What is Light Colored Stool?
The normal color of stool is brown, but it may vary because of the diet you take. Having stool that is light colored or pale may not be normal. In most cases, if your stool is light colored, you could have a problem with the biliary system. The bile may not be draining properly. Remember that the color of stool comes from bile. 1,2,3
The biliary system comprises of the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. The bile salts released to the intestines by the liver give the stools a brown appearance. If there is problem with the way bile drains or flows to the stomach, for example, if there is not enough bile being produced by the liver or if there is blockage of its flow and it’s not draining properly, you may have the pale or light colored stool. 1,2,3
Having Pale or Light Colored Stool Infrequently
If you once in a while have a light colored stool, it may not be something to worry about. However, if it is happening frequently, it could be due to a serious illness and it’s best you consider seeing a doctor for check up.
Causes of Light Colored Stool
Many things may make the stool to look light colored and the common causes are such as:
If you are taking medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen and naproxen or certain antibiotics, birth control pills and anabolic steroids, they could result in problems of the liver. You may have a drug-induced hepatitis. This problems entails inflammation or swelling of the liver as a result of medications.
People who drink excessively may suffer from alcohol hepatitis. This is the swelling or inflammation of a person’s liver due to excessive drinking of alcohol.
This is inflammation of the bile ducts found in the liver. When there is irritation or inflammation of the bile ducts, it could block the bile from flowing to the intestines.
Hard deposits called gallstones can accumulate in gallbladder thus blocking the flow of bile.
This is scarring or inflammation of bile ducts. Bile ducts are tubes that help carry bile in body. The cause of sclerosing cholangitis isn’t exactly known, but it is believed that genetic factors are partially responsible.
If a surgery is done to remove gallbladder, it may result to a bile ducts being narrow. The narrowing of bile ducts is known as biliary stricture.
Formation of cysts on bile ducts may prevent bile from flowing efficiently.
Defects in biliary system
Some people may be bone with defects in their biliary system which prevent bile from flowing to the intestines.1,4,5
Light Colored Stool in Children
Some foods may make the color of stool in children to change, however, if a child has light or pale stool, it may be as a result of something serious such as antacids, a milk only diet, blocked bile ducts, liver disease, or barium sulfate arising from barium enema.
Diagnosis of Light Colored Stool
In diagnosing light colored stool, a doctor may ask questions regarding the symptoms you are experiencing and if you have been taking certain medications. The doctor may perform tests to help determine the cause of the change in color of the stool. Some of the tests performed are:
- Blood tests that help check for jaundice or infections
- Computed tomography scans may be ordered to see if your bile ducts or liver are swollen
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography may be done to get detailed images of your biliary system.
- Ultrasound of the abdomen may be done to get a picture of a patient’s organs.
Treating light colored stool is targeted towards solving the problem that is causing it. Depending on the cause, a doctor will provide the right treatment option. Here are some of the treatment approaches a doctor may use if you are experiencing persistent light colored stool as a result of problems with the biliary system.
- If you have discolored stools due to hepatitis caused by drugs or medications, it will usually disappear after you stop or discontinue the use of the medicines.
- Alcohol hepatitis can be treated by stopping taking alcohol. You may also need special diet because alcohol hepatitis causes malnutrition. A doctor may prescribe medications such as pentoxifylline or prednisone to treat the liver inflammation.
- To treat gallstones, a patient may be prescribed medications to dissolve them. Sometimes, a surgery may be needed to remove the deposits if medications are not effectives or when the gallstones are too large.
- A doctor may repair defects in biliary system using surgical procedures. Depending on the defect, the doctor will determine which surgery procedure to use. Before the surgery or repair is done, the doctor may order tests and scans or X-rays to identify the defects.
- While cysts can disappear without the need for treatment, a doctor may decide to remove them. Using laparoscopic surgery, small incisions are done that cause less discomforts and these help in removing cysts that are causing blockage of bile.
- In treating sclerosing cholangitis, a patient may be administered with medication such as prednisone, azathioprine, cholestyramine, cyclosporine, or ursodiol to help manage the symptoms. Surgery may be opted if other forms of treatment are not helping. A patient may also be prescribed with vitamin supplements to help restore what has been lost in body. Your doctor can also prescribe antibiotics.
- A doctor may perform a surgery or a stent to correct the problem of biliary stricture.
- Biliary cirrhosis can be fatal and it has no cure. It’s also not know what causes biliary cirrhosis. In treating biliary cirrhosis condition, doctors aim at managing the symptoms and preventing complications. Your doctor may prescribe medicines such as cholestyramine use to treat itching. The doctor may also administer ursodiol drug to help remove bile in bloodstream. Because having bile flow problems could result in fatty stools, a doctor may advise that you take vitamins D, E, A, and K to help replace the lost nutrients in fatty stools. You may also be given calcium supplements to prevent having bone density loss.1,5
While some causes of light colored stool may not be prevented, others can be. If the problem is caused by hepatitis, you may need vaccines to prevent the condition. If alcohol has results in inflammation of the liver, you may want to stop drinking excessively. In case there is no known cause for light colored stool, you may want to ensure you have a healthy bowel movement by having a balanced diet that contains high amounts of fiber.
- What Causes Pale Stools? http://www.healthline.com/symptom/pale-stools
- Stool Color, Changes in Color, Texture, and Form. http://www.medicinenet.com/stool_color_changes/article.htm
- Stool color: When to worry. http://www.mayoclinic.org/stool-color/expert-answers/faq-20058080
- Pale or Clay-Colored Stools. http://healthtools.aarp.org/health/stools-pale-or-clay-colored
- Clay-colored stool or pale stool in adults: Causes and treatments. http://www.belmarrahealth.com/clay-colored-stool-pale-stool-adults-causes-treatments/