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Orange poop: Why it Happens, How Bad Is It and When To See a Doctor?

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The stage of your bowel movement can say a lot about the stage of your health and overall well-being. A healthy bowel movement will create a well-formed but soft and easy-to-pass stool in brown color.

However, if you notice that your stool is a noticeably different color, it could be an indicator of diet issues and digestive problems. Orange poop is one of them.  

Some unusual stool colors are very worrisome because they suggest a potential health problem, but luckily, orange poop is usually a temporary and harmless color change. Typically, the orange stool is caused by certain food additives and food kinds. Once they are digested and passed through your digestive tract, your orange poop should return to normal.

What Causes Orange Stool Color?

There are different factors that can cause your poop to turn from brown to orange color. Some of the most common ones include:

Orange Foods and Green Food Coloring

In the majority of cases, the cause of orange stool is orange food. To be even more specific, beta carotene is the culprit that gives food an orange color, and it does the exact same thing to your poop.  Beta carotene falls into a type of compound that is called carotenoids. Carotenoids are found in many types of vegetables, fruits, grains, and oils, and they can be red, orange, or yellow.

Some of the most popular types of foods that are rich in beta carotene include:

  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • pumpkin
  • winter squash

Beta carotene is also known as a “provitamin” thanks to its capability to be converted into an active form of vitamin A.  Certain supplements available on the market contain synthetic forms of beta carotene. Just like eating foods rich in beta carotene, taking supplements packed with it can also lead to a change in stool color, orange colored stools in this case. 

There are also certain kinds of food dyes that can turn your stool color orange when they enter your digestive tract, the most common ones are dyes used to make orange soda or orange-colored treats.

Certain Medications

There are some specific kinds of medications, the antibiotic rifampin, for example, that cause the stool color to turn orange or very light-brown in color.

Medications containing aluminum hydroxide can produce orange and gray stool in some people. A good example is antacids.

Underlying Digestive Problems

Some digestive and kidney diseases can be a cause of orange stool color, and these problems can be minor, but they can also be pretty serious.

The normal stool color, which is shades of brown, is caused by the way bile, an acidic liquid produced by the liver to aid in digestion, interacts with enzymes in the stool. If your stool is not absorbing enough bile, it turns light gray or tan, which can happen when you have a short-term diarrhea case or a more severe liver condition.

This also happens with babies, as they sometimes have blocked bile ducts, which leads to orange colored or grayish stool.

What Is the Treatment for Orange Poop?

If you are experiencing orange stool due to a diet rich in orange foods and that is bothering you, you can swap out some of those carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes for other options, but make sure to keep them healthy as well. This swap should achieve the desired effect. The excess beta carotene tends to have a temporary effect on bowel movements, and no treatment is necessary, as there are no issues rather than a discolored stool.

However, if the color of your stool has become orange due to you taking medication, and if you are experiencing other unpleasant side effects, talk with your doctor about this matter.

Switching up your medication can be a viable option. However, suppose the medication works for you. In that case, if the color is not bothering you and you are not experiencing any other side effects, wait until you are done with the antibiotic to see if your stool returns to a normal, healthy color, which it probably will. If it doesn’t, talk to your doctor to advise diagnosis or treatment and provide medical advice.

When To See a Doctor About Orange Poop?

In the majority of cases, the orange stool is not at all a serious condition, and it is not enough to warrant a visit to your health care provider.

However, it is essential to mention that there are some unusual stool colors that are a very valid reason to see a doctor. Some of these colors include black (which can indicate bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract), white (which can be a sign of liver disease), and red (which can suggest that there is bleeding from the lower gastrointestinal tract). If you experience red or black stool, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

If you are taking medication such as rifampin and you experience orange stool as a side effect, that could be an issue. If the orange stool is the only side effect of the medication, then wait to see your doctor. However, if you also experience blood in your urine or stool, sharp stomach pain, dizziness, or other serious complaints, make a visit to your health care provider immediately.

Also, if your stool is an unusual color (orange, red, grey, yellow, tan, or white) and you are experiencing diarrhea for more than a couple of days, make sure to visit your doctor. They will be able to provide professional medical advice and solve that issue as soon as possible. Prolonged diarrhea makes everyday life very complicated, and it puts you at risk for dehydration.

Related Questions:

What causes gold-colored stool?

The stool can turn gold/yellow due to a diet rich in orange/yellow food coloring, carrots, or sweet potatoes. Another cause of orange colored poop may also be a diet high in fats and certain gluten products.

Why is my poop orange, oily and smelly?

Keriorrhea is a smelly, oily, orange stool color that happens when indigestible wax esters are consumed. Wax esters form when a fatty acid combines with a fatty alcohol. The Gempylidae family of fish contains high amounts of wax esters.

Can turmeric make your poop orange?

A high dose of turmeric in your diet can cause foul smelling, light colored, yellowish green, or orange colored stool.

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