Are Coloured Stools Harmless Or A Sign Of Something Worse?

August 18, 2021

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It may sound strange to some, but regular bowel movement and healthy stool colour are essential in ensuring that your digestive system is functioning properly. While medical technologies can help determine your digestive health, your bowel habits are an excellent indicator of its state; the texture, frequency, and even the colour can have indications on your health.

To know if your stool colour is something you should be concerned about, it’s first important to understand how your stools gain colour.

Why stools change colour

Typically, the colour that is most associated with healthy stools is brown. This is because as food passes down your gut and becomes digested, your liver works hard to produce bile – a fluid to digest fats. Although bile is yellow or green, as this fluid travels along with your stools to be removed from the body, the pigments of the fluid cause it to undergo chemical changes and finally turn brown.

Ideally, the entire digestive process takes about two to three days. Should this process deviate by a day or two, the stool’s size, texture, and colour can be affected – an indication that something else might be happening in your gut.

Do coloured stools indicate cancer?

Not necessarily. Coloured stools can indicate several digestive conditions. For example, green stools are mainly caused by rapid digestion, leaving the bile fluid with a minimal amount of time to break down and change colour.

Yellow stools, on the other hand, are usually the result of a high-fat content diet. But it can also be a sign of a malabsorption disorder wherein the digestive system is not taking in enough food nutrients. Yellow stools are usually more greasy and foul-smelling as compared to stools of a different colour.

Red usually signifies urgency as a colour. This can be relevant to red stools, a possible indication of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract from haemorrhoids or cancer. However, red stools do not necessarily require urgent attention; it could have resulted from consuming large quantities of food in that same colour, e.g. red dragon fruit. But, if you haven’t consumed foods that come in this shade, red or black (due to dried blood) stools probably signal intestinal bleeding.

Stools that are of a pale grey or white are not something that you see every day. But don’t worry because pale stools don’t indicate something serious. However, if it occurs over several trips to the toilet, you might want to have your gallbladder, liver and pancreas checked. It’s best to steer clear of any liver or pancreatic cancer symptoms that might be manifesting.

Actions to take with coloured stools

The follow-up action is depended on the colour of your stool. Unfortunately, red and black stools indicate serious health issues such as colon or rectal cancer; such stools require urgent attention.


Despite the unpleasant nature of stools, they can give you an idea of the condition of your gut and overall health. Stool colour needs to be considered as colour changes can pose a health concern.

Specifically, if there have been blood traces in your stools, seek your doctor to conduct a thorough rectal examination. Your doctor will be able to examine your risk of contracting a condition that is more serious than piles. Should colon cancer be suspected, he can walk you through the colon cancer treatment costs in Singapore and refer you to a gastroenterologist for a follow-up.