Yellow diarrhea (steatorrhea or fatty stool) is usually the result of improperly-digested fats expelled from the small intestine. Often the result of the Norwalk Virus, this so-called 24-hour-bug only causes minor discomfort but vitamin/nutrient deficiencies and dehydration can occur if symptoms persist.
Strange Color Fecals in the Stool: What Should You do?
Who hasn't ever had a bout of loose diarrhea before? While unpleasant to think about or discuss, the consistency and color of the fecal discharge can tell much to the cause.
Typically, yellow diarrhea indicates fat malabsorption in the lower intestine. The small intestine being unable to properly digest an influx of fatty food, passes the improperly-digested material is passed via "steatorrhea" ("fatty stool") as called in medical literature.
With steatorrhea, whether the frothy, sticky fecal discharge is watery, loose or thicker in consistency, the color can vary from pale yellow to bright yellow. Fat droplets can be seen in the toilet, floating as pools or drops. While malabsorbed fat is the more common cause, there are several other medical causes of yellow diarrhea that should be discussed with your doctor or Gastroenterologist.
The most common reason of yellow diarrhea is simple stomach flu. Caused usually by either the Norwalk or Norovirus, Norovirus gastroenteritis can cause fever, nausea, muscle aches, vomiting and also, yellow diarrhea in the sufferer.
Due to the gross expulsion of loose bowel material (mostly water,) dehydration often occurs and can also cause headaches, dizziness and abdominal cramps. While often called the '24 hour bug,' the Norwalk virus patient can expect symptoms to persist for 2 to 3 days.
Dehydration and Diarrhea
To help prevent dehydration, regular intake of re-hydration salts is recommended. Sugars, salts and water are recommended if OTC dehydration preparations are not immediately or readily available. A tried & true home-dehydration recipe is to mix one teaspoon of table salt with 7-10 teaspoon of white sugar with one liter of water. Drinking this will help replace lost salts and sugars from the body and help reduce the severity of muscle cramps and headaches that accompany steatorrhea.
The juice of a lemon or lime can be added for flavor and aspirin can be take to help relieve fever and pain as well. Hydration can be difficult if vomiting is present and thus, medical advice should be sought.
Patients known to suffer from Celiac Disease, a condition whereby the individual is sensitive to a wheat protein called "gluten" which is present in most grains have damage to the lining of their bowels, and vitamin/nutrient deficiencies and yellow diarrhea is often a complaint. 'Failure to thrive' can result from inability to absorb necessary nutrients from the foods they eat.
Some types of cancers and lymphoma can also cause yellow diarrhea so again, any prolonged incidence of yellow diarrhea should be discussed with your family doctor to rule out any exceptional conditions.
Yellow diarrhea should not be ignored. While it is probably just 'that 24 hour bug that's been going around' or all that fatty meat you ate at the company banquet last night, if yellow diarrhea lasts longer than a few days it is probably time to talk about it with your family doctor. You may be referred to a Gastroenterologist.
A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in conditions related to the health and disease/conditions related to the liver and gastrointestinal tract and can diagnose your symptoms and guide you towards a suitable remedy.