Pale or White Stool: Causes and Treatment

19 June, 2020
If you see that your stool is white, you worry, and probably with good reason. In today’s article, we’ll tell you why this could happen and how to treat it, because it requires immediate attention.

Your stool can provide information about the condition of your intestines and digestive system. A change in color could be a warning sign of an infection or a disease. For example, white stool is a clear sign that there’s a health problem-

Normally, stool varies from different shades of brown to even green or black. However, white stool isn’t normal.

Pale or white stool

When your stool is white or pale in color, it indicates you have a problem with your biliary system (the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder). The brown color of your stool comes from the bile salts that your liver secretes.

If your stool is white, it means you have a liver infection that’s slowing your production of bile or you have a bile duct obstruction. Thus, your digestive system may also be unable to absorb fats correctly.

On the other hand, if your stool is light (yellow or gray) and oily, you have a condition known as “acolitis”.

It’s common to experience some sort of problem during your lifetime. As time goes on, there are changes that can range from simple and temporary to alarming and life-threatening.

You should also read: Three Foods with Laxative Properties to Combat Constipation

Causes of white stool

White stool can be the consequence of several things, from the consumption of certain drugs, bad lifestyle habits, or diseases.

1. Medications

A person holding a lot of pills in their hand.

The consumption of certain medications can make your stool white. Antibiotics, in particular, are guilty of this, such as those used to treat infections, such as tuberculosis, or intestinal problems, such as diarrhea.

In addition, anti-inflammatory medications and oral contraceptive pills can also cause white stool. Also, anabolic steroids can cause medication-induced hepatitis and trigger white stool production.

In these cases, these symptoms will usually disappear within a few weeks after you stop taking the medication.

2. Hepatitis

Hepatitis is when your liver becomes inflamed and is usually caused by hepatitis viruses A, B, or C. Unfortunately, hepatitis C is the most dangerous, as it can be mortal.

One of the symptoms of hepatitis is pale or white-colored stool, caused by a liver malfunction.

3. Alcoholic hepatitis

A person saying no to alcohol.

This disease is caused by excessive alcohol consumption. It manifests with liver inflammation. Its severity depends on how much alcohol you drink and how long you’ve been drinking it.

Symptoms include ascites, fatigue, swelling, hepatic encephalopathy, and jaundice. Hepatitis is one of the causes of white stool, and alcoholic or viral hepatitis can result in cirrhosis.

4. Biliary cirrhosis

Biliary cirrhosis is a chronic and irreversible liver disease in the terminal phases. This occurs when your liver cells are destroyed, which causes irritation and inflammation of the bile ducts of the liver.

As a consequence, the flow of bile stops, causing damage to the liver cells. Cirrhosis is the scarring that occurs as a result. One of the many effects of cirrhosis is white-colored stool.

5. Cancer

Cancer cells.

Some types of cancer can cause pale or white stool, accompanied by fatigue. Pancreatic cancer, biliary tumors, and other cancers that block the bile ducts will cause your stool to turn a light yellow or clay color due to the lack of enzymes from the pancreas.

This can also result in fatigue because your food isn’t digested fully and nutrients aren’t absorbed, resulting in possible malnutrition.

6. Gallstones

Gallstones are solidified waste in the gallbladder that eventually obstruct the flow of bile. The stones are made up of hardened cholesterol or bilirubin.

When gallstones are very large, they can block the bile ducts, which liberate bile to the intestines. This causes your stool to become pale.

In addition, if they don’t disappear with medication, surgery may be required to remove them.

7. Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Diagnosis and treatment of white stool.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a disease that inflames the bile ducts or causes scar tissue to form in them. This condition causes a decrease in bile flow, resulting in a lack of color.

However, this disease is treated with medication or surgery.

Diagnosis and treatment of white stool

The appearance of white stool is a serious condition that must be discussed quickly with your doctor, who can provide the correct treatment once the cause has been identified.

The following tests are required to obtain an accurate diagnosis:

  • Blood tests, to determine if there’s some sort of anomaly.
  • A CT scan, to generate imagery of the inside of the body.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a special type of MRI that captures detailed images of the biliary system.
  • An abdominal ultrasound to generate imagery of your organs and verify that everything is in place.
  • Liver function tests.
  • Surgery, in extreme cases; to identify defects in the biliary tract.

Once the cause of while stool is treated, it should return to the normal color. However, if your problem can’t be cured, the stool won’t return to its normal color and further treatment will be needed.

White stool in children: Causes and treatment

White stool in children.

It’s always important to be aware of the bowel movements of your children because they can help you identify health problems. White stool or diarrhea is common in children, sometimes due to milk or other products that they don’t digest well.

When you have children, you should always be aware of the cause of white stool, as well as what the most appropriate treatment might be. Undoubtedly, you should take your child to the doctor as soon as possible once you detect this symptom.

 Discover: Chronic and Acute Diarrhea: Causes and Treatment

Causes of white stool in children

Any of these factors can cause this symptom:

  • Hepatitis.
  • The consumption of cold foods.
  • The quality, quantity, and make-up of what they eat.
  • Poor absorption of food due to a parasite that damages the intestines.

Treatment for white or pale stool in children

The first thing you should do if your child has this problem is to take them to the doctor. They’ll likely test a stool culture.

In these circumstances, the most important thing to do is to have them drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. The child requires a lot of water and mineral salts. Sometimes, germs cause white stool, and antibiotic treatment may be necessary.

Finally, remember that you should never administer anti-diarrheal medications that contain loperamide to your child without a prescription. The same recommendation goes for any other medication a medical professional didn’t prescribe.

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  • Stern TA, Pallais JC, Scharf JM, Schlozman SC. Found in feces: differential diagnosis, workup, and treatment. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2012;14(3):PCC.12f01341. doi:10.4088/PCC.12f01341