Black specks in stool can make you worried as you begin thinking of all the possible abnormal causes of it. So, let’s explore its causes and when to see a doctor.
The moment you notice something biologically unusual you tend to get really paranoid. It may be something as simple as a pimple. You may not have come across black specks in stool that tends to resemble ink.
It is not something that you come across every other day, and you automatically get hysteric. This leads makes us to question what exactly presence of black specks in stool means.
The human stool is commonly referred to as faeces. It is a mixture of water and undigested and/or indigestible food particles discharged from the intestines through the anus in a process called excrement.
The water takes up 75 percent and the solid matter 25 percent of stool. The solid matter consists of dead bacteria, cellulose, shed off cells from the mucous membrane of the alimentary canal, protein, bile pigments, dead white blood cells, fats and inorganic substances such as salts.
The stool is normally brown due to the bile pigment. Brown stool means that the individual is in good health and there should not be a cause for alarm. But sometimes there may be some change in colour.
This may be attributed to your diet or medication. For instance, green stool may be a result of eating green leafy vegetables, diarrhoea or food with colouring. Yellow stool may be a result of absorption of fats and cholesterol. On the other hand, black stool may be a result of intake of iron supplements or intestinal bleeding.
To know if there should be any cause for alarm, it is important for you to know what causes black dots in the stool. They may appear like ground coffee, dark patches and thin tiny flakes.
Causes of Black specks in stool:
The digestive system sometimes has challenges digesting some foods. Such include seeds and skins of fruits. Black beans, plums, blackberries and blueberries are some of the foods that may leave specks after being digested.
The digestive system may also fail to digest artificial dyes present in foods. A good example that makes the stool black is liquorice.
If the colour change is caused by the above, then there should not be a need to worry. If it lingers on, then it only means that you need to make adjustments to your diet.
You may have been given prescriptions for intestinal medications or just acquired them over the counter. Bismuth is a good example of a compound in intestinal medications that will temporarily change the colour of your stool. The compound mixes with sulphur present in the saliva causing the black colour. The colour should, however, only last a few days.
Doctors suggest that the longer the blood stays in the gastrointestinal tract, the darker it gets. What does this mean? It shows that darker blood in stool is as a result of upper intestinal bleeding.
On the other hand, brighter blood present in stool is due to bleeding I the lower tract. Intestinal bleeding is caused by cancerous lesions, inflammation and tear in the upper intestinal tract. Sometimes black specks in stool have a “coffee grounds” appearance. Generally, the longer blood travels in the GI tract, the darker it tends to be in the stool.
So, physicians consider bright red blood in the stool like lower GI tract bleeding, and darker blood is usually due to upper Gastrointestinal tract bleeding. Inflammation, a tear, or even a cancerous lesion can cause bleeding to occur in the upper GI tract.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen sometimes cause irritation and bleeding that lead to having black specks in stool.
Certain organisms live within a host, using up the host’s resources for its life cycle. They are known as parasites. They are present in contaminated food, water, waste, soil and blood. The waste products and eggs of the parasites may manifest in your stool as flakes.
The stool is often used in lab tests as an indicator of liver problems. How so? Liver disease causes a condition whereby production of bile is either hindered or reduced causing the stool to be pale instead of brown.
Liver disease also causes portal hypertension and oesophagal varices. This is a condition that causes bleeding in the alimentary canal that in turn cause black and tar-like stool. Oesophagal varices are characterised by swollen, abnormal veins in the oesophagus.
The varices occur when a blood clot in the liver blocks normal blood flow. This causes blood flow to be redirected to smaller vessels that are unable to manage large volumes of blood. These vessels fail to withstand the pressure causing rupture and leak causing serious bleeding.
The mentioned are the causes of black specks in the adult stool. Babies may also have black dots in their stool. The causes tend to differ.
Causes of black specks in stool of babies:
Meconium is the first stool that an infant passes. It consists of materials taken in during the gestation period. It is the primary cause of tarry stool in infants. This is because it lacks digestive bacteria that aid digestion.
Meconium is present only up to a few days after the baby leaves the womb. If the baby still has a black stool for more than 7 days, then chances are, it is not meconium. Older babies will, therefore, have the same causes for black flakes in the stool as those of adults.
However, it is important to pay more attention to changes in stool colour for babies as they are more susceptible to diseases and infections.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR:
Once you notice black specks in stool and you have no history of any severe illness, then you should give it about 72 hours for it to disappear. However, it is imperative that you seek medical attention in the following cases.
- If you have had liver problems before
- You are having diarrhoea and/or you are having chronic vomiting
- You have yellow or green eyes or skin
- You are having symptoms of parasitic infections. The symptoms may include worms in the stool, weight loss and dehydration
- You have a fever
- Experience a rapid heart rate
If you do not possess the above symptoms and the specks last more than 3 days, you should seek medical help. That is, especially if you cannot root the cause from your diet. For babies more than a week old, it is also vital to see a doctor as the causes for black dots in their stool is unlikely to be a result of meconium.
Treatment of black specks in stool:
The treatment for black specks in stool depends on the cause.
If the black specks in stool result from the type of diet you are having, you can make changes and adopt a different one. Cut off some of the foods and instead have a supplementary diet.
Black specks in stool caused by medications such as Pepto Bismol that irritate the digestive tract can be treated by stopping the medication. However, it is essential that you seek your doctor’s consent beforehand.
Treatment for inflammatory disorders that cause intestinal bleeding involves various medications. They include those that will relax the alimentary canal and suppress the immune system.
Some fissures and tears that cause bleeding will require surgery and hospitalisation to mitigate the bleeding. Meanwhile, bleeding resulting from cancerous lesions will involve several cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and laparoscopic surgery.
Various anti-parasitic drugs and antibiotics can be prescribed for parasitic infections. Once the parasites are cleared in your digestive tract, then your stool will retain a normal colour.
Liver diseases are attributed to different causes. In this case, different treatments will be employed. Liver transplants, removal of gallstones, a low protein diet, hydration and treatment for alcoholism may be applied.
Digestion is one of the most complicated yet crucial biological processes. Some changes and occurrences may be usual and others unusual but not harmful. However, some may require the immediate attention of a practitioner.
It is therefore wise to be watchful of any abnormalities and seek advice from a qualified doctor as quickly as possible to avoid the escalation of a potential complication. Prevention has always been better than cure.
It is therefore important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle at all times. By a healthy diet and lifestyle, I mean that you should probably avoid alcohol abuse, reduce intake of acidic and fatty foods, desist steroids and drugs such as aspirin and those containing sulphur, and quit smoking.
You should instead focus on consuming high-fibre diets and exercising more. If you make changes in the mentioned areas, you will start to experience a better quality of life and prevent signs of digestive diseases and/ or manage complications of the digestive tract.