Orange, Oily Stool

Normal stool is brownish or dark yellowish in color. Oily stool, or steatorrhea, is caused due to occurrence of fats in feces, which in turn is the result of mal-absorption of fats by the digestive system. Orange oily stool may be temporary and occur due to harmless causes like intake of certain foods, supplements, medications, etc., or it can be a symptom of some severe underlying disease.

Symptoms accompanying orange, oily stool

Temporary cases of orange oily stool do not cause any additional adverse symptoms. However, serious instances may occur along with below listed signs and symptoms, as per the underlying cause:

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  • Patients with orange oily stool caused due to digestive system problems may also suffer from gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, smelly stool, and/or abdominal cramps, pain, bloating, distention, and/or swelling.
  • Patients with orange oily stool caused due to problems of body systems other than the digestive tract may also experience itchy skin, weight loss, dark urine, yellowing of skin and eyes, coughing, jaundice, and recurrent infections.
  • Patients with orange oily stool caused due to life-threatening underlying diseases may also exhibit symptoms like increased abdominal inflexibility; palpitations; increased tightness, pain, and pressure in chest; breathlessness and other respiratory issues; fainting, reduced alertness; high fever; and sharp, severe pain in abdomen.

Causes of orange oily stool

Some common temporary causes of orange oily stool are listed below:

  • Eating foods with elevated orange coloring or with preservatives. For example, artificial fruit juices, sodas, jellies, etc. These compounds cannot be absorbed by the body and get removed as orange oily stool.
  • Intake of vitamin A supplements as well as antacids and medications containing beta carotene or aluminum hydroxide.
  • Increased intake of vitamin A/beta carotene rich foods spinach, fresh thyme, turnip greens, carrots, pumpkins, apricots, sweet potatoes, kale, and collard greens
  • Undergoing tests like CT-scans, Nuclear Meds study, or MRIs. These diagnostic tests have some contrasts and dye remnants that can cause changes in stool color and texture.
  • Eating escolar fishes. These fishes store waxes that they eat as oil because it cannot be digested by them. Humans also cannot digest this wax/oil which later gets eliminated as orange oily stool.
  • Orange oily stool can also occur due to exposure to cytotoxin and other toxins during chemotherapy.

Some common serious causes of orange oily stool are listed below:

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  • Orange oily stool can occur due to mal-absorption of fats present in food. It can be caused by surgical removal of some part of the digestive tract; inflammation of digestive tract by underlying diseases; bile duct obstructions; or due to dysfunction of the liver, pancreatic lipases, or the bowels.
    • Stool gets its normal color and texture due to the effect of bile, a liquid produced by the liver. Any disease of the liver, such as hepatitis, alcohol induced liver scarring, cirrhosis, etc., can affect its capacity to produce bile. These conditions also promote faster passage of bile across the bowels. The combined effect of low bile production and its quick flow across the bowels can eventually result in orange oily stool.
    • The bile ducts help carry bile from the liver and gallbladder to the digestive system. Any kind of bile duct blockage can thus affect proper bile function. Bile duct obstructions may be caused due to gallstones, choledocholiathiasis, cysts, biliary atresia, tumors, cholangiocarcinoma, inflammation, and biliary stricture. When lower amounts of bile combine with stool in the bowels, then it leads to orange oily stool.
    • Pancreatic lipase problems can occur due to conditions like pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic inflammation, and congenital pancreatic lipase deficiency.
    • Different kinds of intestinal disorders can facilitate faster passage of bile across the bowels, thereby causing orange oily stool. Besides bariatric surgery, some known intestinal syndromes that affect bile function in the bowels include celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, infections or inflammation of the intestinal tract, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Damage caused to the intestines by allergic reactions related to lactose intolerance and other kinds of food intolerance can also limit the ability of bile to act on feces, thereby causing orange oily stool.
    • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD is a condition marked by upward flow of bile and other stomach enzymes to the esophagus from the stomach. Thus the bile available to act with stool is reduced. This can then result in orange oily stool.

Treatment of orange oily stool

  • Temporary cases of orange oily stool usually resolve after necessary corrective steps are taken. For example, changing the diet to reduce beta carotene intake, avoiding foods with high orange coloring or preservatives, etc. can help normalize stool color and texture.
  • If orange oily stool persists for more than 4 to 5 days, then patients need to seek medical attention. The doctor will carry out varied tests to diagnose the underlying cause and then prescribe a treatment.
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