Green, Orange, Or Other Color Stools

What Causes Unusual Stool Color?

Unusual stool color can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'very serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose unusual stool color, 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 "unusual stool color" as a symptom.  Here are five possibilities:
  • Parasite Infection
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Rapid Stool Passage

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:
very frequent stools
skipping most meals
dark urine color
having had a small bowel resection
elevated lymphocyte count
bloating caused by many foods
bowel movement changes
significant abdominal distension
occasional unexplained fevers
occasional mucus in stools
frequent episodes of diarrhea
significant abdominal pain
... and more than 70 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of unusual stool color:
Cause Probability Status
Crohn's Disease 94% Confirm
Rapid Stool Passage 18% Unlikely
Irritable Bowel Syndrome 2% Ruled out
Gallbladder Disease 1% Ruled out
Parasite Infection 1% 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:
Other than black/tarry, pale or blood-colored stools, do you regularly have stools of any other unusual color? Do not include color that results from obvious causes such as drugs, food colorings or colorful foods.
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Yes, green
→ Yes, orange
→ Yes, other color (please add a note)
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no unusual stool color, green stool color, orange stool color or unusual stool color, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Gallbladder Disease

Gallstones block the bile ducts, which deliver bile from the gallbladder (where it is stored) to the intestines, where it helps to digest fat.  One effect of bile is to turn stool brown.

Rapid Intestinal Transit

A green or greenish stool is usually due to rapid transit of food through the intestines.  Bile is green and gradually changes to brown through the digestive process, which takes time.  If the food is moving too fast, there is not enough time for this chemical change to take place.

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