1/18/12

Orange Diarrhea: Several Causes Including Cancer

Orange diarrhea can be caused by cancer. But it can also have benign causes. “Orange diarrhea can be caused by food or supplements which contain orange food coloring,” explains Edward Cruz Paredez, MD, section chief of gastroenterology at Scripps Memorial Hospital LaJolla.

He continues: "...food with artificial yellow or orange coloring, or foods such as carrots, cilantro, collard greens, fresh thyme, kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash.”

Turmeric supplements can cause orange specks in your diarrhea, though the actual poops will not be discolored. 

Stools will vary in their color for numerous reasons. “The common colors of brown and green are due to the digestion of food and combination with yellow/green bile secreted by the liver,” says Dr. Paredez.

“Orange diarrhea may be the result of infectious diarrhea, which causes rapid transit through the intestine, which limits the amount of bile in the stool, continues Dr. Paredez. “Less commonly it could also occur from a blockage of the bile ducts, which can be seen in cases of gallstones or bile duct or pancreatic cancers.”

Nevertheless, orange diarrhea actually rarely means you have cancer. “In fact, biliary blockage from cancer more commonly produces ‘white, grey or clay’ colored stools,” says Dr. Paredez.

Microscopic colitis, a benign inflammatory bowel condition, can tinge diarrhea orange, but only in a minor sense, at least according to my experience with MC—not even enough to cause worry. 

When examining your poops, make sure you have excellent lighting, as lighting can skewer your perception of poop hue.

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