stool discoloration

This morning I had a consultation with one of my patients. She has been suffering from a chronic liver disease. All things fine, she suddenly brought in a conversation about stools. 


Now, the thing is, a conversation related to stools with her was happening for the first time. She mentioned that she has been observing dark stools, also known as melena, with a foul smell for a long time. She didn’t enquire about this to me because she felt it was natural/normal. 


And here I was shocked! 


Hence, I thought it was important to talk about stool discoloration in my community. Similar to that patient, many of us must have been ignoring these subtle symptoms our body would be giving us. And this little ignorance would have led to severe conditions later. 


Trust me, the human body is amazing. It gives signals, it’s on you whether you can analyse it or not. Stool discoloration for that matter, is also a signal and  let’s understand how! 


What is Stool Discoloration? 


Normally, the colour of the stool is brown. It’s because of the presence of bile produced by the liver. Now, in the situation above, the lady noticed a black stool. But the changes vary a lot. One can notice red, green, yellow, clay/white coloured stools. 


The root cause? These changes often happen because of some medications, changes in diet, or the presence of blood or excess fat in the stool. 


The point to notice here is that every stool colour has a meaning. For example: 


  • Normal stool colour is brown because of bile juice. There could be a variation in colour consistency, but nothing to fret about. It can happen due to diet, dehydration/some medicines.
  • Red stool colour is red because there could be some bleeding in your lower gastrointestinal tract. 
  • The black stool colour, the one that the lady noticed, indicated the presence of digested blood in the stool. The discoloration happens here because of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Green stool colour, a highly concerning one, happens because of rapid transit through the digestive system.
  • Yellow stool colour is simply a sign of excess fat in the stool.
  • If there’s a lack of bile in the stool, you will notice a white or clay colour.


And the other factors!


  • The lady even noticed a foul odour. So aside from colour changes, one must look for other factors like – consistency and odour. Then, speak it out to your doctor. 


After you have noticed, what to do next?


The above reasons which I have stated are according to the Western perspective. For example, the black stool condition could happen because of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The bleeding happens due to conditions like ulcers, colitis, or cancer. 


What is done after? 


Western medicines, if you are thinking of going for it, you will generally be advised to take iron supplements and have iron-rich foods.


No matter what problems you are facing, Ayurveda knows it all. Even when it comes to stool discoloration. According to Ayurveda, stool discoloration is a result of Vata imbalance.


To give you a quick understanding of what Vata  is, it is one of the three Doshas that is associated with movement (bodily movements), nerve impulses, circulation and elimination (the stool case that we are seeing right now). When there is an imbalance in Vata Dosha, there is either an excess or some deficiency of Vata energy inside the body. Therefore, one faces disruptions in routine functions. 


Other than bowel movements/stool discoloration, some common signs of Vata imbalance are: 

  • Skin dryness
  • Cold extremities or intolerance to weather
  • Irregular digestion
  • Restlessness
  • Fluctuations in energy levels
  • Joint stiffness/pain


Should you bother about addressing stool changes?


Yes. Most of us ignore the subtle signs of our body as normal, but in reality, it’s not.


In fact, in Ayurveda, stool examination is considered essential for understanding digestive health and overall well-being. If there are any bit of changes in the colour, odour or even consistency, it’s a sign. And if analysed quickly, these signs can provide valuable insights into the body’s health and functioning.


What are the Side Effects of Ignoring Stool Changes?


Imagine you ignored the changes. Nothing new and  many of us do this. 


But, remember – you may face serious consequences. 


First, delayed diagnosis of any underlying medical condition. Second, there could be some progression of digestive disorders like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). And let’s not forget the nutritional deficiencies that could happen because of the bleeding that’s happening inside. 


Last is the psychological impact. You will see changes in your stools, you will overthink, and get anxious because of the changes. Hence, in the initial days itself, recognize the changes. Don’t go for self-diagnosis, or googling it out. Your body and your lifestyle are unique. Therefore, proper diagnosis and treatment are much needed.


Are there any lifestyle modifications you can do?


Well yes. Switching to positive lifestyle changes can significantly impact digestive health and help manage stool discoloration. Try: 


  • Modifying your diet: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats contain these. Processed food is a big no-no. Sugary snacks have it when you are waiting for it the most. Fatty meals, avoid it. And keep a food diary. List your potential trigger foods in the diary and also the color changes of the stool. 


  • Staying hydrated: Drink plenty of water. Drink juices. But stay away from Coke or any artificial juice. You can even try herbal teas & coconut water, as these are the best hydrating options apart from water. 


  • Exercising regularly: This should come without saying. Engage yourself in physical activities. The more you move, the better your digestion gets as the bowel movements are stimulated. There’s less risk of constipation. If not the regular ones, try aerobics, strength training, or some flexibility exercises. 


  • Getting adequate sleep: Prioritise getting enough sleep each night. Insufficient sleep can disrupt hormonal balance and affect digestive function. If not 9, aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night to support overall health and well-being.


In conclusion – prioritise digestive health!


Stool discoloration is a sign that your body communicates with you. If you ignore it, problems will pile up. All you have to do is understand the causes of stool changes. And this will happen by seeking proper diagnosis and treatment. 


Remember, poor gut health is the root cause of all diseases. So, when your body gives you a sign, do not hesitate to seek professional help.  


Need to know more? You have us for personalised guidance!  Just reach out now to improve your gut health!

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Consult with Dr. Rekha Radhamony