What can cause yellow poop?

If you eat them regularly, some yellow and orange foods can turn your poop yellow. So can certain health conditions, including infections and celiac disease. 

When your body breaks down red blood cells, this produces a yellow pigment called bilirubin. The liver uses it to make bile, a liquid that leaves the body in poop and contributes to its typical brown color.

Too much bilirubin can cause yellow poop. And several problems with the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder can lead to a bilirubin imbalance.

Meanwhile, stress and certain health conditions can affect how you digest nutrients, and this can also change your poop’s color. 

It’s likely that your food choices are behind your yellow poop. You might hear it described as  “pale” or “clay-colored.”

Still, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms of health issues that can cause yellow poop. If you do have one of these conditions, this knowledge will help you address it early. 

ZOE recently conducted The Big Poo Review, the world’s largest study on bowel habits, and our research confirmed that you can learn a lot from your poop.

Our at-home test uses a poop sample to find out which “good” and “bad” bacteria live in your gut. With this information and your individualized blood sugar and blood fat responses, we offer you nutrition advice tailored specifically to you

Learn more about how it works by taking our free quiz.

Below, we look at six causes of yellow poop.

1. Foods

What you eat directly influences the color of your poop.

If you eat a lot of foods that contain a pigment called beta-carotene, your poop may begin to turn yellow. The same goes for consuming foods and drinks with yellow, orange, or red dye.

Beta-carotene is in:

  • carrots

  • squash

  • sweet potatoes

  • some leafy greens and herbs

  • some supplements

If you ease up on consuming these things, your poop’s color should return to normal.

2. Stress

Stress prepares your body to handle challenging situations. It can affect how fast food moves through your gut, which can lead to constipation or diarrhea. 

Stress can also affect your digestion, and as a result, your body might absorb fewer nutrients from your food. This could contribute to yellow poop.

Other symptoms to look out for

Stress has several other physical effects, and it can lead to:

  • muscle tension and pain

  • headaches

  • dizziness

  • chest pain

  • a faster heartbeat than usual


Some stress is a natural part of life, but if you notice the symptoms above, it may help to take steps to manage your stress levels.

Reducing stress could involve:

  • addressing the cause of your stress

  • eating healthily

  • exercising

  • setting boundaries

  • talking to friends

  • dedicating time to what you enjoy

  • avoiding unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms

  • spending time in nature

3. Gut infections

Some parasitic infections affect how your gut works.

The most common gut parasite in the United States is Giardia duodenalis. This can cause giardiasis, a disease that may lead to greasy, foul-smelling, bright yellow diarrhea.

Other symptoms to look out for

As well as runny, yellow poop, giardiasis can cause:

  • gas

  • stomach cramps

  • abdominal pain

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • dehydration

People with giardiasis generally have 2–5 loose poops every day and feel increasingly tired.

In rare cases, it can cause a high fever, swollen eyes and joints, itchy skin, and hives.

However, Giardia also causes no symptoms in some people.


Giardia bugs can be tricky for doctors to spot.

In your poop, these parasites don’t always appear in high enough numbers to show up on a lab test. So, your doctor might need several poop samples.

Doctors also consider your history and symptoms when they make a diagnosis and prescribe medication.

Most people recover in 2–6 weeks. However, the symptoms can come back, and some people have long-term diarrhea.

4. Too much fat in your poop

An increase in fat in your poop is called steatorrhea. Your poop may be greasy and yellow.

More fat can end up in your poop if you have a health condition that affects how you absorb fat from food. You might have:

  • Celiac disease. This causes your immune system to attack healthy tissue in your gut after you’ve eaten gluten. This affects how you absorb nutrients, including fat.

  • Chronic pancreatitis. Inflammation in your pancreas can keep you from producing enough enzymes to fully digest your food.

Other symptoms to look out for

If you have the following symptoms plus yellow poop, it may be a good idea for a doctor to rule out pancreatitis and digestive issues.

If you have celiac disease, these symptoms might develop after you’ve eaten gluten:

  • stomach pain

  • gas and bloating

  • indigestion

  • constipation

  • fatigue

  • unexpected weight loss

  • an itchy rash

  • numbness or tingling in your hands and feet

  • balance, coordination, and speech issues

Chronic pancreatitis may not cause symptoms. If it progresses, you might have:

  • upper abdominal pain that may get worse after you eat

  • nausea and vomiting

  • unexpected weight loss


Managing celiac disease involves avoiding foods that contain gluten. And it may mean opting for alternatives, like gluten-free flour. 

If you have chronic pancreatitis, the doctor may treat the nutrient absorption issue by prescribing enzyme pills and vitamin supplements.

