The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2

 

Lake Mary Clinic and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

 

 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option #2 or (561) 510-3833

Significance of Stool Color in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, examination of the stool (purisha) is a diagnostic tool used to understand the health of the digestive and excretory systems in the body. If digestion and absorption are functioning normally, the stool is well-formed resembling a soft, ripe banana with a light mucous coating and it will generally sink in water (though this is variable and is a minor diagnostic feature). Although many aspects of stool can be discussed in great detail (color, shape, consistency, color, odor, volume and frequency), this article will deal with stool color.

So, what exactly is feces? About 75% of feces is water, and the remaining 25% is made up of a variety of waste that is being eliminated from your body: undigested food pieces, bacteria (both dead and live), fiber, mucous, proteins and mineral salts.

Brown

What is the normal color of stool? The typical color is medium to dark brown. This brown color occurs because of bilirubin, which is formed when red blood cells break down in the liver. Bilirubin is initially green as it is secreted into bile and turns brown by the time it enters the large intestine.

But there are a number of other factors that influence the color of your feces, the most influential of which is your diet. Below are some reasons for color changes. If the change in color occurs in more than one bowel movement, it’s important to see your physician because it may signal the presence of a medical condition.

Red or Black

Red or black coloring in your stool can be alarming to see because it may be due to bleeding, which may come from the upper (black) or lower (red) gastrointestinal tract, a bleeding ulcer, hemorrhoids or due to straining because of constipation. Because bleeding is a possible cause, red or sticky black stool should prompt a visit to your doctor, but don’t panic; there are also several dietary causes for these colors; but “stickiness” should raise a concern. Anyone who has had the pleasure of gathering cow dung cakes to build a traditional furnace for kajjali or other metallo- or mineral Ayurvedic preparations, knows that healthy cow stool never sticks to your hand because it is never sticky. Neither is healthy human feces.

Eating a significant amount of food with red coloration, such as beets, cherries, red jello, red Kool-Aid and tomato soup, can cause reddish stools. Black stools may occur in response to certain medications, such as iron pills or bismuth (e.g. Pepto Bismol), or foods such as licorice, grape juice, blackberries or blueberries.

Green

Green stool may be caused by excess iron in your diet. If not digested properly digested, iron actually stains the poop green. Green, leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll that also could be coloring the stool green, as could green gelatin.

Sometimes green stool occurs when the child has diarrhea. If stool passes through the large intestine too fast for bilirubin to change color, it may result in green poop.

Yellowish

When stool is yellowish, it’s sometimes because of antacids or excessive milk consumption. However, it may also indicate problems with the gallbladder or liver. If yellowish stool is also shiny or greasy, floats and has a strong odor, it may be caused by undigested fat.

Remember, if you experience a prolonged change in the color of your stool (more than three bowel movements), it’s important to talk to your doctor. It could be caused by a giardia infection or other medical conditions.

Orange

If your stool shows orange coloring, it can usually be attributed to foods or medications that you may be taking. Preparations with beta-carotene (such as a form of vitamin A) can cause orange coloring of your stool. Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide can also cause orange stool.

Foods that are high in beta-carotene can have the same orange effect on your stool. These include: carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro and fresh thyme. Lastly any foods that have orange artificial colorings (e.g. jellybeans) can also sometimes cause orange colored stool.

If you can't attribute your orange stool to things you’ve ingested, then it may be caused by a reduced exposure to bile salt. Stool starts out as green, and then turns to a yellow-orange in color before being exposed to bile and colonic bacteria which turns the stool brown.

Low exposure to bile salt can be caused by a couple different factors. First, your transit time is so fast that your stool is being pushed through your digestive system too quickly. This quick movement of stool reduces the exposure to bile salt resulting in orange stool.

Second, your liver may not be producing enough bile salt or its bile glands may be obstructed. If it's the latter, you may want to consider liver cleansing, panchakarma treatment or liver de-obstruent herbal medicines (e.g. bhumi amalaki, arogyavarhini, kutki, or milk thistle).