Clay-Colored Stools | What Causes Clay-Colored Stools?

We don’t usually want to, but it is inevitable to see the color and shape of our stools before flushing. It is actually good practice to do so because many diseases reflect in the macroscopic characteristics of the stools. Liver disease is traditionally known to cause lighter poop, and they are often called clay-colored stools.

But why does this happen, and what can you do about it? In this article, we’re bringing forward this topic. After reading, you will know what gives the color to the stools, what diseases change this color, and whether or not you should worry about changing colors in your poop.

What gives the color to your stools?

There are hundreds of chemical reactions going on in a lapse of many hours in the gastrointestinal tract. The food we eat is broken down, mixed, and reacts with different substances. Digestion takes place, and some additional substances are eliminated through your stools. All of these factors play a role in changing the color of your stools, and that is why it is not always the exact same color.

In most cases, the stools are brown, and this particular color is given by an intense pigment called bilirubin, which is transported to the gastrointestinal tube as bile. The gallbladder collects bile over a few hours and stores around 500 milliliters of this yellowish-green substance. It has a very strong color and taints your poop right after contacting the intestines.

The trigger to contract the gallbladder and send bile to the intestines is having food in your stomach, especially if we’re talking about fatty foods. The bile facilitates lipid absorption and eliminates bilirubin at the same time.

Another source of strong colors in your stool comes from natural and artificial pigments found in your food. Different plants contain carotenoids and other intense pigments that may influence the color of your stools.

An additional cause of changing colors in your stools is a modification in the digestive process. Accelerated intestinal transit in case of diarrhea or an increase in secretions in the gastrointestinal tract may give you lighter stools or a stronger color.

Written by Martin Davis