Surgery may be necessary if your pancreas is blocked, damaged, or infected. Avoiding alcohol and smoking can reduce episodes of pancreatitis.

5. A shortage of bile salts

Bile salts help your body absorb fat and give your poop its typical brown color. Your liver makes them.

Pale, yellow poop can sometimes mean that your liver isn’t producing enough bile salts. This can signal:  

  • cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver

  • an infection with the hepatitis B virus

When you’re not using them for digestion, bile salts are stored in your gallbladder. So, a gallbladder problem could also lead to yellow poop. Gallstones, for example, can block the tubes that deliver bile to your gut.

Other symptoms to look out for

Hepatitis B can cause dark urine, severe fatigue, and abdominal pain.

Gallstones can cause sudden, severe pain in your belly or under the ribs on the right side.

Cirrhosis causes appetite loss, nausea, and itchiness in the early stages.

Later, symptoms can progress to include yellowing of the skin and eyes, vomiting blood, and fluid building up in your legs and abdomen.


Managing cirrhosis involves treating the underlying cause, which may be hepatitis B.

The treatment may involve taking medication — or stopping any medication that might be damaging your liver. The doctor may also recommend cutting out alcohol.

If gallstones are causing mild, infrequent symptoms, the doctor may prescribe pain medication. Severe symptoms may require surgery to remove the gallbladder. You can live a full, healthy life without this organ.

6. Gilbert syndrome

Gilbert syndrome is a condition that children can inherit, and it occurs in 3–7% of people in the U.S. It can cause high levels of bilirubin, leading to yellow poop and jaundice.

However, it doesn’t need treatment, and the symptoms are often extremely mild.

Editor’s summary

Your poop can turn yellow from:

  • certain foods and supplements

  • stress

  • a gut infection

  • an increase of fat in your poop

  • a shortage of bile salts

  • Gilbert syndrome

Yellow poop in children

The color of a child’s poop changes as their gut learns to process food.

An old study looked at the pooping habits of 600 healthy infants during their first 3 months. Those who drank breast milk typically had yellow poop, while those with formula often had green poop. 

If a baby’s poop is especially smelly, watery, or hard, or if it has blood in it, contact a doctor. But yellow poop is fairly normal for babies.

Yellow poop in older adults

Liver and gallbladder problems become more common as we age. This increases the likelihood of having yellow poop.

Constipation is also common in older adults, affecting around 26% of women and 16% of men aged over 65.


Regularly having brown, solid poop is the mark of a healthy digestive system. Here are some strategies to help you get there:

  • Get enough fiber every day. Fiber is crucial for gut health.

  • Stay hydrated. How much water you need depends on our body weight, environment, lifestyle, and other factors.

  • Eat for gut health. Look after the community of “good” bacteria in your gut. Probiotic foods, like yogurt, kimchi, and kefir, can help.

  • Move more. Exercise encourages good digestion. It can also relieve stress and help reduce the risk of some liver diseases.

What different poop colors mean

Different poop colors can tell you a range of things about your gut health:

  • brown: healthy, normal

  • white: diarrhea medication side effect, a lack of bile

  • red: beetroot, bleeding bowels, hemorrhoids

  • black: licorice, iron tablet side effects, bleeding high up in the gut

  • green: green food, antibiotics, supplements, gut infections, and other conditions

  • orange: foods rich in beta-carotene, liver or gallbladder disease

When to contact a doctor

If you have the occasional yellow poop, it’s likely no cause for concern. 

However, if your poop doesn’t go back to brown after a few days, or if you’re experiencing some of the other symptoms above, it might be a good idea to contact a doctor.

Frequently asked questions

Below, we answer some common questions about yellow poop.

Does yellow poop mean I’m unwell?

Yellow poop usually happens because of something you ate. 

However, if you also have symptoms like belly pain, gas, nausea, and vomiting, you could have an infection. Yellow diarrhea can signal an illness. 

Does yellow poop mean my liver is damaged? 

Yellow poop doesn’t automatically point to liver damage. But if you also have jaundice or vomit with blood in it, this may indicate a liver problem.

Why is it yellow when I wipe, when my poop is brown?

Jude Tisbury, a clinical nurse specialist in gastroenterology and endoscopy, explains: “Poop is sometimes covered in mucus, which is the bowel’s natural lubricant. This can often be stained yellow, which is the yellow we see on the toilet paper.” 


Yellow poop is often nothing to worry about. However, it can sometimes point to an infection, excess fat in your poop, or problems with a particular organ.

Looking after your gut is the best way to keep your poop brown, regular, and healthy.

ZOE’s at-home test kit provides information about your gut health as well as your blood sugar and blood fat responses. With this information, we can make dietary recommendations tailored to you.

Take our free quiz to find out how it works.