Ever had yellow, chalky, green or black stools?
What about reddish stools? Do you ever even look at your BMs?
Certain colors of BMs or stools can be a warning sign of cancer.
“Brown, gray, tan or yellow are all caused by your environment – food you eat, beverages you consume and even the level of stress you are experiencing at that time in your life,” says Sander R. Binderow, MD, FACS, FASCRS of Atlanta Colon & Rectal Surgery.
You should examine what’s in the toilet! It’s unsightly, but you need to know what your bowel movements normally look like in shape as well as color, since certain stool colors are associated with colon cancer.
The color of poop can indicate what’s going on in your body. Poop can come in a variety of colors.
Any shade of brown stools –
This is normal.
Green poop –
Normal. Don’t panic. It’s not cancer. Bowel movements actually start out as green.
There are two chief causes of green poop: green foods, and quick transit time of the stools through the large intestine.
Leafy green vegetables, cucumbers, green food coloring and iron supplements can turn poop green.
Quick transit time doesn’t give bile enough time to break down completely, thus retaining stools’ original green color.
Yellow poop –
It’s not cancer. It’s fat in your bowel movement. Fatty stools also float.
Light colored or white stools –
This indicates lack of bile in the bowel movements, possibly caused by a bile duct obstruction.
Drugs for diarrhea can also cause a light color. But see a doctor, because a bile duct can be blocked by liver cancer.
Black or tarry stools –
SEE DOCTOR. This can have serious as well as harmless causes.
“If blood enters the gastrointestinal tract higher up in the stomach, small intestine or even higher up in the colon, the blood itself is digested before it exits the anus, and digested blood turns this tar or black color,” says Dr. Binderow.
“Black indicates blood being absorbed higher up in the gastrointestinal tract.”
Black bowel movements can mean a bleeding ulcer, gastritis or esophageal tear from vomiting.
On the other hand, iron supplements can blacken bowel movements.
So can anti-diarrheal drugs, black licorice and blueberries.
Red or maroon stools –
SEE DOCTOR. This could mean several life-threatening medical conditions including colon cancer.
“Maroon is lower in the intestine, and red is even lower, but all need to be checked by a doctor,” says Dr. Binderow.
“There should be no blood in your stool. It could be hemorrhoids, but it could be more serious, so this should always be addressed with your doctor.”
Red in poop can also point to anal fissures, bleeding of the diverticuli, inflammatory bowel disease, and of course, colon cancer.
If you see blood in your bowel movements, see a doctor promptly.
Bleeding means something is WRONG.
However…your bowel movements may appear “red” and not have any blood in them.
Bright reddish stools can result from eating foods with red dyes like beverages, gelatin and popsicles.
Bright red poop can also be caused by red licorice, tomato juice, tomato soup and BEETS !
You wouldn’t think beets, with their dark purple color, could cause bright red stools.
But extracted beet juice is one of the brightest reds you’ll ever see.
Beets give BMs more of a crimson “ribbon” around them that intertwines with them, versus literally changing their color.
“Clay” color –
“If the clay is a red clay, this again could be caused by blood in the stool,” says Dr. Binderow.
Liver and pancreatic cancer, not just colon, can alter the color of stools, making them a “clay grey.” See a doctor rather than wondering about it!
By being visually acquainted with your BMs, you can learn to distinguish between food-color-induced redness, and blood-induced redness.
Dr. Binderow explains, “Screening with your doctor could be through colonoscopy. However, if you are averse to getting a colonoscopy, there is a new noninvasive stool DNA screening test that can be done in one’s home and is available by prescription.”
Cologuard is a non-invasive screening test for colon cancer that uses the latest advances in stool DNA technology—detecting altered (mutated) DNA from abnormal cells in a stool sample which could be associated with cancer or precancer.