Causes of Yellow Stools

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Question: My stools looks yellow.  Am I sick?

Answer: Unlike green stools, yellow stools are a cause for concern.  It can indicate improper digestion or a plethora of other diseases, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and giardia.  Left untreated, these diseases can threaten your health.

Causes of Yellow Stool

Cause #1: Quick evacuation.  You’re probably familiar with it—the sudden, often painful urge to go—which causes you to have a bowel movement more quickly.  If food moves too quickly through the digestive tract, it won’t have enough time to gather all of the nutrients from the digested food.

This prevents the stool from turning its characteristic medium brown shade.  Although quickly digested food is more likely to look green, it can also turn this color.

Cause #2: GERD. Short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a chronic disease that affects the digestive system, GERD also causes yellow stools.  Though this disease won’t kill you, it can damage the lining of your esophagus, causing extreme discomfort and heartburn.  It also affects the bile input in the body, which causes yellow bowel movements.

Simply passing yellow stools does not indicate GERD, however.  But having the following symptoms with yellow stools can indicate GERD:

  • Heartburn or chest pain
  • A sore throat
  • Wheezing
  • Constant coughing

Treating this disease can eliminate the embarrassment and pain of its less than desirable symptoms, however.

Cause #3: Giardia.  Giardia, a common waterborne infection, also causes yellow bowel movements accompanied by abdominal discomfort and diarrhea.  People commonly get this infection by drinking contaminated or unclean water.

According to, giardia causes severe yellow colored diarrhea once it infects the intestines.  It is also highly contagious.  If your friend or loved one catches it, you could be next.

Other Causes

Yellow stools are also caused by numerous other digestive issues.  Don’t assume you’re safe if your other symptoms aren’t listed here.  Again, if you experience yellow stools for more than a few days, see a doctor.  These are only the most common causes of yellow stools, not an exhaustive list of all its causes.


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