White Stuff in Poop: What to Do When You See it
Why Is There White Substance in My Stool?
There are several possible causes of the white specks that sometimes appear in the stool—from something as benign as leftover food to more serious medical conditions. Note that the causes can vary, and the substance or condition that contributes to the appearance can vary as well. Doctors will usually perform tests to determine the actual cause.
6 Most Common Causes of White Substance in Poop
1. Undigested foods/medicine
Some substances are more difficult to digest and can make poo appear pale or white.
Lactose intolerance, indigestion of fats and capsule or filler material
2. Lack of Bile
Issues with bile production or secretion
Liver cirrhosis, cholecystitis, hepatitis, tumors, other blockage of bile ducts
3. Medication (over-the-counter or prescription)
Some medication may contain substances that contribute to stool discoloration.
Excess erythromycin (antibiotics) or antacids
4. Mucoid stools
Inner lining of intestines are inflamed and irritated.
Colitis, Crohn's disease, or IBS
5. Clumps of fungus
Candida cells and clumps of fungi appear as white specks
Common with chemotherapy, AIDS, or radiotherapy
6. Parasitic infections
Bugs/parasites covered in intestinal exudate
Tapeworms or giardia
6 Reasons Why Your Poo Is Covered With a White Substance
1. Undigested Food or Medicine
Medicine, Capsules, and Fillers
Sometimes, the white stuff is nothing more than undigested food. This may include seeds and other materials that are really difficult to digest. It could also be capsule case material, fillers, or the medicine itself. An example of this is the aluminum hydroxide in antacids.
People who are lactose intolerant may also notice white stuff in their stool because they have difficulty digesting dairy products or foods with traces of dairy in them, including cheese, butter, and milk.
Indigestion of Fats
There are conditions that cause improper digestion of fats—we will discuss this later in the article. This means that the fat will come out with the poop, giving it a pale or white appearance. Expect the poop to be quite smelly and oily as well. This can occur in cases of steatorrhea.
People who are sensitive to gluten are susceptible to this. If they consume any food that contains gluten, they will have an allergic reaction that leads to intestinal inflammation. In this inflamed state, the intestines are unable to absorb any fat, along with other nutrients. Therefore, the fat is passed out along with the stool.
If the cause is undigested food, your doctor may just recommend increasing your liquid intake (i.e. drinking an extra 8 to 12 ounces of water each day), preferably 15 to 20 minutes before a meal.
Drinking ginger tea with your meal can also aid in digestion. Alternatively, you can take ginger before each meal, although this may take some getting used to. Your doctor may also suggest a warm digest of herbs that can help with any indigestion.
If symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend further testing. This means your digestive system will need to be evaluated.
2. Low Bile Production
The bile produced by your liver is responsible for the normal brownish color of the stool. It is stored in the gallbladder and is also secreted directly into the intestines to digest fats.
If either the liver or the gallbladder (or maybe both) has a problem that interferes with the production and/or secretion of bile, discoloration of the stool can occur, making it appear white.
Certain liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis and hepatitis can decrease bile production. Any blockage of the ducts of the gallbladder—from inflammation (cholecystitis), tumors, or gallstones—can interfere with the storage and secretion of bile.
3. Mucus in Stools
It is possible that the white stuff in poop that you see is mucus that lines the intestinal walls. The mucus is actually produced within the inner lining of the intestines to absorb nutrients released in the digestion process.
Mucus also has a protective function. It protects your intestines from damage caused by the following:
- Harmful fluids
- Stomach acid
- Other possible irritants
Excess mucus may be produced as an allergic response or as a reaction to an infection. Overproduction of mucus may indicate an underlying medical condition. In simple terms, if your intestines are producing too much mucus, it can be a sign that they are inflamed or irritated.
4. Intestinal Conditions
Certain medical conditions can contribute to the inflammation or irritation of the intestines. Your doctor will run tests and consider the possibility of certain diseases such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These conditions will lead to poor digestion. Fewer nutrients will be absorbed, resulting in nutrient deficiencies in the patient. Other symptoms include headaches, weight loss, weakness in the muscles, and irregular bowel movements.
Symptoms that accompany intestinal conditions include:
- Excessive mucus production
- Drastic changes in bowel movements
- Feeling bloated
- Abdominal cramps
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Pus or blood in the stool
5. Parasitic Infections
Giardia and other parasites may cause the white stuff you see in your poop. In some instances, the white lumps may actually be caused by tapeworms. These parasites usually come out with the stool and will be covered by inflammatory exudate produced by the intestines. Patients experiencing this type of infection will experience symptoms like abdominal pain, nutritional deficiency, and other digestive problems.
6. Fungus Clumps
There are cases where the white specks that you see in your stool are actually clumps of fungi. This usually occurs in patients who have immune deficiencies or when their immune systems have been weakened due to treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In some instances, certain medical conditions like AIDS also weaken the patient’s immune system.
In some patients, the white specks are actually candida cells which are now dead. These patients may experience digestive problems along with an inflamed intestinal tract.
Diagnosis and Treatment for White Stuff in Poop
If you find that your stool is regularly covered in white stuff, you should talk to your doctor, who will run the appropriate tests to reach an accurate diagnosis. It will most likely signify an underlying medical condition. This condition varies from subject to subject, so there is no treatment that will work for everyone.
When you go see your doctor, the examination will typically start with a physical followed by some blood tests. They may also ask about your overall health condition. If necessary, other tests may be run to confirm or deny a certain diagnosis.
Additional tests may include:
- Sweat test
- CT scan
- Urine test
- Stool test
- Blood test
How Stool Tests Can Help
Stool samples will be sent to a laboratory for microscopic examination. Sometimes, a stool culture will be required to examine your gut microflora and the contents in your stool. You may also be asked to bring in additional samples. These tests will reveal contents such as fungus, cysts, ova, and/or fat. The stool tests will provide your doctor with initial findings and information that will help diagnose your condition. In case intestinal issues are suspected, your doctor may recommend imaging techniques, like CT scans or MRIs.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor can then prescribe a treatment, which will often involve a prescription that depends on your specific condition. They may also suggest some lifestyle changes that are more universal:
- Creating a diet with a balance of fat, fiber, and carbohydrates.
- Including probiotics in your diet. Your doctor may also prescribe the use of probiotic supplements with Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains.
- Eating more anti-inflammatory foods (e.g. leafy greens and fiber).
- Increasing your fluid intake.
Certain foods can help improve certain conditions. For instance, if you need to increase bile flow, you should include more cinnamon, beets, and leafy greens in your diet. Certain herbs can also help such as turmeric, garlic, and ginger—all of which are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties.