It is relatively common for poop to become yellow, but this can be because of several different types of problems, from an intestinal infection to a high-fat diet.
As it can have several causes, after identifying the presence of yellowish stools, it is very important to confirm other characteristics, such as shape and smell, to help the doctor diagnose it more easily.
Below are some of the main causes for yellow poop:
1. High-fat diet
Eating too much fat, such as in fried food, processed products or cured sausages, makes digestion more difficult and speeds up intestinal transit, especially in people who normally have a balanced diet. In these cases, in addition to the stools turning yellow, they may also become more watery because of how quickly they pass through the intestine.
What to do: cut down on fats and processed products, as this will help to regulate the color of the stools. This should get better after 2 or 3 days, however, if the problem persists, other causes should be looked into.
2. Intestinal infection
Another common cause of yellowish stools is an intestinal infection, however, it is also common for other symptoms to appear, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.
In these cases, it is common for poop to appear yellowish because the intestine is inflamed by the infection and so fails to properly absorb the fat from the food. The main cause of this problem is the E. coli bacteria, which can be ingested in undercooked meat and contaminated foods.
What to do: drink plenty of water and eat foods that are easy to digest, such as fruit, boiled white rice, fish and white meats, avoiding red meat as well as fried and processed foods.
3. Liver or gallbladder problems
Diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis or gallstones cause bile, which is the substance responsible for helping in the digestion of fats, to reach the intestine in smaller amounts. In addition to changing the color of the stools, these diseases may also cause abdominal pain and yellowing of the eyes and skin.
What to do: if these symptoms appear, go to a GP or gastroenterologist to confirm the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment.
4. Pancreas problems
Changes in the pancreas can cause poor digestion, turning poop whitish or yellowish, as well as causing them to float and look foamy. The main problems that affect this organ are pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis or obstruction of the pancreatic canal.
Problems in the pancreas can also cause abdominal pain, dark urine, poor digestion, nausea and weight loss.
What to do: If these changes occur, especially if accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite, go to a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and start appropriate treatment.
Giardiasis is an intestinal disease caused by the Giardia parasite and can cause symptoms such as explosive and watery diarrhea with foul-smelling poop, nausea, headache, dehydration and weight loss.
What to do: If these symptoms appear, go to a doctor, pediatrician or gastroenterologist for a stools test to confirm the presence of this parasite in the intestine and start appropriate treatment, which is usually done with antibiotics.
6. Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a severe intolerance to gluten that causes inflammation and intestinal malabsorption when foods are eaten containing wheat, rye, or barley. These foods cause both the poop to move faster through the intestines and more fat in the stools, turning them yellowish.
People with celiac disease usually show improvement in their symptoms when they eat a gluten-free diet.
What to do: It is important to see a gastroenterologist to confirm the diagnosis of the disease and start a gluten-free diet.
7. Use of medication
Weight loss medication, such as Xenical or Biofit, works by reducing the absorption of fat in the intestine and may also cause changes in the color of the stools and increase intestinal transit.
What to do: If any of these drugs are being taken, see the doctor who prescribed them for guidance on the correct use and possible side effects, or to switch them for another medication.
When to go to the doctor
In most cases, yellow poop appear after eating meals high in fat and generally improve in less than a week. Go to a doctor, however, if it takes more than a week to disappear or if other symptoms appear, such as fever, abdominal pain, weight loss, bloated belly or blood in your stools.
What are your stools made of?
Stools are mostly made up of water and, to a lesser extent, bacteria from the intestinal flora, fluids that help digest food, such as bile, and food that hasn’t been digested or absorbed, such as fibers, grains, and seeds.
So, dietary changes, the use of medications or some intestinal problems may cause poor digestion, causing the fat in the diet not to be absorbed and making the stools yellow.