Yellow Diarrhea

What is Yellow Diarrhea?

Normal bowel movement can be in any color of brown i.e. from the lightest shade to the darkest. This color is due to digestive agents produced by the liver, digestion of bile salts and those digestive agents being stored in the gallbladder.

In a situation when the stool passed is light brown, yellow brown or entirely yellow, it needs to be diagnosed. In case of reduced bile salts or its absence can eventually lead to excretion of pale or yellow poop. Consumption of food and beverages that are yellow in color and remain undigested can also result in passage of yellow poop. This condition is often referred to as Yellow Diarrhea.

What are the causes of Yellow Poop?

The production of Bile salt is often reduced because of severe liver diseases like cirrhosis and hepatitis. This passage may also be prevented due to blockage of the bile ducts because of gallstones, external compression and inflammation. On the other hand, pancreas is also responsible for production of elements that are important for digestion which includes enzyme lipase that breaks down fats. In case of excess fat being stored in the stool, it can result in yellowish and bulky stool. These along with a few other conditions affecting the intestines interfere in the process of fat absorption resulting in passage of yellow stool.

Causes of Yellow Diarrhea in Babies

Yellow watery stools may be observed in case of babies and there are certain reasons behind such a condition:

  • Firstly, babies are usually fed breast milk, which is digested totally within a short time. Hence, babies pass stools frequently after almost every feed.
  • Secondly, babies have had very little time to be able to have friendly bacteria in their intestines which help in digestion and give the stools their brown color.
  • Thirdly, babies are not fed varieties of food. Their food does not contain fiber and roughage.

However, when they grow up a little, they are fed certain formula food which makes their stool firmer and gives it a darker color. Passing different colored watery stools is common among babies. The situation becomes alarming only if there are symptoms that accompany it.

Causes of Yellow Diarrhea in Adults

  • Reduction in bile – Conditions such as presence of gall stones or tumors that cause blockage in the bile duct, cancer of the pancreas or liver or cysts, cirrhosis and hepatitis may lead to reduction in bile. Thus the stools do not get the normal brown color. Yellow Diarrhea is accompanied by symptoms like itching, darkening of urine, weight loss, jaundice, tiredness, etc. if it is caused due to a reduction in bile.
  • Pancreatic causes – Pancreatic enzymes help in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. If the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient amount of these enzymes, they may cause tumors in the small intestine, cystic fibrosis, congenital abnormalities, blockage in the pancreatic duct, inflammation of the pancreas, etc. This leads to light or yellow colored feces.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – Abdominal pain and need to pass stools frequently are characteristic features of people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. They pass stools in close quickly, thus their stools undergo the process very fast. Hence, the bacteria and other pigments do not have adequate time to work on it resulting in Yellow Diarrhea.
  • Giardiasis – Consumption of giardia lamblia parasite causes an intestinal infection known as Giardiasis. It may be transferred from animals or from one human to another. It can also infect a person who drinks or swims in water that has been contaminated by the parasite or those who come in contact with feces of those who are infected.
  • Celiac diseases – This is an autoimmune disorder in which the tissues of the small intestine are attacked by body’s own immune system. This is a response to the consumption of foods such as barley, rye, wheat, etc. that contain gluten. This disease may be genetically transferred.
  • Gilbert’s syndrome – It is a condition in which bilirubin levels are very high during certain periods. They are characterized by mild jaundice and can also lead to Yellow Diarrhea.
  • Diet – The kind of food consumed affects the stools that are passed. Eating too much of food items such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squashes, etc. may lead to Yellow Diarrhea.
  • Stress – The process of digestion is affected by stress. It hastens the process thus; fewer nutrients are absorbed resulting in passing of yellow stools.

Symptoms of Yellow Diarrhea in babies

  • Dehydration
  • Dry diapers
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale or mottled skin

Symptoms of Yellow Diarrhea

  • Indigestion or cramps in the stomach after meals
  • Excess gas that has a foul smell
  • Stools are greasy and floating
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Skin rashes
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Bloating
  • Slightly elevated temperature
  • Itching
  • Urine passed is darker in color
  • Puss filled stool
  • Fainting
  • Depression
  • Loss of bone density
  • Headache
  • Pain in bones or joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches

Test for Yellow Diarrhea

  • Thorough physical examination
  • Examination of personal medical history
  • Review of medications that may have affected the individual
  • Checking for habits such as smoking or alcohol consumption
  • Observation of change in frequency of bowel movement
  • Examination of stools
  • Complete blood count
  • Examination of liver enzymes
  • Checking of blood chemistries
  • Tests of coagulation
  • Examination for anemia
  • Tests for liver and gallbladder disease
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Endoscopy
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography
  • CT scan
  • Ultra sound
  • MRI

Treatment for Babies

  • Feeding babies with breast milk or formula must be continued normally
  • Babies should be given more water between their meals
  • Doctors must be consulted before giving babies any kind of oral rehydration solution
  • Babies can get dehydrated easily hence they must be monitored carefully

Treatment for Children

  • They should be given a lot of fluids
  • They must have bland food
  • Oral rehydration solution must be given in addition to the normal drinks every time there is a bowel movement

Treatment for Adults

Intake of Fluids

The body loses large amount of fluids as well as important substances like salt and glucose by passing watery stools frequently. This can lead to lowering of the normal blood level, low blood pressure, kidney failure or in severe cases even death. Thus it is important to replace these fluids in the individual’s body by the intake of juices, oral rehydration solutions, water, etc. At least 200 ml of fluid must be consumed in addition to the normal fluid intake every time there is a bowel movement. Fluids such as chicken/beef/vegetable broth, fruit juice, coconut water, sports drinks, ORS, etc. can be taken.

Recommended Diet

While suffering from diarrhea people are advised to eat small meals that are not heavy rather than not eating at all. This is done so that the body has some kind of energy stored in spite of frequently passing stools. To tackle the difficulty of vomiting whatever food is consumed, patients can be given semi liquid food that can be eaten easily and that have more chances of staying in the system. Foods like white rice, cooked eggs, bananas, oatmeal, baked apples, boiled or baked potatoes, hard cheese in small quantities, well cooked or boiled skinless chicken, etc. can be eaten.

What not to eat?

Foods that can worsen the condition of the individual should be avoided. Processed meats, milky food like butter and cream, spicy food, food rich in fats, alcohol, undercooked food, gas producing food like cauliflower, dried fruits, nuts, etc. must not be consumed. Food additives can irritate the bowels, thus caffeine and artificial sweeteners must be avoided.


These are friendly bacteria that are often prescribed to be taken while suffering from diarrhea. They work on the contents of the stomach and help in the formation of healthy stools. They have also proved to decrease the duration of diarrhea in many cases.

When to see a doctor?

In most cases people may be able to recover from diarrhea within a day or two. However symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea without pain, tiredness, blood in stools, loss of appetite, etc. are alarming. A doctor must be consulted if diarrhea remains even after 24 – 48 hours.


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