It’s common for your stool to change color. You likely have a varied diet, and changes in your diet impact your stool. But yellow stool could also mean one of a number of health conditions.

Bilirubin and bile give poop its brown color. Bilirubin is a byproduct of your red blood cells. It’s produced in the liver and then moves to the gallbladder, where it mixes with bile.

From there, most of the bilirubin passes into your intestines, where it’s broken down by bacteria and discarded in your feces or urine.

Several health conditions can cause yellow stool, also called pale stool.

1. Liver and gallbladder disorders

Cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis reduce or eliminate bile salts that help the body digest food and absorb nutrients. Gallstones or sludge in the gallbladder can reduce the amount of bile that reaches your intestines. Not only may this cause pain, but it can also turn your stool yellow.

2. Disorders that affect the pancreas

Chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, a blockage in the pancreatic duct, or cystic fibrosis can also turn your stool yellow.

These conditions can cause steatorrhea, which means that your pancreas isn’t providing enough of the enzymes your intestines need to digest fat in food. The undigested fat can give the stool a yellow, greasy appearance causing it to float or appear frothy.

3. Celiac disease

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. If you have celiac disease and eat gluten, your body’s immune system responds by attacking and damaging the tissues of your small intestine. When this happens, your intestines aren’t able to absorb the nutrients your body needs. Celiac disease commonly runs in families.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, more than 250 symptoms are associated with celiac disease. This can make it difficult to diagnose the condition. The most common symptoms include:

Although there is no cure for celiac disease, it can be treated effectively by eliminating gluten from your diet.

4. Gilbert’s syndrome

Gilbert’s syndrome is a genetic liver disorder characterized by periods when bilirubin levels are too high. The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that Gilbert’s syndrome affects 3% to 7% of Americans. Symptoms of the disorder, primarily mild jaundice, are so mild that many people don’t know they have it. Gilbert’s syndrome is usually left untreated.

5. Giardiasis

Giardiasis is an infection of the intestinal tract by a microscopic parasite called giardia. You get giardiasis by ingesting giardia cysts. These are typically ingested with your food or water.

Symptoms of giardiasis may include:

  • foul-smelling diarrhea that is often yellow
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • headache
  • Low grade fever
  • weight loss

Giardiasis is diagnosed by testing a stool sample. Although some people don’t require treatment, most are given antibiotics. Giardiasis often lasts several weeks. Giardiasis may become chronic, though this is rare.

Giardiasis is a common disorder worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), giardiasis is the most widespread intestinal parasitic infection in the United States.

Q:

When changing my baby’s diaper, sometimes his stool is yellow. Is this normal? If not, how should I treat it?

A Healthline reader

A:

Yes, yellow stool can indicate a shorter transit time of food through the intestinal tract. Different colors (darker) can indicate that transit time is slowing. It is not uncommon for stool to change colors. If you notice blood or diarrhea, you should notify your doctor immediately, as these may herald a serious health issue.

Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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If you are older and have a yellow stool, it may be a sign of another health condition. These can include:

Some of the complications of untreated yellow stool include low red blood counts, dehydration, poor nutrition, growth trouble in children, and the potential to spread cancers or infections.

Some symptoms are warning signs of a digestive tract problem, such as:

Other complications that may occur with yellow stool are jaundice, fever and fatigue, skin itching, and bone or joint pain.

If your stool turns yellow, it’s most often due to changes in your diet. If the color persists for several days or is accompanied by other symptoms, you may want to contact your doctor.

You should see your doctor if any of the following symptoms accompanies your yellow stool:

  • passing out
  • lack of awareness
  • confusion or mental changes
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • trouble breathing
  • pus-filled stool
  • lack of urine

You can connect with a primary care doctor in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Is yellow poop normal?

Yellowish stool can be normal in some cases, such as when consuming certain foods or medications. However, if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, it may indicate an underlying health issue that requires attention.

How do you treat yellow stool?

Treatment for yellow stool depends on the underlying cause. It’s essential to identify the reason for the discoloration through medical evaluation. Treatment may involve addressing issues with liver or pancreatic function.

What are the four warning signs of a damaged liver?

Warning signs of a damaged liver include yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice), abdominal swelling or pain, easy bruising or bleeding, and dark urine.

What can cause yellow poop after gallbladder removal?

Without a gallbladder, bile flow and storage can be affected, leading to changes in stool color, including yellowing, due to the altered bile release and digestion process.

Can COVID-19 cause yellow poop?

Research shows that people who experience diarrhea as a symptom of COVID-19 can develop yellow stool. This is likely due to your body not having enough time to digest your food.

Your bowel movements may differ in color, depending on what you’ve eaten recently. But if your stool is yellow, it could be indicative of a medical condition.

If you are having yellow poop, especially if you are noticing it frequently, see your doctor for an evaluation. Many things can cause yellow stool, and it’s a good idea to find the cause in case you need treatment.