If you are the curious type, you might have wondered why your stool color changes sometimes from the normal color your stool is supposed to have.
The “regular stool color” range will vary slightly from individual to individual, but most healthy stools are usually a shade of brown or green, well-formed, and easily passed.
However, if you notice a significant or persistent change in your stool color, there are many possible causes to consider.
Orange-colored stools can be concerning if you’ve never experienced them before. But in many cases, orange stool is caused by consuming specific foods or supplements.
In these cases, your stool will return to its normal color once these foods or supplements are digested and their waste products eliminated.
However, there are other things that can cause your stool to turn orange.
Understanding the possible causes of orange-colored stool can help you determine whether or not to seek advice or treatment from a medical professional.
Why Stool Color Matters
Stool color can be an important indicator of your bowel health.
Having good bowel health can help support the digestive tract and overall body health.
What different colors mean
Healthy stools are usually brown in color, well-formed, and easily passed.
However, some shades of green stool are also considered normal.
A day or two of irregular stool color isn’t always a cause for concern.
In most cases, a temporary change in stool color is a reflection of a change in diet.
Rarely, a change in stool color can indicate a serious intestinal condition.
Here are some examples of what the different colored stools can indicate:
- Green: Some shades of green stool can be normal or indicate high consumption of green leafy vegetables or foods containing green food coloring. However, green stool may also indicate food that moves through the large intestine too quickly.
- Pale or clay-colored: This can indicate a bile duct obstruction, which can be caused by certain medications, like antidiarrheal drugs (drugs for relieving diarrhea). Gallbladder or liver problems can also cause this discoloration.
- Yellow: Yellow stools can indicate excess fat in stools, which can have several causes, including malabsorption, celiac disease, and other medical conditions.
- Black: Black stools can be a sign of bleeding in the upper intestinal tract. But they can also be a result of taking iron supplements or eating an excessive amount of black licorice.
- Bright red: Bright red stools can be a sign of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, which hemorrhoids can cause. Otherwise, it can also be a sign of consuming beets, cranberries, tomato soup or juice, red gelatin, or red food coloring.
Normal stool color can vary from person to person.
In most cases, healthy stool will be brown or some shade of brownish-green in color.
Causes of Orange Poop
Changes in stool color related to changes in your diet are usually temporary.
However, if your orange-colored stool persists for several days, reach out to your physician for more information.
Most often, the consumption of certain foods will temporarily turn stools orange. These include:
- Foods with beta-carotene: The compound- beta-carotene found in some vegetables and fruits, including carrots, winter squash, tomatoes, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and spinach, can turn stools orange.
- Foods with orange or red food coloring: Food coloring can also temporarily cause orange or red stools.
- Foods with wax esters: In rare cases, there is evidence to suggest that consuming indigestible “wax esters,” like those found in oily fish used in raw fish dishes like sashimi, may cause oily, orange anal leakage.
Medications or supplements
There are some medications and supplements that can temporarily cause orange stools.
These medications and supplements include:
- Cefdinir: This extended-spectrum, third-generation cephalosporin antibiotic is often prescribed to treat ear infections. However, this antibiotic can cause red, orange, or maroon-colored stool. Aside from the temporary change in stool color, there is no evidence that this antibiotic causes any associated gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide: Antacids and other medications containing aluminum hydroxide can temporarily cause stool to turn orange.
- Supplements or foods containing mineral oils: Mineral oils are sometimes used to help relieve constipation. However, they can cause orange, leaky stool.
In some cases, certain medical conditions can turn stool orange:
- Problems with bile: Though less common, digestive problems that affect your absorption or production of bile can also produce orange-colored stools. Generally, not absorbing enough bile or not producing enough bile can cause orange stools. Medical conditions related to bile issues include short-term diarrhea, blocked bile ducts, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), short bowel syndrome (SBS), gallstones, inflammation, cysts, and tumors.
- Cholestasis of pregnancy: Cholestasis of pregnancy affects the liver of a pregnant person and can occur early in pregnancy or during the second or third trimesters. It occurs when the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder is stopped or slowed. Though it usually goes away within a few days after delivery, it can pose risks for the health of a pregnant person and their baby. Thankfully, treatment options can help to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.
When to See a Doctor
Changes in your stool color aren’t always a cause for concern.
If you’ve recently eaten a large amount of foods with beta-carotene, switched to a new supplement with beta-carotene, taken antibiotics or antacids, taken supplements with mineral oils, you may want to wait a few days to see if your stool returns to its normal color.
But if you’re experiencing orange-colored stool that won’t go away, reach out to your doctor for help.
It’s also important to seek immediate medical attention if you notice any additional symptoms, including bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal cramping, or chills.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Cholestasis of Pregnancy. (n.d.).
Constipation and Urologic Problems. (2015).
Correspondence: Cefdinir and Red Stool. (2013).
End Results: What color is your poop and other pressing fecal matters. (2018).
Orange oily anal leakage: a new entity leaked to dietary changes. (2012).
Stool color: When to worry. (2020).