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White Specks in Stool

Overview

White specks in the stool can be caused by a large number of different things. Some are more serious than others. The specks could just be small bits of undigested food, or caused by certain medications.

Our stool can tell us a lot about our overall health. It’s recommended to pay attention to any changes in your bowel habits, including white specks you haven’t noticed before. These white specks can alert us to internal infections and other conditions we may not have known about until the condition was much more advanced.

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Symptoms

Are there any other associated symptoms?

Different symptoms may accompany white specks in the stool, depending on the cause. White specks themselves may range from a few tiny specks to larger ones. Take note of both the size and shape of the white specks.

Additional symptoms that sometimes accompany white specks in the stool include:

  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • unusually foul-smelling bowel movements
  • bloating
  • visible mucus
  • abdominal pain

White specks in the stool will be different from stools that are completely white or overall very pale. Entirely white or pale stools indicate other health conditions, like problems within the biliary system, which includes the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.

If you experience any of the following, seek emergency medical attention:

  • severe abdominal pain
  • persistent diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours
  • rectal bleeding
  • jaundice

Causes

What causes white specks in stool?

There are a number of different causes of white specks in the stool, all of which range in severity.

Undigested food

A common source of white specks in the stool is undigested food. Sometimes foods that are difficult to digest — like quinoa, nuts, seeds, high-fiber vegetables, and corn — can actually move through the digestive tract without fully digesting. This can cause small white flecks in the stool.

This is likely to be the case if you aren’t experiencing any other symptoms such as diarrhea or abdominal pain.

Malabsorption

Malabsorption, which may come as a result of undigested food in certain individuals, can also cause white specks in the stool. Severe malabsorption may cause stools to become bulkier and paler throughout due to a higher fat content. It may be caused by:

  • liver disease
  • pancreatic insufficiency
  • intestinal inflammation

Other symptoms of malabsorption may include:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • weight loss
  • fatigue

Celiac disease

Celiac disease — an autoimmune disease characterized by an abnormal immune response to the protein gluten — can cause severe inflammation in the digestive system that reduces the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients properly. This can lead to significant nutrient malabsorption. Symptoms may include:

  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • bloating
  • fatigue
  • abdominal pain

Medications

Certain medications can lead to white flecks in the stool, especially those that come in capsule form. Some people are unable to properly digest certain capsule medications. In this case, you may see small white balls in the stool.

Let your doctor know. They can decide if they need to switch your medication. You should also tell your doctor if you experience symptoms like fever, nausea, or abdominal pain.

Parasites

It is possible for different types of parasites to cause white flecks in the stool. Tapeworm segments will appear as large, white, flat patches on the stool. They’ll often be about the size of a postage stamp. Symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • weight loss
  • fatigue

Pinworms are white in color and lay eggs near the anus. They’re very small, but can also be seen on the stool. Symptoms include strong itching, rash, and discomfort in the anal area. In severe infestations, the individual may also experience abdominal pain.

Fungal infections

Small clumps of white matter found on the stool could also be caused by fungal infections like Candida yeast infections. You’re more likely to experience this if you’ve had a chronic problem with Candida infections, or are experiencing an illness or treatment that weakens the immune system, such as AIDS or chemotherapy.

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Diagnosis

Diagnosing the underlying cause

When you tell your doctor about the white specks in your stool, they’ll ask you about other symptoms that you may be experiencing, such as constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or fatigue. They may also order a series of tests depending on what they suspect the cause to be.

A stool test will almost certainly be included. For this test, you’ll bring a sample of stool into the lab so a technician can examine it for blood, fungus, parasites, and other abnormalities.

Other tests the doctor may order include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) panel. A phlebotomist will draw blood from your arm and test it to make sure that all your blood counts look good. This test can help detect anemia. It can also indicate a possible infection.
  • Blood test and upper endoscopy. These tests will check for celiac disease. A biopsy from the small intestine is needed to confirm a celiac diagnosis.
  • Ultrasound or CT scan. These imaging tests can evaluate the health of your gallbladder and liver by providing images of them.

Treatment

Treating the underlying cause

Treatment will depend entirely on the underlying cause of the white specks in the stool.

Undigested food can be treated with a small change in diet. You should see changes in several days.

The underlying cause of malabsorption will need to be treated before it can be resolved. For celiac disease, this involves switching to an entirely gluten-free diet. Even one “cheat meal” can cause severe inflammation in the intestines.

If issues with the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder are involved, treatment will resolve around improving their function.

If medications are causing the white specks to form, your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medication, or a different form of the same medication. For example, instead of taking an oral supplement, they may be able to give you the same dose in

liquid form, an injectable, or a sublingual medication. Sublingual medications dissolve under the tongue.

Parasites can be treated with an oral medication designed to clear them completely from your system. You’ll also need to clean the entire house. To get rid of parasites from your home:

  • Use hot water to wash all bedding, towels, and clothes. Dry them on high heat in the dryer.
  • Clean all surfaces in the house, especially toilet seats.
  • Practice consistent, thorough handwashing.
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Complications

Are there any complications?

White specks in the stool are always a symptom of something else, even if that something else is harmless.

The most serious complications that can arise include:

  • Symptoms from parasites. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies.
  • A buildup of bile. This is suggestive of underlying liver disease. Worsening liver disease can progress to cirrhosis, which can have serious complications.
  • Symptoms of celiac disease and malabsorption. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and severe nutrient deficiencies.
  • Infections. If left untreated, fungal infections can spread and affect the blood, brain, heart, eyes, and other crucial organ systems in the body. This can be very dangerous.
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Prevention

Can white specks in stool be prevented?

There are several ways to prevent white specks in the stool:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. This will help you get an array of nutrients, and hopefully avoid undigested food as much as possible.
  • Switch to non-capsule medications. They may be easier to digest for you.
  • Practice good hygiene. This includes frequent handwashing and keeping nails short to fend off parasites.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol in excess. Heavy alcohol use can damage the biliary system.
  • Stick to a gluten-free diet if you have celiac disease.
  • Eat a low-sugar diet if you know you’re prone to Candida. Treat any external infections immediately.
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Outlook

What’s the outlook?

Often, white specks in the stool isn’t cause for concern. They’re most commonly caused by undigested food, which can be resolved in several days with a change in diet.

Make sure you see your doctor for any stool changes — even if they seem minor — so that you can make sure you and your digestive tract are fully healthy. If needed, your doctor will help you find the treatment that’s right for you.

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