Yellow Diarrhea: Causes And What It Means

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It’s important that we check our stool, as it can serve as a guide to gut health. It’s a great indicator of our overall health. Okay, it isn’t a pleasant thing to do – but it’s crucial that we do it. 

Sometimes you’ll notice something that’s unusual for your poop, and one of these might be bright yellow diarrhea. 

This can be frightening, so it’s essential that you get some information on this. We’re going to do that today.

We’ll start by examining the causes of yellow stool and then what that means when accompanied with diarrhea. 

Yellow stool can be a sign of a serious condition, but it may also be explained by something far less serious. So, let’s look into this. 

Why Do I Have Bright Yellow Diarrhea?

Well, normally our bowel movements are brown. That’s because of the byproduct of our red blood cells called bilirubin which is made in the liver.

After moving to the gallbladder, it will mix with bile and it’s this mixture that makes it brown. 

However, stools can be different depending on diet, lifestyle and health conditions. If your stool is yellow though, this can sometimes indicate a serious health condition.

There are a few reasons why your poop might be yellow: 

1. Problems With Your Liver Or Gallbladder 

Certain disorders with the liver or gallbladder can cause the stool to turn yellow. Loss of bile salts caused by gallstones, chronic liver disease, or problems in the small intestine where they are normally reabsorbed will cause difficulty in absorbing nutrients.

This can alter the color of the stool. 

2. Problems With The Pancreas 

Pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency could all be factors in changing your stool yellow.

If your pancreas isn’t functioning correctly, it may not produce the usual level of enzymes which are essential in digestion. Fats that are not digested correctly can change your poop and make it appear yellow, loose, or oily. 

Learn more about Pancreas Causes.

3. Dietary Choices 

Particular foods, especially ones high in food coloring, can make your poop yellow.

4. Psychological Factors 

Anxiety, depression and a heightened sense of stress can alter your digestive processes. If transit time through the bowel decreases, your body won’t have time to digest nutrients properly and you’ll end up with yellow stool. 

5. Celiac Disease 

Anybody that lives with Celiac disease and eats foods that contain gluten might end up with yellow stool.

With Celiac disease, people can develop bloating, gas and diarrhea – the diarrhea can often be yellow. 

What If Yellow Poop Is Accompanied By Diarrhea?

Yellow diarrhea can be related to an infection by gut parasites known as Giardia.

It’s possible that it will last a long time and even become a chronic diarrhea but generally it is treated with antibiotics. 

Giardiasis can be spread easily – so it’s important to keep up good hygiene wherever you go.

It can be spread by being in close contact with someone who has, or has recently had, giardiasis. 

You can also get it by ingesting unsafe food and water or by entering conditions that are unclean and poorly sanitised. This is made worse in areas involving animals. 

Diagnosis for giardiasis may involve sending several samples of your stool for analysis.

Children may not exhibit the same symptoms of giardiasis as adults, so it is crucial that if you are worried that your child may have this illness – you seek out medical advice as soon as possible.  

Potential Complications Of Yellow Diarrhea 

As with any diarrhea, dehydration is a very concerning complication. It’s important to remember if you have diarrhea, keep water nearby and replenish your fluids. 

More complications can include malnutrition and weight loss. Since yellow diarrhea can be a symptom of several different conditions, it’s important to check with your doctor.  In most cases, this is nothing to worry about. 

Mention to your doctor if you also have any of the following symptoms:

  • A sudden change in bowel habits or worsening diarrhea 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Bloating 
  • Painful gas
  • Oily or greasy stool

Should I See A Doctor?

If you’re ever worried or notice unusual things with your body, you should always contact your doctor immediately. The absolute red flags in this case can include: 

  • Dizziness or feeling like you might pass out 
  • Confusion 
  • Severe pain 
  • Repetitive vomiting 
  • Blood in the stool
  • Decreased urine output
  • Inability to eat or drink

Are There Any Treatments Available?

Treatments would depend on the reasons behind why you have yellow stool. If it’s a result of Celiac disease for example, your doctor would recommend a gluten free diet. 

If your yellow stool is caused by a high fat diet or foods that are high in food coloring, simply by avoiding these or changing your diet slightly can make all the difference. 

If the yellow poop is caused by one of the more serious gastrointestinal conditions, treatments will be advised by your doctor.

What You’ll Have To Remember 

Diarrhea when chronic and severe can cause extreme dehydration and often, if the person cannot stomach the thought of foods or fluids – they may often avoid drinking water.

However, it is vital that you do consume fluids when experiencing diarrhea. 

With these conditions, it is crucial that you get in contact with your doctor immediately as some of these conditions can be life threatening if left untreated. 

It’s also important that you continue to monitor your stool and tell your doctor if you’ve noticed any significant changes in your bowel habits.

It isn’t the most fun thing to do, but it can save your life if a problem is identified early. 

Keeping fit and healthy is the final thing to remember as it is imperative to maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, which will promote and assist healthy digestion.

Here are other articles on stool health:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Sheila Jennings

    Sheila Jennings is a 4th-year medical student and also freelances as a content writer on gut health, nutrition, and food. She lives with IBS and has learned how to keep her symptoms at bay through a healthy diet and exercise. She wants to educate others on what they can do to take back control of their gut health and live like they used to.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.