White Spots in Stool and What They Mean
Your Stool and You
Are you one of those people who dump it and flush it—without glancing at it even once? You might want to think again, because the color, consistency, and frequency of your bowel movements say a great deal about the current state of your health.
Early diagnosis is essential in the treatment of serious health conditions, and a fecal sample can give important clues regarding your ailments. Therefore, taking a peek at your stool before flushing it down can potentially save you a lot of trouble in the future.
If you're reading this because you've recently observed white spots in your stool, then you're about to get several possible answers, ranging from normal to life-threatening. In order to determine which cause might be relevant to you, we must review each condition and learn about the other symptoms that are associated with each one. Let's begin the process of elimination (pun not intended).
White Spots in Stool Caused by Low Bile Content
Bile is produced by the liver and is responsible for the yellow-brownish color of normal stools. Bile is naturally yellow-brown to greenish in hue, and it is excreted from the body through feces. Bile is vital in the digestion of fat contained in one's diet. A discoloration in the stool, including specks of white, suggests that you may be having a problem with your liver.
Diseases that may cause the absence or lack of bile in the stool include hepatitis and cirrhosis. That said, the cause of the white patches in your stool may be totally non-liver related. Sometimes, the liver is in good condition. The gallbladder, however, may be having difficulty in releasing sufficient amounts of bile. This could be due to gallbladder diseases such as cholecystitis. So, how do you know whether the problem is with your liver or with your gallbladder?
Take a look at the symptoms of associated with the following diseases and observe whether you're experiencing any of them.
Hepatitis: The symptoms of acute and chronic types of hepatitis are almost the same. However, while the symptoms related with acute cases of hepatitis may occur quickly, with chronic hepatitis, they tend to manifest insidiously. In cases of chronic hepatitis, the symptoms only become obvious when the affected individual's condition has already worsened. Tell your doctor if white spots in your stool are accompanied by fatigue, pain in the abdominal area, lack of appetite, weight loss, and symptoms resembling those of influenza. In addition, check whether your urine has darkened in color. The nearly definitive sign of hepatitis is when you're experiencing jaundice. That is, you have an abnormal yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of your eyes. This is because instead of being eliminated through the feces, the yellow brownish bile is being circulated in your system.
Cirrhosis: Are you a chronic drinker? Is your diet a little too rich in fatty foods? Maybe you're taking more drugs than your liver can handle. If the white specks in your stool is accompanied by symptoms like fatigue, jaundice, loss of weight, and nausea, then you have every reason to drop by your doctor's clinic. If you've noticed that you bruise and bleed a little too easily, if your skin is itchy all over, or if you observe swelling in your extremities, then the whitish discoloration of your stools may be caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Other almost conclusive symptoms of this condition include the presence of spider veins beneath your skin and an abnormal redness in the palms of your hands. In such cases, the disease has already progressed and you need to seek immediate and intensive medical care.
Cholecystitis: This is the term used to describe the inflammation of the gallbladder. Most often, the cause of the inflammation is the accumulation of bile due to gallstones obstructing the vessel leading out of the gallbladder. Sometimes, a tumor is what's causing the obstruction. Other times, it's the bile duct itself that malfunctions. If the white spots in stool come with extreme pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdominal area and if the pain radiates toward your back or your shoulder, this is a warning sign that you may have cholecystitis. You may also experience, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Note that the other symptoms related with cholecystitis typically occur after the consumption of a huge or fatty meal. Seek emergency care if the pain is so violent that you're unable to assume a comfortable sitting position
White Specks Caused by Mucus in Stool
The inner intestinal linings naturally produce mucus when you suffer from infection, an inflammatory process, or an allergic reaction. All cases lead to overproduction of mucus, and the extra mucus is eliminated through the stool. Because of this, you may notice whitish streaks in your excreted waste. That said, the presence of mucus in the stool may also be brought about by serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. Although each of these conditions is unique, one common characteristic is that they cause irritation to the intestinal linings. Thus, the affected individual experiences difficulty digesting food. Any of these three diseases could cause the whitish discoloration of your stools. To differentiate between the severity of each disease and the other symptoms associated with each condition, check out the table below.
Notify your physician immediately if one or more of the symptoms mentioned above accompany the white spots in stool. Though you may be aware of the symptoms of each disease, only a certified healthcare provider can determine a diagnosis and advise you on the appropriate course of action. Under no circumstance should you self-diagnose or self-medicate.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Common to All
inflammation in the bowels
causes inflammation in digestive tract lining
inflammation of the large intestinal lining
requires immediate medical care
does not cause modification in bowel tissues
affects various parts of the GI from mouth to rectum
usually affects the sigmoid colon
necessitates diet and lifestyle modifications
does not necessarily intensify your risk for colorectal cancer
increases your risk for colorectal cancer
likely to cause colorectal cancer
can affect overall quality of life
symptoms are manageable through diet and lifestyle modification and stress management
symptoms come and go with asymptomatic periods and sudden severe flare ups
symptoms come and go with periods of remission and exacerbation
abdominal cramps only relieved by moving the bowels
nausea and vomiting
pain in the joints
mucus in stools that may be characterized by white spots/rectal bleeding
perianal disease (fistula formation)
shortness of breath
skin that's red and painful to touch
pain in the abdomen
inability to void the bladder
irregular cardiac rate
loss of appetite
loss of weight
Consult Your Physician
Always consult your physician or healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
White Flecks in Stool Caused by Parasites
Sometimes, the presence of white dots in your body's waste material is brought about by a parasitic infestation. The worms may appear as tiny round dots attached to your stool. Consider your recent eating history. Have you eaten anything from a questionable source? You may have recently traveled abroad and sampled the exotic local dishes. Or maybe you've slept in contaminated sheets. Have you accidentally ingested water from a swimming pool or a natural body of water? Or perhaps you've recently had unprotected sex with a new partner? Any of these experiences could cause a parasitic infection.
