Yellow Poop: 9 Causes (& When to See the Doctor)

Updated in February 2024

Yellow poop is a relatively common finding that can occur with a diet rich in fatty food. It can also occur with weight loss medication, as these tend to alter intestinal flow and decrease fat absorption in the intestines, which can lead to color changes.

Nonetheless, yellow stool may also be a sign of a health condition like celiac disease, an intestinal infection or a problem in the pancreas, liver or gallbladder. These conditions usually present with other symptoms, like abdominal pain, fever or loss of appetite. 

Because there are many different causes for yellow poop, it is important to monitor for other changes to stool, like changes in consistency and smell. If the yellow poop persists and does not resolve on its own, or if it presents with other symptoms, like blood in the stool, diarrhea, or fever, you should see a doctor for further assessment. 

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Causes of yellow poop

These are some of the main causes of yellow poop:

1. High-fat diet

Excessive intake of fatty foods (like processed or fried food) can make digestion more difficult. These types of foods flow quickly through the intestinal tract, even in people with relatively healthy digestive systems. This can turn stools yellow and sometimes give them a watery consistency. Learn more about the causes of yellow diarrhea

What to do: Reduce your intake of fatty, processed food products. Improvements can be seen within 2 to 3 days of a diet change, however if the problem persists, you should consult a doctor.

2. Intestinal infection

Another common cause of yellow stools is an intestinal infection. These types of infections are often accompanied by other symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea. 

In these cases, poop usually turns yellow because the inflamed intestines are unable to properly absorb fat from consumed food. The most common type of infection is from E. coli bacteria, which can be ingested from undercooked meat and contaminated food or water.

Learn more about the symptoms of an intestinal infection and what can cause one. 

What to do: If an infection is present, drink plenty of water and eat food that is easy to digest, such as fruit, boiled white rice, fish and white meats. Avoid eating red meat as well as fried and processed foods. Check out other home remedies for intestinal infections.

3. Gallbladder problems 

Gallbladder dysfunction, from gallbladder stones or inflammation of the biliary ducts, can lead to reduced amounts of bile reaching the intestines. Bile is a substance responsible for helping in the digestion of fats, as well as the transportation of consumed fat to the intestines. Reduced amounts of bile reaching the intestines can decrease the typical brown color of stool, making them appear more yellow. 

Learn more about what causes gallstones and how they are treated. . 

What to do: If you suspect you may have a gallbladder issues, see your family doctor for assessment and treatment. The doctor may order an ultrasound to inspect for any swelling, gallstones or other abnormalities. Patients with mild gallbladder symptoms may benefit from a gallbladder diet, which is typically low in fat. 

4. Liver problems 

Liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, can lead to bile accumulation in the liver. This can worsen inflammation and scarring, which reduces optimal liver functioning, feeding the cycle of bile build-up. Liver problems are typically associated with abdominal pain, and yellowing of the eyes and skin. You can learn more about the symptoms of liver disease by checking out our online symptom checker. 

What to do: If you suspect your yellow stools may be related to a liver issue, you should consult a doctor or gastroenterologist for assessment and treatment. 

5. Pancreatic problems

Changes in the pancreas can lead to poor digestion, resulting in discolored poops (white or yellow) or causing them to float and look foamy. Problems that can cause stool changes include pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis or obstruction of the pancreatic ducts.

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, see a doctor for assessment and to start appropriate treatment.

6. Giardiasis

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia. This parasite can cause symptoms such as explosive, foul-smelling diarrhea, nausea, headache, dehydration and weight loss. Learn more about symptoms of intestinal infections.

What to do: If these symptoms appear, seek medical attention from a doctor, pediatrician or gastroenterologist. He or she may order stool testing to confirm the presence of this parasite and to start appropriate treatment (typically with antibiotics).

7. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a severe intolerance to gluten (a protein found in foods like wheat, rye or barley) that causes inflammation and leads to malabsorption of nutrients in the small intestine. Foods containing gluten cause poop to flow faster through the intestines, resulting in more fat content in stools, turning them yellow. 

People with celiac disease usually show improvement in their symptoms when they opt for a gluten-free diet. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of a gluten intolerance. 

What to do: If you suspect you have a gluten intolerance, it is important to see a gastroenterologist to confirm a diagnosis of celiac disease and to start a gluten-free diet.

8. Medication side effect

Weight loss medication, such as orlistat or some probiotic supplements, work by reducing the absorption of fat in the small intestine. This may result in quicker intestinal flow and therefore changes in stool color. Read more about what your poop color means and whether you should see your doctor. 

What to do: Ensure you are taking this medication as directed by your doctor. Be sure to ask questions about its use, side effects or any other medication options.

9. Stress

Stress can cause an increase or decrease in appetite, which can lead to less healthy food choices. Periods of high stress or anxiety can also interfere with the body’s ability to digest food. This can lead to increased intestinal movements, which may interfere with adequate nutrient absorption, causing diarrhea and yellow stool. 

What to do: To manage stress, you should eliminate external factors contributing to it when possible. You may find alternatives methods to work or study at a calmer pace. Some examples include exercising, time management, and using natural analgesics. If you feel very overwhelmed by stress and are unable to complete your activities of daily living, you should see a doctor for further evaluation, to assess a need for prescription medication.   

Check out these natural herbs to help soothe stress and anxiety at home. 

When to see the doctor

In most cases, yellow poop appears after eating meals high in fat content, and it will generally resolve in less than a week. However, you should see the doctor if color changes last for over a week, or if you have any other symptoms like fever, abdominal pain, weight loss, bloating or blood in your stools.

Read more about what to do for diarrhea during pregnancy