Normal bowel movement color can be any shade of brown, or some other colors, but not white.

The bowel movement has its color due to the bile which is originally green, but changes into the brown during the passage through the bowel. 

Causes of White Bowel Movement

When less than normal or no bile is excreted from the liver into the bowel (cholestasis), excreted stool will be pale, clay, gray, or white. Someone can describe it as a light color, but this is not bright yellow bowel movement, and also not mucus in the bowel movement that is jelly-like and translucent. Main causes of white bowel movement are:

  • Obstruction of the biliary duct (due to gallstones, inflammation, fibrosis, cancer, pressure from outside (pancreatic cancer or cyst, abdominal tumor like fibroma) may cause cramping pains in the right upper abdomen.
  • Obstruction of the outflow of the bile from the liver due to a liver disease (viral hepatitis, fatty liver, alcohol liver disease, cirrhosis, hemochromatosis or, rarely, tuberculosis, spread of cancer into the liver (liver metastases) may cause fullness or pain in the upper right abdomen, jaundice, nausea, or vomiting.

White Diarrhea

Above reasons (obstruction of the bile flow), or lack of pancreatic enzyme lipase that digests fats prevents fat absorption in the small intestine. Unabsorbed fats will reach the colon and irritate it, causing diarrhea. Loose, white, sticky, greasy, foamy, floating, smelly stool appearing several hours after a fatty meal is called steatorrhea. Main causes of white diarrhea are:

Other Causes of White Stool

White stool may appear after:

  • Barium enema
  • Antacids

White Specs in the Stool

White specs in the stool may represent:

  • Undigested food, like rice or seeds
  • Unabsorbed drugs
  • Parasite eggs
  • Clumps of fungi (Candida albicans) in heavy disease like AIDS, or in immunosuppression from chemotherapy or radiation therapy…

Diagnosis

Stool fat test may reveal fats in the stool.

Blood tests:

  • White blood cells are elevated in pancreatitis, bowel inflammation
  • Pancreatic enzymes (lipase) in the blood may be elevated in pancreatic disease
  • Liver enzymes in the blood may be elevated  in liver, biliary duct disease

Ultrasound of the abdomen may reveal gallstones in gallbladder, or rarely in biliary duct, swollen pancreas (in pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer or cyst), or abdominal tumor.

Treatment

Original disease has to be treated.

In white diarrhea a low-fat diet has to be introduced.

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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on February 18, 2010