What Causes Orange Stool?

If Your Stool Changes Suddenly It Might Need To Be Checked Out By A Doctor

Eating foods that have beta carotene, like carrots, can cause orange stools. Image © Patrycja Cieszkowska

Stool can come in a variety of colors, and while something out of the ordinary can be a surprise, it is not always a symptom of a disease or condition. What is considered to be a normal stool color is unique to each person, and is often a spectrum, rather than just one color. Orange stool is most likely because of eating foods that are orange in color (either natural or artificial color) but it can also occur with certain medications.

Stools that are orange could also be from a medical condition, such as a problem with the gallbladder.

Stool color is affected not only by the digestive process, but also by the food that you eat and what you drink. The color of foods, both artificial colors and those from fruits and vegetables, can alter the color of stool. As it moves through the digestive tract, the digesting food changes color from green to yellow-orange to brown. The final brown color is due to the bile and bacteria that is present in the stool.

Foods That Cause Orange Stool

There are several common and benign reasons for passing orange stools that are no cause for worry. Supplements and medications that can cause orange-colored stools include those containing beta-carotene (sometimes found in vitamin A) and aluminum hydroxide (which can be found in antacids).

Foods that can cause orange stool include:

  • Any food with an artificial yellow or orange coloring
  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens
  • Fresh thyme
  • Kale
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Winter squash

Digestive Problems That Cause Orange Stool

In most healthy people, orange stool would most often be the result of one or more of the foods listed above, but there are also some medical reasons that stool might be orange.

If the stool is still orange when it is eliminated, it could mean that it is not being exposed to, or it is not absorbing enough, bile salt. Bile is a yellowish-green, and when it reacts with the natural enzymes present in the bowel, it turns the stool brown.

In order to understand why the stool is orange, the question that needs to be answered is why it is not absorbing the bile. One reason that stool may not be absorbing enough bile is that the stool is moving through the body too quickly. This could be caused by one or more of several different conditions, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or short bowel syndrome (SBS).

Another possible medical cause of orange stool is a lack of bile. Not having enough bile could be because the body is just not making enough of it. A second reason for the low bile levels is that the bile ducts are actually blocked. The bile ducts are the way the bile travels from the liver, where the bile is produced, to the small intestine, where the bile comes into contact with the stool.

A blockage in the bile ducts could be caused by gallstones, inflammation, cysts or tumors.

If you can not attribute the color of your stool to a dietary reason (such as orange or yellow foods), or if you have other symptoms (such as diarrhea, constipation, weakness, or dizziness), consult your physician.


ADAM. "Bile duct obstruction." ADAM. 

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Your Digestive System and How It Works." National Institutes of Health. 

Kevin Pho, M.D. "What could be causing my Autistic son to have orange stools?" MedHelp.org 

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