Why are there white specks in my poop?
White specks in your poop are often bits of undigested food, like seeds and nuts, or fragments of pills or tablets.
A less likely reason is a worm infection. Still, there's no cause for concern.
If you need to do anything, it’s likely to involve making simple changes or taking a short course of medication.
While pale poop, along with other digestive symptoms, could be a sign of gallbladder issues or liver disease, poop with white specks isn’t generally linked to any serious health condition.
In this article, we’ll look at the main causes of white specks in poop, plus any symptoms to look out for.
We also explore tips for prevention and approaches to treatment.
The most likely explanation of white specks in your poop is that they’re pieces of undigested food.
Your gut finds it difficult to digest certain types of fiber. So, in your poop, you might see pieces of hard or fibrous plants like nuts and seeds, or the casings of corn or other grains.
Fragments of nuts, like the white flesh of almonds, are particularly likely to show up. So are light-colored seeds, like sesame or sunflower seeds.
Eating too fast and chewing too little could add to this, leaving larger, more visible pieces of food behind.
White specks in your poop from undigested food aren’t linked to symptoms — they don't generally stem from a health issue.
Celiac disease, which causes your body to react to gluten, could result in undigested food in your poop.
However, this poop tends to be a pale color, rather than just containing white specks. And it's often particularly bad-smelling.
Is it cause for concern?
White specks of undigested food in your poop show that fibrous plant material has passed through your gut without being broken down.
This is one way that fiber helps regulate your digestion. It’s a healthy process and no cause for concern.
If you want to learn more about fiber, you can listen to the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on the topic.
Some pills and tablets contain substances that aren’t digested. These may show up as white specks in your poop.
The medications are usually controlled-release, so they deliver drugs into your bloodstream gradually over a certain period.
Pill casings that appear in your poop can sometimes look like whole pills, even though the medicine they contain has been released and absorbed by your body.
These casings are sometimes called ghost pills.
Other controlled-release pills contain tiny, round indigestible parts. These are coated with medication, which your body absorbs. The round bits then pass out in your poop and may look like little white balls.
Also, some people with inflammatory bowel disease take medication in granule form. These granules can also appear in your poop as white specks, particularly when symptoms are flaring up.
No health symptoms are linked to indigestible parts of medications appearing in your poop.
If you see what looks like a whole tablet in your poop, you may be worried that your body isn’t absorbing your medication properly, but this is unlikely.
Is it cause for concern?
Controlled-release drugs rely on having indigestible parts, and these can be visible in your poop.
It’s perfectly normal, and the active ingredients have likely entered your bloodstream as they’re supposed to.
However, if you suspect that your medication might not be working, speak with your doctor.
Pinworms, also known as threadworms, are a common gut parasite. They’re particularly common in children.
You might be able to spot them in poop, but they’re more likely to look like bits of white thread, not specks. At night, you may be able to spot them around the opening of the anus.
A doctor can diagnose them with a tape test. This involves pressing some tape to the area around the anus in the morning and looking for eggs on the tape under a microscope.
A pinworm infection often causes no symptoms. If a person does feel anything, it’s typically itchiness around the anus. This can sometimes spread to the vagina.
More severe infections can lead to:
irritated skin around the anus
a loss of appetite
Is it cause for concern?
Pinworms are a common occurrence that you can treat easily with over-the-counter medication.
Infections can spread, though, so everyone in the household should receive the treatment.
It’s rare but possible that white specks in your poop are a sign of a tapeworm infection. In this case, the specks are broken pieces of the gut parasite’s body.
There are usually no other symptoms of a tapeworm infection, so white specks in your poop may be the first sign. A doctor can have a sample of your poop analyzed to check for the issue.
If you do have other noticeable symptoms, they may be:
In rare cases, pork tapeworms can lead to a potentially serious condition called cysticercosis. This can cause cysts in the brain and other parts of the body.
Symptoms of cysticercosis include:
Is it cause for concern?