Threadworms and Pinworms: Pinworm infestation is usually asymptomatic, but it's normal to see white dots in the stool. These dots are actually the worms, so check to see whether the white flecks in your stool are moving. In cases of threadworm infestation, you may observe strands of white, cotton-like threads in the feces. Whichever of the two parasites have invaded your body, you're likely to experience itching around the anal area. The flesh around the anus may also be infected or irritated. Women may experience itching in the vaginal area, as well. Persistent infections could lead to a lack of appetite and weight loss that results in malnutrition.
Other symptoms include difficulty sleeping, bedwetting, or gnashing of the teeth while asleep. You may feel restless or irritated. Sometimes, you may experience sporadic abdominal pains or an urge to vomit. Some individuals develop generalized skin rashes or unexplained eczema. Some experience joint and muscular pain. People infected by parasites also feel an unexplainable weariness. While some lose their appetites, others feel unsatisfied no matter how much they eat. Moreover, digestive problems are not uncommon. You can be almost sure that you're suffering from a parasitic infestation if nutritional deficits such as iron deficiency anemia occurs.
Other Parasitic Infections: Other parasitic infections that may cause white spots in stool include Giardiasis and Trichomoniasis. The latter is sexually transmitted and often asymptomatic. That said, you may experience itching and irritation around the genital region. It's also possible to notice a strange discharge. Giardiasis, on the other hand, manifests through gastrointestinal symptoms. These include diarrhea, excessive gas, and an upset stomach. Dehydration may occur as a result of diarrhea. You may also observe that your stools are unnaturally greasy. A Giardia infection may result from the ingestion of contaminated water. Patients may report experiencing bloating, stomach cramps, and explosive and watery diarrhea.
The only way to determine whether you have a parasitic infestation is to test your stool. For suspected pinworm infections, a tape test can be performed. If a stool exam proves to be inconclusive, your physician may order a colonoscopy. If Giardiasis is diagnosed, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotic therapy with Metronidazole or Tinidazole. Meanwhile, the anti-parasitic drugs of choice for pinworm infestations are Albendazole and Mebendazole.
White Specks in Stool Caused by Fungi
For people who have a compromised immune system—including AIDS patients, those taking chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and individuals on immunosuppressive medication—finding white flecks in the feces is not uncommon. The white dots are usually clusters of fungi. It's possible that you have contracted candidiasis. Dead candida cells can be visible as white spots in the feces.
Candida is a naturally occurring fungus in the body. In fact, it helps the body digest food and absorb nutrients. However, when a person is immunosuppressed or the body's internal pH balance is disturbed, the candida population may grow out of control. The abnormally high population of candida in the GI tract can lead to breakdown of the walls of the intestinal lining. The candida then enters the bloodstream, causing the discharge of toxins as a byproduct.
So what if you're not immunocompromised? What are the other possible causes of candida infection? It may be possible that you've overused antibiotics. Note that antibiotics not only eliminates bad bacteria but good ones, too. When the population of good bacteria in your body dwindles, candida thrives. Use of oral contraceptives coupled with a diet that consists of too much refined sugars and carbs may also initiate candida overgrowth. Candida is also common in patients suffering from diabetes as well as those taking oral corticosteroids. Research reveals that a high-stress lifestyle, increased alcohol consumption, and a diet rich in fermented foods, such as pickles, may contribute to the overgrowth of candida in the body.
So, how can you tell if the white spots in stool are caused by a candida overgrowth? Look for the following symptoms.
- Unexplainable allergies
- An unexplainable yearning for sweets
- Foul-smelling breath
- Whitish coating on the tongue
- Low libido
- Inability to concentrate
- GI problems, such as excessive gas and bloating
- Pain in the joints
- Urinary tract infection
Why is candida present in the stool? The white flecks in your excreta are an indication that your body is fighting back. When populating in exponential degrees, the candida transforms from its yeast form into a mycelial structure. It also develops roots that are able to pierce through the intestinal walls. Because of this, microbes and undigested food matter are able to enter the bloodstream. As a response, the body propels bowel functions so as to flush out the pathogen. Candida cells in the feces look somewhat milky. They may resemble grated parmesan cheese. Other times, they appear to be a bit slimy.
