Do you keep seeing “clay colored” as a descriptor of stools on medical sites and wonder exactly what this refers to?

There’s a lot of misinterpretation as to what “clay colored” refers to, even though “clay colored stools” is commonly listed as a symptom for disease, including liver problems.

Definition of Clay Colored Stools

Clay colored indicates light grey, not the dark color of a clay pot,” says Akram Alashari, MD, an abdominal and critical care surgeon for Grand Strand Surgical Specialists, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, Myrtle Beach, SC, and author of THE POWER OF PEAK STATE.

When we think of clay, what we envision will vary from one person to the next. The flower pots that we see outside that contain flowers are made of clay.

What color are they? They are a dull orange, or even what could be described as a dull salmon, or a salmon-tan combination.

Fresh moist clay that you dig up in the ground appears to be a combination of tan/brown and grey, similar to the moist clay that a sculptor works with. And this hue is not light; it’s more of a medium range.

So when a reputable medical site lists “clay colored” as a description for bowel movements, this actually refers to a light grey appearance.

In addition to alcoholic liver disease, here are other causes of this light grey appearance, according to nlm.nih.gov, in no particular order: biliary cirrhosis; benign or malignant tumors of the liver, biliary system or pancreas; bile duct cysts; narrowing of the bile ducts; congenital structural problems with the biliary system; gallstones and medications.