Orange stools: causes and how to avoid them

Orange stools are produced by the consumption of certain foods, supplements and medications. They usually do not require medical attention.

Last update: 27 January, 2022

Orange stools are a variation of the usual color, which usually tends to be dark brown. They are produced by eating foods that contain yellow, red or orange (regardless of whether it is a natural or artificial color), by taking certain medications and in sporadic cases it is associated with medical conditions that alter transit.

Among the most frequent pathologies that cause orange stools are short bowel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and alterations in the bile ducts (gallstones). Learn more about them and how to avoid them.

Causes of orange stool

The color of the stool will depend on the food consumed, the digestion process and bowel movements. During intestinal absorption and digestion, the color of feces varies from green and yellow-orange to brown, the color being dependent on the presence of bile and bacteria.

food and supplements

Orange stools can be caused by eating red, yellow, or orange foods. The coloring of the products can be natural or artificial. In the case of the second, they tend to be more intense and long-lasting tones.

Foods associated with orange stools are those rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotenes are a type of carotenoid substance that varies between red, orange and yellow. It can be found in vegetables, fruits, grains and oils.

Some foods rich in carotenoids are the following:

  • Apricot.
  • Tangerine.
  • Orange.
  • Carrot.
  • Cilantro.
  • Yams.
  • Turmeric.

Additionally, beta carotene can be found in vitamin A. Aluminum hydroxide is another supplement that can also cause orange stools and can be found in the composition of antacids.

Excess consumption of beta-carotene can cause carotenemia. Carotenemia is a benign condition, easily recognizable, and manifested by asymmetric yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes, especially in children.

A diet rich in carrots could lead to stool staining. This is not something pathological.


Medications that can cause orange-colored stools include:

  • Antacids: for its content of aluminum hydroxide.
  • Orlistat: It is a medicine indicated for obesity.
  • Rifampicin: an antibiotic
  • Antidiarrheals: they do not cause orange stools because of their composition, but because they modify intestinal transit.

Alterations related to bile salts

Bile is produced in the liver and transported through the liver ducts to the gallbladder. There it is stored and later transported to the intestine.

Bile salts participate in the digestion of food and a decrease in its production or blockage of its release can cause orange-colored stools.

The decrease in the production of bile is caused by problems in the liver. While the blockage of its release can be due to stones in the gallbladder, inflammation of the bile ducts, cysts or tumors.

The presence of orange-colored urine, yellow skin and mucous membranes, pain in the right part of the abdomen, and stools that turn pale, in addition to orange, should lead to suspicion of biliary involvement.

Pain in the region of the gallbladder is an alarm sign to consult, as there could be a stone obstructing the flow of bile.

Other medical causes

Irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and short bowel syndrome can cause orange stools due to the same mechanism of affectation that modifies the concentration of bile salts. But nevertheless, in these cases the explanation is that the intestinal transit is very fast, This prevents bile from being absorbed properly.

Is it necessary to go to the doctor for orange stools?

In general, when orange stools are caused by excess beta-carotene in the diet, this only has a temporary effect of 1 to 2 days of persistence. Therefore, no medical evaluation or timely treatment is required.

However, if bile salt-related abnormalities are suspected, medical evaluation is required. You should see a doctor when concomitant signs occur, such as abdominal pain or blood in the urine or in the stool itself.

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