Diagnosis of candida is done by testing the blood as well as the stool. If you've been diagnosed with candida infection, you'll have to eliminate refined sugars from your diet. This is because the yeast feeds on sugar. Your doctor will also advise you to cut down on carbohydrates, fermented foods, milk, and any products that contain yeast. You will be advised to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and also add beneficial yogurt to your diet to increase the presence of good bacteria in your gut. Your may also be prescribed an anti-fungal medication. Once the problem is treated, you'll finally stop seeing those strange white flecks in your stool.
White Spots in Greasy Stools
What if your stool doesn't just have white spots but also appears to be oily? You may be having trouble with digesting fat. This condition is referred to as steatorrhea. Likewise, gluten intolerance causes irritation of the intestinal mucosa and cause difficulty in fat absorption.
Serious medical conditions that cause fat malabsorption and therefore cause white spots in stool include pancreatitis, cholecystitis, and hepatitis. You've already been familiarized with the symptoms associated with both hepatitis and cholecystitis. After ruling them out, you can compare the other symptoms you're experiencing with the signs which are suggestive of pancreatitis. The pain associated with pancreatitis begins at the upper region of the abdomen and then spreads toward the back. The pain tends to worsen just after eating. You may experience nausea and vomiting. The abdomen is also tender to touch. In chronic pancreatitis, you'll notice extreme weight loss as well as greasy and smelly stools accompanied by white marks.
What if the whitish spots in your stool are caused by an undiagnosed gluten intolerance? Perhaps you have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or you simply have a non-celiac sensitivity to gluten. To find out, check whether your white-spotted stools are accompanied by the following symptoms.
- Bloated abdomen
- Unexplainable fatigue
- Oral sores
- Persistent diarrhea or chronic constipation
- Pale, whitish, or white-flecked stools that are foul-smelling
- Pain in the stomach
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tingling in the extremities
- Brittle bones and teeth
- Periods of depression and anxiety
- Infertility or irregular periods
The problem with the symptoms of celiac disease is that they tend to resemble the symptoms of a broad range of diseases. This makes the condition difficult to diagnose. Nevertheless, visit your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms along with the whitish discoloration of your stools. Diagnosis will be performed through a skin-prick test.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
- Mental exhaustion
- Unexplainable headaches
- Pain in the abdomen
These symptoms occur after consuming gluten products. If you suspect that the white spots in your stool are caused by gluten sensitivity, try keeping a diet journal. This way, you'll be able to determine which foods triggered the presence of white patches in your stool.
- Oral or pharyngeal irritation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rashes and hives
- Red and irritated eyes
- Congested nose
- Difficulty with breathing
You'll be able to determine if you have wheat allergy if the symptoms manifest within a few minutes to two hours after the consumption of wheat, barley, or rye products.
Gluten Allergy Warning
A gluten allergy may seem mild, but it can have the potential to be life-threatening. If you begin to experience a tightening of the throat, swelling of the tongue, or difficulty breathing or speaking, immediately call for emergency care. An EpiPen may be administered in order to prevent anaphylaxis.
Other Possible Causes of White Patches in Your Stool
Hypercalcemia. Another possible reason for white spots in stool is hypercalcemia, or extremely high levels of calcium in your body. This may be caused by taking too many calcium supplements or lifting heavy weights. The collected excess calcium may exit your body though the stool, where you'll see them as white bits. They may also leave the body through the urinary system. In this case, they'll look like strings of white in your urine.
So how will you know if you have hypercalcemia? The symptoms associated with this condition affects almost all body systems. As your kidneys work overtime to get rid of the excess calcium, you may experience the frequent need to urinate as well as an unquenchable thirst. Too much calcium in the body can upset the digestive system. You're likely to feel constipated or you may experience nausea, vomiting, and an upset stomach. Your brain is also affected, causing you to feel lethargic or even disoriented. Naturally, your musculoskeletal system will be affected, as well. When the disproportionately high amounts of calcium leaks from your bones, they may become brittle and painful. Likewise, your muscles may become weak.
Lactose intolerance. It's common to observe white spots in stool in people who are lactose intolerant. These white flecks are seen after the consumption of dairy products. Since the body is unable to digest these substances, it simply poops out the food as it is. In other words, those white dots that you're seeing could be undigested milk or cheese.
Certain medications. Other factors that can cause a whitish discoloration of the feces is the use of certain medications. These include antacids containing aluminum hydroxide. There are also instances where the white blotches in the stool are actually what used to be the capsules of antibiotics that you've taken.
Undigested food. Other times, the white particles may simply be due to undigested food, such as seeds. The trick here is that if you notice white specks in your stool once or twice, you may dismiss it as something you ate. However, if the white flecks appear regularly, and if its presence is accompanied by other symptoms, then it's time to seek medical assistance.
Now that you know all that you need to about the various possible causes of white speckles in your stool, try testing your knowledge by answering the following question.
What should you do when you notice white flecks in your stool?
Sources and Further Reading
- "Hepatitis Overview." WebMD. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2016.
- "Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2016.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Ulcerative Colitis." Mayo Clinic. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2016.
- "What Is Cirrhosis?" National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2016.
- "What Is Crohn’s Disease?" Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2016.