Yellow diarrhea, or yellow stool in general, has a few possible causes. Human feces should be a brownish orange, due to the bile and bilirubin contained within it. Bile is a digestive enzyme produced in the liver, and bilirubin is a waste product deriving from red blood cells that the body removes via the stool.
Yellow diarrhea typically infers decreased liver function — specifically, the liver is not producing enough bile. After the liver produces bile, it stores the excess in the gallbladder. The bile gives poop its brown color, so it follows that a decrease in bile will produce a more yellow stool.
If your liver or gallbladder aren’t working correctly, or if the bile is blocked from getting out, your stool will probably have a pale or yellowish color. The lack of bile can also cause loose stools (diarrhea) at times, as can dietary issues such as a lack of fiber.
Legitimate liver or gallbladder problems typically require major medical intervention; these aren’t issues that just “fix” themselves. Some common causes of liver or gallbladder issues are as follows:
- Hepatitis caused by longterm liver stress
- Biliary cirrhosis
- Cyst in the bile duct
- Stones in your gallbladder (gallstones)
- Cancerous or noncancerous tumors in your liver, gallbladder, or pancreas
Stress is also a major cause of both diarrhea and general digestive problems. As a reaction to stress, your body releases fight-or-flight chemicals like adrenaline or cortisol that help you in acute stress situations. But with chronic stress, those chemicals are activated for long periods of time. Overexposure to these chemicals can lead to issues with your digestive tract, heart, skin, and several other body functions.
Food intolerances can also lead to loose stools. Lactose, soy, grains, eggs, and seafood are the most common food groups that give people digestive trouble.
Treatment of yellow diarrhea depends on the cause of the discoloration, which a professional should help diagnose. Treatment may include taking an antibiotic, antiviral, or antiparasitic if your diarrhea is caused by some type of infection or parasite.
Learning what foods you should avoid if your problem is genetic or from chronic inflammation will also help aid in recovery.
As for infants, looser stools and some mild discoloration are both very normal. Introducing antibiotics either through breastmilk or directly to the child can cause digestive issues. If the problem persists, ask your pediatrician, but do not panic if you see some yellow color in your baby’s stool — it probably has nothing to do with either liver or gallbladder function.