What Are the Most Common Causes of Yellow Diarrhea?

Yellow diarrhea can be caused by a problem with the liver or gallbladder.
Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning, can cause diarrhea.
The pancreas and spleen are located under the left side of the ribcage.
Yogurt with live cultures can rebuild intestinal flora after diarrhea.
An infection in the small intestine can cause yellow diarrhea.
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  • Written By: Valerie Clark
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The most common causes of yellow diarrhea are related to the liver, gallbladder or small intestine and can be a sign of a serious health problem, including parasite infection, liver disease and intestinal disease. Diarrhea that resolves itself within a day or two and is often associated with diet or medication. Pale bowel movements and chronic yellow diarrhea suggest more serious causes, such as gallstones or cancer.

If diarrhea persists longer than two days, a physician might perform a stool culture or blood test or might suggest avoiding certain foods to evaluate the risk for more serious conditions. Medical history and a physical examination are also key in determining the cause of persistent diarrhea. Most experts will agree that eliminating toxins, avoiding fatty foods and consuming electrolytes are essential to resolving diarrhea quickly.

If yellow diarrhea shows up suddenly, the most common cause is a bacterial or parasite infection, especially if the sufferer also has bloody stool. Typically picked up by consuming contaminated food and/or water, bacteria and parasites can enter the body and settle into the small intestine, where they can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including yellow diarrhea. Bacteria and parasites that cause diarrhea include salmonella, Escherichia coli and Giardia lamblia. Treatment might include antibiotics as opposed to over-the-counter medicines such as loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate. Additionally, a viral infection can cause severe diarrhea and generally resolves on its own within three to seven days.

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Yellow diarrhea can also be caused by a problem in the liver or gallbladder. In addition, liver and gallbladder problems are often accompanied by pain under the right ribcage. Pain under the left side suggests pancreas or spleen trouble. The color of feces is directly related to the amount of bile salts excreted from the liver. If this process is inhibited somehow, such as a by a gallstone, feces gradually will change color and become yellow or pale gray.

If the liver, pancreas and gallbladder suffers from fat malabsorption, feces can become yellow or gray, soft and smelly, as well as difficult to flush away. Cancer also is a possibility for sufferers of chronic yellow diarrhea that persists longer than four weeks. On a lighter note, some antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and antacids containing magnesium can affect the liver and cause yellow diarrhea. One should consult a physician for alternative remedies and treatments if necessary.

With respect to the small intestine, a variety of intestinal diseases can cause chronic yellow diarrhea along with fever, bloody stool and abdominal pain, just to name a few. If these symptoms are present, a physician likely will perform a medical history and physical examination, stool culture or colonoscopy. Blood tests can be used to determine whether a patient is at risk for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease. These diseases are serious, and the severity of symptoms can be reduced by avoiding fatty foods, eliminating gluten and identifying other contributing factors.

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Discuss this Article

anon966263
Post 4

I have Hereditary Angioedema and just before and during an attack, I will have yellow stools.

Fa5t3r
Post 3

@indigomoth - I once had a giardia infection and happened to take an iron tablet and it turned my stool an emerald green! I couldn't believe it when I saw it, to be honest, but apparently it happens fairly often to aid workers (since they are likely to come across those combinations of factors).

Yellow, watery diarrhea might not mean anything specific, though, except that you probably aren't getting enough nutrition for whatever reason, which might be sickness and might be something else.

indigomoth
Post 2

@umbra21 - Other things can cause it as well. If you put enough food coloring into something it will dye everything that comes out of you for a couple of days afterwards, which I found out after I made rainbow milkshakes for my cousins and their parents called mine in a panic after they left.

I think that vitamins can cause changes as well, although I don't know if any of them would specifically cause yellow stool or diarrhea.

I know that taking too much iron can cause your stool to change color and it can also upset your stomach. So, it's possible that something else could change it in other ways.

umbra21
Post 1

Food can also cause yellow diarrhea. I still remember when I was a child and my friend and I discovered a big bag of cashews in her mother's storage cupboard and ate bowls full of them while we were watching TV.

I suffered for it for the whole next day and my mother was convinced that I had some kind of strange disease because I was producing such strange yellow poop.

She wasn't particularly happy when she found out that my friend had the same symptoms and had told her mother about what we had done. I suppose it was almost lucky that the nuts were punishing me already, since I didn't get punished again for worrying her.

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