Why Is My Poop Black?

Updated on December 14, 2016

Normally, stool is brown, though colors can range from light yellow to brown to almost (but not quite) black. If your stool is black, it could mean there is a problem. This is not a typical dinner table topic, but poop (like it or not) is a part of life.

There are two main causes of black stool. It can either be caused by something you ate or a medicine or vitamin you took—or it can be caused by health issues that you should see a doctor about.

Things That Make Your Poop Black

Dietary Causes (things you eat)
Health Problems
Medicines that contain bismuth salicylate, like Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate
Bleeding in the stomach (from gastritis or an ulcer)
Vitamins with iron
Bleeding in the upper part of the small intestine
Bleeding in the esophagus
Black licorice

How Do I Know If It's Bleeding?

If you're bleeding in your small intestine, stomach, or esophagus, your poop will not only be black, but it will be sticky (or tarry) and have an unusually foul odor.

If the cause is something you ate, then there should be no noticeable change in texture or smell.

Other Symptoms

Depending on the cause, you might not experience any other symptoms with the change in your poop color.

If there are symptoms (especially for bleeding), they may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, lightheadedness, or dizziness (due to blood loss).

When Do I Get a Doctor?

If you've eaten one of the items mentioned above, then wait a couple of days and your poop color should return to normal. If it doesn't, then you should go see a medical professional.

If your poop is black as well as tarry, sticky, and foul-smelling (a condition known as melena), then you should call your doctor right away because the condition could be serious. Your doctor will be able to give you better information about what to do.

What Can I Do Now?

If you've eaten something that causes your poop to change colors, there's nothing to do but wait until the color returns to normal.

If your poop is sticky or tarry and foul-smelling, you should see a doctor and they will tell you the next steps after examining you.

Sources and More Information


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