Did you know that you can tell if your body is facing a health problem just by looking at your poop? That’s right! Although most of us take our cell phones or newspapers to entertain ourselves while we defecate, sometimes it is important to take a look at the stool.
In Ayurveda, examining stools is a way to understand the health of the digestive and excretory systems in the body. There are several factors of the stool – shape, consistency, odor, frequency, volume, and even color – that can determine an underlying health condition. But, the easiest way we can figure out a health problem is by examining the stool color. Here, we talk about orange-colored stools – what causes them and what can be done to get them back to the normal color.
Causes Of Orange Stools
Orange stools are usually harmless and temporary. Diet and medications are two of the most common causes of orange-colored stools.
1. Diet Rich In Beta-Carotene
Diet has a major influence on not just your bowel movements but the color of the poop as well. Beta-carotene is the compound that is responsible for the orange color in certain foods.1 Having too many orange-colored foods can thus cause a change in the stool color. Some of the beta-carotene-rich foods are:
- Sweet potatoes
Some foods and beverages contain added colors. Such foods in shades of red, orange, and yellow can cause the stools to appear orange. Products that use artificial colors include:
2. Medications And Supplements
Sometimes, orange stools may appear as a side effect of certain medications and supplements. When you don’t get enough beta-carotene from natural food sources, you take beta-carotene supplements. While these are taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider, they might still cause the stool to appear orange. Apart from these, antacids that contain aluminum hydroxide and certain antibiotics can also cause the orange color.
3. Irregular Liver Functions
If you cannot attribute the orange stool to anything you have eaten, then a possible cause is reduced exposure to bile salts. Bile salts are responsible for the normal brown color of stools. The salts are green initially and later turn brown by the time they enter the large intestine.
Low exposure to bile salts can be due to two reasons.
- Your stools are being pushed out of the digestive system too quickly, causing the color change.
- The liver may not be producing enough bile salts or there may be an obstruction of the bile glands, affecting the color of the stool.2
How To Treat Orange Stools
If the orange-colored stool is because of excess beta-carotene, stop eating beta-carotene-rich foods. Avoid these foods for a few days until your poop gets back its natural color.
If medicines or supplements are causing the changes in the stool, talk to your doctor and see if you can get a replacement. If there are no side effects other than the color change, wait until you are done with your prescribed dosage and see if the stool returns back to its normal color.
Orange stools are not dangerous and do not indicate a serious health issue. However, there are other colors that may require an immediate visit to the doctor.
Poop Colors That Indicate Health Issues
A healthy bowel movement produces stools that are brown in color. Most changes in stool colors are harmless and usually return to normal in a few days. However, if you notice any of these changes in stool color for over a week, you may be facing an underlying health issue:3
- Red: Consuming too many red-colored foods like beets, tomato sauce and soup, red-dyed cakes, and colorfully packaged breakfast cereals can cause red stools. On a serious note, bleeding in the lower digestive tract can form red stools.
- Black: Black stools can be due to consumption of too many dark-colored foods like blueberries, black licorice, or even iron supplements. However, do not overlook black poop as it could be a sign of internal bleeding in the higher digestive tract.
- Green: Green stool may be the result of eating too many green leafy vegetables that contain chlorophyll and other foods with green-colored additives. However, green stools can also result if the stool passes through the large intestine much faster than usual.
- Yellow: Yellow stools indicate a problem with the liver or gallbladder. Loose, yellow stool is usually an indication of giardiasis – an infection caused by the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia, commonly present in contaminated water.
Any changes in the stools you experience for more than a week should be communicated to your healthcare provider. If you also experience stomach pain, frequent urination, dizziness, or fatigue, visit your doctor immediately.