Yellow, Oily Stool

Stool is usually brownish in color. It gets this color due to the action of bile. Yellow stool forms when reduced bile is available in the bowels for reaction with stool. Oily stool occurs due to deficient absorption of fats present in food. Both yellow stool and oily stool can be caused due to the kind of diet that one consumes or due to the presence of severe underlying conditions of the biliary tract, liver, pancreas, and bowels that affect the function of bile.

Symptoms accompanying yellow oily stool

Yellow oily stool may be accompanying by a variety of signs and symptoms which tend to differ as per the underlying causative disorder. Some of the common symptoms that patients may elicit along with yellow oily stool are as follows:

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  • Gas
  • Jaundice marked by yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Abdominal bloating, pain, distention, cramps, rigidity, and/or swelling
  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Palpitations
  • Smelly stool
  • Depression
  • Pain in chest
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Reduced concentration
  • Low grade fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Chronic infections
  • Fainting, reduced consciousness
  • Heartburn
  • Bone density reduction
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Chest tightness
  • Itching skin
  • Breathlessness, difficulties in breathing
  • Urine discoloration

Causes of yellow oily stool

Stool gets its brown color due to the action of bile and bilirubin which are produced by the liver. These products combine in the gallbladder and then move to the bowels where it acts on the stool, gets processed by bacteria, and get released along with stool. Food usually takes about 3 days to undergo this process and become brownish stool. Yellow oily stool is thus an abnormality and can be caused due to the below listed underlying conditions:

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  • Celiac disease
    • It is a condition wherein the body is not able to digest gluten protein that is present in grains like wheat, barley, rye, etc. Intake of gluten foods by patient triggers an immune system response, wherein the tissues of the bowels get attacked and subsequently damaged. Such damaged intestinal linings cannot absorb all nutrients from food. Undigested food with fats is then eliminated from the body as yellow oily stool.
    • There is no cure for celiac disease. However, avoiding gluten foods can prevent the symptoms as well as intestinal tissue damage.
  • Liver diseases
    • Any type of liver disease, including liver cirrhosis, liver scarring caused by alcohol abuse, hepatitis, etc., can affect liver function and its ability to produce bile. Thus, low amounts of bile are available for absorbing nutrients and processing food, thereby resulting in yellow oily stool.
  • Giardiasis
    • Giardiasis is an infection of the intestinal tract by a parasite known as giardia. The infection occurs due to ingestion of giardia cysts which are usually present in water or food. It is treated with antibiotics and other medications.
  • GERD
    • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease is a digestive condition marked by upward flow of bile and other stomach juices and enzymes into the esophagus. Thus, the bile available in the bowels is reduced which can then result in yellow oily stool.
  • Pancreatic conditions
    • Different pancreatic diseases can limit the organ’s ability to provide enzymes necessary for food digestion. Such undigested food and undigested fats then get rapidly removed from the body as yellow oily stool.
    • Chronic pancreatitis, persistent inflammation of the pancreas, congenital pancreatic lipase deficiency which inhibits pancreatic lipase production, blockages in the pancreatic duct, and cystic fibrosis a genetic disease that limits pancreatic function are some of the conditions that can affect the organ and result in yellow oily stool.
  • Gallbladder and biliary duct anomalies
    • Sludge or gallstones can reduce the amount of bile that flows to the bowels. Gallstones can also cause blockages in the bile ducts, thereby hampering its free passage to the intestines.
    • Other kinds of biliary duct obstructions which can eventually cause yellow oily stool include malignant tumors in the gallbladder or ducts; congenital biliary atresia marked by inhibited duct formation; and biliary stricture characterized by constriction of the duct responsible for facilitating the transfer of bile from the gallbladder and liver to the bowels.
  • Anxiety or Stress
    • Stress can have an adverse effect on the digestive processes. As a response to stress, the body can hasten the rate of food passage across the digestive system and the intestines. This prevents proper digestion of food as well as actions of bile on processed food. Hence, people with increased stress levels may suffer from yellow oily stool.
    • Meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques, exercising, sufficient sleep, and medications can help reduce the stress levels.
  • Other causes
    • Conditions like sort bowel syndrome wherein the bowel is shorter than normal; Crohn’s disease; IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome; ulcerative colitis; varied intestinal infections; and other kinds of inflammatory bowel diseases can also hasten the speed of food passage across the intestines. This can restrict the function of bile and the undigested food with fats gets removed from the body as yellow oily stool.

The treatment depends on addressing the specific causes that lead to this condition.

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