Yellow Diarrhea: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Diarrhea is liquid poop

Your stool color says a lot about your gut health and overall health. Your gut processes all ingested food materials, absorbs nutrients from the food particles, and discards the waste products which we see as stool. Normal poop is formed, soft and brownish in color.

When one passes frequent loose stools – more than three loose stools in the space of twenty-four hours, it is described as diarrhea. Yellow diarrhea is the passage of frequent loose yellow colored stools.  In this article, we will examine the causes of yellow diarrhea, its treatment, and prevention.

Normal Poop

food table

Your poop is the end result of the undigested food particles you ingested hours earlier. It also contains dead cells, water, fiber, mucus, fat, inorganic salts, and some dead bacteria. When food is ingested, the body breaks it down into the fractions that can be absorbed by the cells in the body. These cells then use the nutrients and energy supplied by the food for their daily activities.

Food is stripped of nutrients and subsequently water as it journeys through the digestive tract – from the mouth to the small and large intestines. At different stages of the digestion process, food is acted on by different chemicals, most notably bile– a greenish substance produced by the liver but stored in the gall bladder.

Bile aids the digestion of fatty meals. In fact, it is essential to the digestion of all fats that we consume. When food mixed with bile reaches the latter ends of the large intestine, bacteria present in this part discolors it, which makes it change to brown (from the original green color). This is the normal color of poop.

Liquid poop occurs due to an excess in the fluids leaving the large intestine. This may be because the food is hastily passed down the intestines, an excess of fluids from the small intestine or the inability of the large intestine to absorb water effectively. It may be a result of your diet or a gut infection.

Passing frequent loose stools may be dangerous because it may lead to dehydration – a state where your body has less water than is essential. It may be life-threatening when severe because a large amount of the total body water is being lost in the stools.

Causes Of Yellow Diarrhea

Diarrhea is liquid poop

A change in the color or frequency of poop is often met with worry, especially if it persists. It may be pretty harmless and mildly disconcerting for some but seen as a great source of discomfort and worry to others. There are many causes of yellow diarrhea, ranging from harmless to life-threatening. Below are some common causes.

1. Diet

colored food

Your diet affects your poop color, texture, and quantity. Eating food items with coloring may cause you to pass yellow stools. These food items, such as candy, carrots, turmeric, sweet potatoes or processed food items may cause you to pass yellow stools but is usually short-lived.

2. Liver and Gall bladder diseases

liver disease

In Liver cirrhosis and inflammation (called hepatitis), the liver fails to produce sufficient bile to help the body digest fatty acids, causing these food items to pass through the gut largely unchanged, causing the poop to be discolored. In other instances, the liver produces enough bile but there may be a problem with its delivery due to a gall bladder stone, thus reducing the bile that gets into the intestines for digestion.

3. Celiac Disease

gluten

This is an autoimmune disease that causes some food particles to pass undigested through the digestive tract. In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system inadvertently attacks the body. Celiac disease affects gluten digestion (a protein found in food items such as barley, wheat, and rye).

When you ingest these food items that contain gluten, the body attacks the cells in the small intestine, damaging them and ensuring that these food items are not digested. It is more common in the white population and runs in families.

4. Pancreatic Diseases

pancreas

The pancreas is an important organ in digestion. It produces chemicals called enzymes that help break down food in the intestine. When diseased, the process of digestion is less efficient and you may pass yellow, bulky stools. Common diseases that affect the pancreas include pancreatitis (acute and chronic), pancreatic cancer, or cystic fibrosis.

5. Infection of the Digestive Tract

gastroenteritis

An infection of the digestive tract may cause the passage of yellowish stools. Disease-causing entities are ingested in unclean or contaminated food or water. One of the common causative organisms is Giardia. In addition to causing yellow stools, you may also pass foul smelling farts, feel nauseous and have stomach cramps.

Treatment

medical testing

Before treatment, your doctor will interview you, taking note of the onset of your yellow diarrhea, the frequency of stools, as well as other complaints. Your doctor will then proceed to examine you before requesting for some tests which may include a blood test to assess your blood counts, stool test and culture to check if your symptoms are of an infectious origin, ultrasound scan or computed tomography scan.

These will lead him/her to make a diagnosis and give adequate treatment and care. Stress and anxiety may also cause you to have yellow diarrhea, if this is suspected, your healthcare provider may refer you to a mental health expert.

Treatment is tailored to help you revert to optimum health. It is offered via medications, lifestyle decisions, and dietary modifications. In severe cases, you may require surgery. Once treatment is completed, you should be back to your normal health or as close to it as possible.

In the immediate period, however, your healthcare professional will assess your level of dehydration and then advise you to drink more fluids or set up an intravenous drip for you. Thereafter, medications are prescribed as appropriate. You should see your doctor immediately if:

  • You develop sudden severe stomach pain
  • You are dizzy
  • You have foul-smelling stools or farts
  • You have a fever
  • You are confused
  • You have persistent or recurrent symptoms
  • You have stool mixed with blood

Prevention

 

properly cooked meal

Here some tips to prevent you from developing yellow diarrhea

  1. Eat properly cooked meals wherever you are but especially when you are abroad
  2. Include more fiber in your meals
  3. Avoid triggers in your diet. This is especially important if you have allergies to a particular food item, such as gluten in celiac disease.
  4. Avoid eating food items with lots of coloring
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly when you go to the toilet and before preparing or eating food.

Conclusion

doctor-patient

In conclusion, yellow diarrhea is usually a consequence of your dietary choices. In some cases, it is a pointer to an underlying and potentially worrisome disease affecting the gut or the whole body. It is imperative to go see a doctor if you have yellow diarrhea especially if it is a recent change. You should also follow the aforementioned steps in order to prevent yourself from passing yellow colored stools.

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