatment depends on the cause.
Treatment can be by medications, dietary advice or surgery to remove or repair possible problems.
In some cases, medications are first attempted before surgery is proffered, like in the case of gallstones. In any case, your doctor will likely prescribe supplements to replace lost vitamins and minerals in your body and advise you to avoid alcohol.
Once treatment is completed, your poop should return to the normal brownish color.
Your poop should normally be a shade of brown. If you are passing out white or clay-colored stools, it is not normal and you should see your doctor.
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