A tapeworm infection generally doesn't cause symptoms, and you can easily treat it with medication once you have a diagnosis.
So, although it’s an unpleasant idea, it’s not usually something to be too concerned about.
The best treatment for white specks in your poop depends on the cause. In most cases, the specks are just pieces of undigested fibrous food, so you don’t necessarily need to do anything.
In fact, nuts, seeds, and other high-fiber foods that can cause these specks are generally parts of a healthy diet.
If you want to reduce the chances of finding larger pieces of undigested food in your poop, try to eat more slowly and chew your food for longer.
Eating less quickly may even come with health benefits, such as reducing your risk of obesity.
If the white specks are indigestible parts of medication, you probably don’t need to do anything. It’s likely that the drugs are getting into your bloodstream as planned.
If you’re concerned, discuss it with your doctor, and they’ll help you decide whether to make any changes.
You should treat pinworms with medication. They can spread from person to person easily, so everyone in your household should also use the treatment. This medication is available over the counter.
If your doctor diagnoses a tapeworm infection, they’ll prescribe medication. It’s most likely to be a tablet called praziquantel, which kills the tapeworm and forces it to detach from your gut wall.
If the white specks are from undigested food, there’s usually no need to worry. Eating slowly and chewing well can limit their appearance.
White specks from medication also don't usually require any action. You should treat pinworms and tapeworms with medication.
To prevent a tapeworm infection, cook meat and fish thoroughly, and test the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
If you’re buying fish to eat raw, as sushi or sashimi, for example, make sure the seller has frozen the fish first.
If you or someone you live with has a tapeworm infection, it’s important to have good hygiene. This includes washing your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom and before preparing food.
Good hygiene can help prevent pinworm infections, too. It’s important to wash thoroughly every morning and regularly change bedding and underclothes.
Other tips for good gut health
As we’ve seen, white specks in your poop are often not a sign of gut problems. But if you’re looking to improve your overall gut health, these strategies can help:
Eat more plants: Having a wider range of plants in your diet is one of the best things you can do for your gut health — and the diversity of bugs in your gut microbiome.
Manage stress: Increased stress could disrupt the healthy functioning of your gut microbiome. These tips for managing stress may help.
Get more sleep: The quality and duration of your sleep are linked to the diversity of your gut microbiome. Getting more sleep could boost your gut health and your overall health.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise might improve the diversity of your gut microbiome. It can help with stress and sleep, too.
Don’t overuse antibiotics: Antibiotics can be lifesavers, but they kill “good” bacteria too. Only take them as your doctor prescribes.
Avoid smoking: Smoking increases the risk of long-term gut conditions. In fact, smokers have similar gut microbiomes to people with inflammatory bowel disease.
Another way to improve your gut health is with personalized nutrition.
At ZOE, we run the largest nutrition science study in the world. Our research has shown that your body and gut microbiome respond to foods in a unique way.
Our at-home testing includes a gut health test to find out which bacteria you currently have in your gut, including “good” and “bad” gut bugs.
We also look at how your body responds to sugars and fats. With this information, we can provide you with nutrition advice specific to your health goals.
Learn more about how it works by taking our free quiz.
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if you think you might have a tapeworm. The doctor can analyze your poop and prescribe medication if necessary.
For pinworms, you can see a doctor or pharmacist.
If you spot pill or tablet fragments in your poop, and you’re worried that your medication isn’t working properly, your doctor can help you to decide if you need to switch drugs.
If your or your child’s poop is pale, smells particularly bad, and is accompanied by abdominal pain, it may be a sign of celiac disease. It’s a good idea to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
White specks in your poop may be undigested food or parts of controlled-release tablets or pills. In some cases, they may be a sign of a worm infection.
None of these are serious issues, though the idea might be uncomfortable.
If you have a tapeworm, your doctor will give you medicine that quickly gets rid of it. You can treat pinworms with over-the-counter medication.
You can help improve your overall gut health by eating a wide variety of plants, adding fermented foods to your diet, and getting regular exercise.
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