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Is it ok to have light colored poop?

Poop comes in all colors of the rainbow. From brown and green to red, orange, yellow, and even black, the color of your stool gives insight about what’s going on inside your digestive tract. While brown poop is considered “normal,” sometimes you may notice your poop is a lighter hue, like yellow, grey or even white. If you find yourself wondering “is light colored poop normal?” this comprehensive guide will cover the causes, risk factors, and treatments for pale stool.

What is Considered Light Colored Poop?

Stool is normally brown because of bile, which is produced in the liver to help digest fats. Bile gets metabolized by gut bacteria, creating stercobilin, which lends poop its typical brown color. When stool appears abnormally light, it means something interfered with bile production or drainage. Light colored stool can range from:

  • Yellow or Pale Yellow
  • Grey or Pale Grey
  • White or Clay Colored
  • Chalky White

So when is light colored stool considered abnormal? Here is a breakdown of normal vs. abnormal stool colors:

Normal Stool Colors Abnormal Stool Colors
Brown Yellow
Dark Brown Pale Yellow
Greenish-Brown Grey
Black or Reddish (if eating certain foods) Pale Grey

As you can see, any shade of yellow, grey, white or clay colored stool is considered abnormal. These colors indicate a potential health problem that requires further evaluation.

What Causes Light Colored Stool?

There are several possible causes of pale or lighter colored stool:

Liver or Gallbladder Problems

Since bile is made in the liver then stored in the gallbladder, any disease or blockage interfering with bile production or flow can result in light colored stool. Some examples include:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Gallstones
  • Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Primary biliary cholangitis


Certain digestive conditions can impair absorption of bile or bile salts, resulting in pale stool. These include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Short bowel syndrome
  • Whipple disease
  • Gastric bypass surgery


Some medications and supplements can bind to bile, causing it to be excreted and leading to lighter stool. These include:

  • Cholestyramine (for high cholesterol)
  • Colestipol (for high cholesterol)
  • Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide
  • Anti-diarrheal medications containing bismuth subsalicylate like Pepto-Bismol


Bacterial, viral, and parasitic gut infections can inflame the liver and bile ducts, resulting in reduced bile output and pale stool. Common culprits include:

  • Viral hepatitis
  • Giardia
  • Helminths like tapeworms

Other Factors

Less common causes of light colored stool include:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Total parenteral nutrition

Risk Factors

Certain individuals have increased risk of developing light colored stool. Risk factors include:

  • Liver disease like viral hepatitis or cirrhosis
  • Gallstones
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Prior gallbladder removal surgery
  • Family history of liver or gallbladder disease
  • Travel to developing countries with higher infection risk

When to See a Doctor

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Stool is grey, white, or clay colored
  • Yellow stool persists for more than 5 days
  • Pale stool accompanied by pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, dark urine
  • Newborn has white, chalky stool

Seeking prompt medical care is crucial, as pale stool can indicate serious conditions like pancreatic cancer, liver failure, or bile duct obstruction. Treating any underlying condition quickly improves outcomes.

Diagnosing Light Colored Stool

To diagnose the cause of light colored stool, your doctor may order:

  • Stool sample testing for blood, bacteria, parasites, fat content
  • Blood tests to assess liver function
  • Imaging like ultrasound, CT, or MRI to visualize liver, gallbladder, pancreas, intestines
  • Endoscopic procedures like colonoscopy or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Liver biopsy

Based on results of these tests, your doctor can pinpoint any underlying medical issue leading to pale stool.

Treatments for Light Colored Stool

Treatment focuses on correcting any underlying condition causing reduced bile output. This may include:

  • Medications – Antibiotics to treat infections, ursodeoxycholic acid to improve bile flow
  • Surgery – Gallbladder removal, bile duct repair, tumor resection
  • Diet changes – Vitamin supplements if malabsorption present
  • Lifestyle modifications – Avoiding alcohol, managing chronic diseases

The outlook depends on the underlying cause. Seeking prompt treatment is key to prevent complications of long-term liver/gallbladder dysfunction.


You can reduce the risk of developing light colored stool through these preventive measures:

  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B
  • Practice good hygiene when traveling to avoid infections
  • Manage health conditions like Crohn’s, celiac disease
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Discuss any necessary medication changes with your doctor

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

You can help normalize stool color with these home remedies:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration
  • Eat smaller, frequent meals to reduce GI upset
  • Avoid fatty foods to decrease demands on the liver and gallbladder
  • Consider over-the-counter bile salts or digestive enzymes
  • Increase soluble fiber intake, like oats and beans

However, be sure to consult your doctor before making any major changes, as certain dietary modifications may not be right for your condition.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Seek emergency care if you experience:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever over 101°F
  • Inability to keep down fluids due to vomiting
  • Light colored stool after recent liver transplant
  • Signs of liver failure like swelling, confusion, or dark urine

These symptoms could indicate a serious issue like bile duct obstruction, liver rejection, or sepsis requiring urgent medical intervention.


While brown stool is considered normal, yellow, grey or pale stool can sometimes occur. Light colored poop is often caused by conditions affecting bile production like gallstones, hepatitis, or medications. Seeking prompt treatment is key, as pale stool can indicate potentially life-threatening diseases. Speak to your doctor if your stool does not return to a normal brown color after 1-2 weeks of home remedies. With proper care, most underlying causes can be successfully managed.