Some diarrhea medications can cause changes in stool color, such as black or white stool. However, passing white stools can indicate a serious medical condition, such as a blocked bile duct or liver problem.

White stool is not normal and can indicate an underlying medical condition. People with this symptom should see a doctor for further evaluation and diagnosis.

This article covers the potential causes of white stools after diarrhea and answers frequently asked questions about this symptom.

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Healthy stool is usually brown. However, what a person eats can also affect the color of their stool. For example, eating foods high in fat or fiber can make stool appear paler.

People who experience white stool after a bout of diarrhea should consult a healthcare professional.

While it could result from certain medications, white stools can indicate a serious medical condition, such as a bile duct obstruction or liver disease.

Learn more about stool colors with a helpful stool color chart.

Antidiarrheal medication such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) may cause temporary changes in stool color, including black or white stools.

These changes typically resolve once the person stops taking the medication.

Bile is a digestive fluid that helps break down fats and absorb nutrients. A blocked bile duct prevents bile from reaching the intestines, resulting in pale or clay-colored stools.

In addition to white stool, other symptoms of a blocked bile duct include:

People with these symptoms should seek medical attention right away.

A doctor may order tests, such as an ultrasound, blood tests, or an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography), to determine the cause of the blocked bile duct.

If left untreated, bile duct obstruction can be a life threatening condition.

Gallstones are small, hard deposits in the gallbladder, a small organ that stores bile.

If a gallstone becomes stuck in the bile duct, it can cause a blockage that prevents bile from flowing properly, leading to a gallbladder attack, or biliary colic. Light-colored stools can be a sign of a gallbladder attack.

A gallbladder attack is a sudden, intense pain in the upper right abdomen. The pain may last for several hours and can accompany other symptoms, such as:

People with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms can also indicate other serious conditions, such as appendicitis, ulcers, or pancreatitis.

Not all people with gallstones have symptoms. These are called silent gallstones. Silent gallstones do not need treatment unless they start to cause symptoms.

A damaged liver may not produce enough bile, leading to a buildup of bile and a decrease in bile reaching the intestines.

Examples of liver diseases that may cause a change in stool color include:

In addition to white stool, other symptoms of liver disease include:

Most people with liver disease do not have symptoms until the disease progresses to an advanced stage. When the damage is severe, it may be irreversible and lead to liver failure, cancer, or death.

People who notice symptoms of liver disease should see a healthcare professional immediately, as early diagnosis and intervention are crucial in managing liver disease and preventing further complications.

In addition to a lack of bile, other possible causes of white stools after diarrhea include:

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about white stools.

Is it normal to have white poop after a stomach bug?

Gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu, is often caused by viral or bacterial infections that lead to inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This inflammation can cause the pancreas to become inflamed as well.

The pancreas produces digestive enzymes and bile, which help break down fats. If the pancreas is inflamed, it may not produce enough bile, which can lead to white or pale-colored stool.

In most cases, white stool after a stomach bug will go away. However, if it persists for more than a week, it is important to see a doctor.

Can white stool be temporary?

Yes, white stool can be temporary. Several things, including stomach flu, antidiarrheal medications, or bile duct obstruction, can cause it. Once these conditions resolve, the stool color usually returns to normal.

Having white stool after diarrhea can cause concern, as it can indicate underlying liver, pancreas, or small intestine issues.

It is important to pay attention to changes in stool color or consistency and seek medical advice if white stool persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as jaundice, fever, or abdominal pain.