The colour, consistency, odour of the poop tells us many different things about our health and the diseases which we might be having. The normal colour of the poop is yellow to brown colour. Anything apart from that like having orange poop, red poop or white poop is not normal, and it signifies something about our health.
When you see that you have white poop, you might start worrying why is this happening. So, let us start to find out the causes behind white poop, how to diagnose the causes and how to get treated appropriately.
Causes of white poop:
We have 2 parts of the gut or intestine called small intestine and the large intestine. We have liver secreting bile juice into the pouch-like structure called gallbladder. This gallbladder then concentrates the bile and stores it.
The gallbladder also releases the bile juice into the small intestine. In the small Intestine, the bile juice mixes with the food and helps in its digestion process.
Later the food moves into the large intestine and the microbes of the large intestine break down this bile into some pigments called Stercobilinogen which is further broken down into pigment called Stercobilin. This gives us the yellow to brown colour of the poop.
When there is any blockage in the path of bile like inadequate bile production by the liver or blockage in the path of bile from the liver or gallbladder, bile won’t reach the intestine and mix with food. This can lead to white poop.
White poop can be caused by various causes affecting the liver, gallbladder and their ducts, and also due to some infections or due to side effects of medications. Let us explore them further.
If the liver is inflamed or swollen due to any cause, it can reduce the production of the bile from the liver. This cause leads to white poop. The liver can be inflamed due to various causes like viral infections, for example, Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. You can catch Hepatitis A and E by consuming contaminated food.
You catch Hepatitis B, and C by using IV needles which are contaminated or through sexual intercourse with a person having it or it can spread from infected mother to child.
The liver can also be inflamed due to taking certain drugs, which is called drug-induced hepatitis. It can be inflamed due to prolonged consumption of alcohol. This is called Alcoholic Hepatitis.
We already discussed that bile is stored in the gallbladder and then released into the small intestine. If due to any cause flow of bile from the gallbladder is obstructed, it can lead to white poop.
This can happen due to the presence of gallstones in gallbladder called Cholelithiasis, or presence of gallstones in the duct of the gallbladder called Choledocholithiasis, and it can also happen when there is any nasty growth of the gallbladder or the duct of the gallbladder.
The pancreas can become inflamed due to various causes like infection with bugs like bacteria, due to heavy consumption of alcohol, due to hereditary problems, etc. Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. This can also lead to obstruction of bile flow into the small intestine and forms white poop.
Pancreatitis also produces other symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, etc. Nasty growth of the pancreas can also cause similar symptoms like pale stool or poop.
Some kids don’t have proper balanced nutritious meals. If they consume only a particular type of food product like milk, it can cause white poop.
Medication Side effects:
There are various medications which can cause inflammation of the liver due to side- effects. This is called Drug-induced hepatitis. This can lead to the formation of white poop or pale poop. Some examples of such drugs are Antibiotics (Erythromycin, Tetracycline, Amoxycillin- Clavulanate), Oral contraceptive pills, Anabolic steroids, Anaesthetic medications (Halothane), Cholesterol-lowering medications (Statins), etc.
There are several microbes like Giardia lamblia causing a condition called Giardiasis, which can cause white poop. It can be acquired by consuming contaminated food or water. It produces symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea of pale or white colour which is oily, greasy, bulky and hard to flush.
There are certain Malabsorption disorders like Celiac disease or Gluten-sensitive enteropathy, which can also lead to pale poop. In this condition, the affected person cannot tolerate gluten-containing foods like wheat.
So, he starts having symptoms like pale poop, abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhoea, etc when he consumes such foods containing gluten. There are several other Malabsorption diseases like Tropical sprue, Whipple’s disease, etc. The stool of Malabsorption disorders is similar to that of Giardiasis.
Diagnosis of causes of white poop:
In order to diagnose the cause of white poop, your doctor will initially ask you a few questions to know more about your problem. Then he will do a physical examination, mainly abdominal examination to see if you have any pain, swelling in any organs like liver, spleen, etc.
Then he might order some tests like:
- Liver function tests to know about liver function
- Pancreatic enzymes like amylase and lipase to know if the pancreas is inflamed
- An ultrasound exam to see all the internal organs in the abdomen like the liver, gallbladder, Pancreas, etc.
- Stool Microscopy, culture and sensitivity to see if there are any microbes in the stool
- If needed, he might also do certain imaging tests like CT scan of the abdomen, etc
Treatment of White Poop:
The treatment of white poop depends on the cause which is causing the problem. After diagnosing the cause of the white poop or pale stools, your physician will prescribe appropriate treatment for it.
If Malabsorption disorder like Celiac disease is causing your problem, you are advised to avoid eating gluten-containing foods. If Disease like Giardiasis is causing your problem of white stool, you are given certain medication to kill the bug, for example, Metronidazole.
If gallstones are causing your problem, then your physician might prescribe certain drugs like ursodeoxycholic acid to dissolve the stones. If it doesn’t work, he might suggest surgery to remove the gallbladder. If there is any tumour obstructing the path of bile, then it is removed.
I hope you have understood all the causes of white poop, how to diagnose the causes of white poop and how it is treated. We will meet you again with another informative article.