Orange poop, just like most other unusually colored excreta, could very well be the result of food or medication that one had consumed in recent past. However, it could also be a symptom of certain alarming diseases. It is impossible to determine the exact cause without proper diagnostic tests and it’s only after the necessary tests are performed, that the physician can attribute the cause of the color change in poop to some sort of a disease or disorder.
What causes poop to turn orange?
1. High beta carotene food — If one consumes a large amount of vegetables or fruits like sweet potatoes, carrots, collard greens, cilantro, fresh thyme, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, mangoes, pumpkin, apricots or orange juice, he/she may experience orange poop. All the food items mentioned above are very rich in beta carotene which is actually good for the eyesight. The best fact about this as a cause behind orange poop is that the orange color caused by the beta carotene foods is nothing serious and is certainly not something that would harm one’s health. Also, the color wears off within a short time under normal circumstances.
2. Preserved food items — If one is in the habit of frequently consuming processed, colored or preserved food items like soft drinks, jellies, junk food, artificial fruit juices as well as any other food product that contains artificial colorants, that person might excrete orange poop soon afterwards. What happens is that the human body is usually unable to absorb these artificial colorants and hence they are flushed out as waste. Orange poop caused by artificial colorants are not usually harmful to one’s health either, but consuming too much of preserved food might affect the liver in a derogatory manner.
3. Escolar — Consumption of large quantities of the fish escolar, is quite a common reason behind orange poop. Although the escolar is not a poisonous fish by any means, it is actually exceedingly rich in fat. The human digestive system is not always able to break down the fat ingested during the consumption of escolar and process it; as a result, the unutilized fat molecules end up being excreted out. Therefore, if you want to eat escolar without pooping orange poop the next day, it is advised that you eat it in small servings or grill it until the fat is mostly gone.
4. Tests — If someone has recently undergone diagnostic tests such as the CT scan, MRI scan, Nuclear Meds Study or anything similar to these tests, certain medications used for the purpose of diagnosis might be the actual culprit behind the appearance of orange poop soon afterwards. Fortunately, it is a harmless side-effect and is generally gone within the span of a day or two.
Unfortunately, there are certain more serious and even life-threatening reasons behind the occurrence of orange poop as well.
5. Insufficient bile production — Bile is a fluid produced by the liver and secreted in the smaller intestines; it is the primary reason behind the pitch board brown color which is generally characteristic of normal stool. If due to some reason, bile production is insufficient or if the secretion is obstructed by some sort of a growth, the color of stool might change to orange. There are many reasons behind the obstruction of bile secretion in liver; some of them are more serious than the others.
6. Liver diseases — There are several kinds of liver diseases that affect the cells and tissues of the liver and might stop liver function altogether. Acetaminophen toxicity, Alcoholic liver disease, Cysts, Cirrhosis, Cancer, Fibrosis, Hepatitis, Jaundice, Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis are some of the problems that may obstruct the release or stop the production of bile.
Acetaminophen toxicity usually is caused by over-consuming acetaminophen- a substance present in medicines such as Tavist Allergy/Sinus Caplets, Vicks Day Quil, Tylenol, etc. Acetaminophen toxicity is known to cause itchy skin, dark urine, flu like symptoms and of course, orange feces.
Alcoholic liver disease develops from excessive consumption of alcohol over a long period of time. Abdominal pain and tenderness, Ascites (Excess fluid between the membranes lining the abdomen and abdominal organs), fever, fatigue, jaundice, change of color in poop and dry mouth are all symptoms of the alcoholic liver disease.
Hepatitis is quite a common liver disease and one of the major causes behind the appearance of orange poop. This gastroenterological disease is responsible for inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is actually not just the name of one disease, but a group of diseases. A common factor between all of the hepatitis (A to E) disorders are that the liver cells are damaged because of the chemicals that are being produced and released into liver while someone is under the influence of hepatitis. The most dangerous of the hepatitis disorders, chronic Hepatitis B also makes the liver extremely prone to cancer. Though not exactly the same, jaundice could actually be a symptom of Hepatitis. Abdominal pain associated with the disease is largely brought on due to enlargement of the liver. Appearance of dark/yellow urine, orange poop and diarrhea are some of the symptoms of the disease.
Primary liver cancer usually remains undetected until it has reached an advanced stage because the symptoms are not exhibited early on.. Hepatitis and cirrhosis are two liver diseases that usually lead to liver cancer, hence if one has any of the symptoms of hepatitis or cirrhosis, consulting a physician is advised.
Gallstones are found to obstruct the secretion of bile. After production by the liver, bile is usually stored in the gallbladder. Sometimes however, the bile hardens right inside the gallbladder, giving rise to gallstones. As both the production and the secretion of bile are now obstructed by the existing gallstones, they may very well be the direct cause of orange poop.
Other liver diseases like cirrhosis, cysts, fatty liver disease may also cause an obstruction in bile production and as a result may cause orange colored stool. If these diseases are not treated early on, they might lead to life threatening conditions.
7. Gastroesophageal reflux disease — GERD is a serious condition that is brought on when bile starts to reach up to the esophagus. What this means is that the bile would not reach the stool anymore as most of it would be going the opposite way, trying to come out via the esophagus heartburn, sore throat, pain in the chest, heavy coughing, wheezing etc are symptoms of this disease. If these symptoms continue, medical help might be necessary.
How to prevent it?
In order to prevent orange poop, one must at first find out the reason behind the anomaly in the first place. Reduction in the intake of medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen will be helpful in preventing the appearance of orange poop, provided that they were the original reasons.
A high fiber diet with 25-30gm of fiber a day is essential for maintaining healthy bowel movements. Also, advanced supplementation like probiotic drinks and L-glutamine are good not only for the digestive system but one’s overall health as well. Although orange poop from the consumption of artificial colors is nothing to be worried about, one can stop it just by reducing or stopping the intake of food items that have artificial coloring on them.