Pale Stools

What Causes Pale Stools?

Pale stools can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose pale stools, we could:
  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "pale stools" as a symptom.  Here are eight possibilities:
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bile Duct Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Short Bowel Syndrome
  • Liver Congestion
  • Gluten Sensitivity
  • Hepatitis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
processed meat consumption
meal-induced pain for under a week
moderate abdominal pain
moderate alcohol consumption
garlic intolerance
difficulty gaining weight
moderate unexplained weight loss
pale fingernails
gastric bypass surgery
severe epigastric pain
pain medication use
being a recovering alcoholic
... and more than 120 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of pale stools:
Cause Probability Status
Gallbladder Disease 95% Confirm
Hepatitis 14% Unlikely
Short Bowel Syndrome 17% Unlikely
Pancreatic Cancer 0% Ruled out
Bile Duct Cancer 0% Ruled out
Liver Congestion 0% Ruled out
Gluten Sensitivity 0% Ruled out
Pancreatitis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate irregular stools, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Do you have clay-colored (pale) stools?
Possible responses:
→ No / don't know
→ Yes, sometimes slightly pale
→ Yes, often slightly pale, sometimes very pale
→ Yes, my stools are usually/always very pale
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate slightly pale stools, pale stools or very pale stools, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Gallbladder Disease

Pale stools are often due to some form of bile dysfunction.  Bile salts, which are made by the liver and excreted via the bile ducts, make feces the normal brown color.  An inflamed liver (hepatitis) or some kind of blockage in the bile ducts (like a gall stone) can turn stools pale.