Read below about dark brown stool, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your dark brown stool from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Dark Brown Stool Symptoms

Dark brown stool is generally considered normal. However, "dark brown" is open to interpretation and there are variations in color that may or may not mean there is a problem. Don't hesitate to ask your doctor any questions about the appearance of your stool.

The color of stool can sometimes be the first sign of something wrong and is often what prompts a person to see their doctor or even go to an emergency room. Stool might also be called feces.

Characteristics:

  • Normal stool is medium to dark brown, about the color of milk chocolate. This color is healthy because it indicates that:

    • The person is probably eating a good diet, with normal amounts of the nutrients needed for the digestive tract to function properly.
    • The bilirubin levels are normal. Bilirubin is a component of bile, which aids in the digestion of fats. Bilirubin gives the stool its dark to medium-brown color and means that digestion is proceeding in a normal way and at a normal pace -- not too quickly or too slowly.
  • Yellow to yellow-brown stool indicates that:

    • Fat is not being absorbed from the stool as it moves through the colon.
    • There will often be other symptoms, such as belly pain and discomfort.
    • Stool of this color should be investigated by your medical provider.
  • Very dark brown to black indicates that:

    • The person has been consuming foods or medications that can turn the stool very dark, such as iron supplements.
    • There is internal bleeding high up in the digestive tract. This must be investigated by your medical provider as soon as possible.

Why does this matter? The color of stool matters because it shows several facts quite plainly:

  • What kinds of foods are being eaten, at least in the general sense.
  • How long it took the food to travel through the intestinal tract. If it moves too slowly or too quickly, this can cause chronic and debilitating digestive problems.
  • It can give early warning of potentially serious conditions, such as bleeding in the digestive tract.

Dark Brown Stool Causes Overview

Foods:

  • Eating more red meat might cause darker brown stools due to the iron content of meat.
  • Blackberries, blueberries, or black licorice might cause the stool to look almost black due to the staining pigments of these foods.
  • A gluten intolerance may cause yellow to yellow-brown stools due to interference with digesting fats.
  • Very dark stools after drinking alcohol may be due to the alcohol aggravating stomach ulcers or intestinal lesions, causing them to bleed.

Medications and supplements:

  • Iron tablets, or vitamins containing iron.
  • Anti-diarrhea medicines contain ingredients that can cause very dark stools.

Illnesses:

  • Constipation: This causes stool to stay in the intestine longer and become drier. These things will make it appear darker.
  • Food allergies: The resultant bowel inflammation can cause rapid changes from diarrhea to constipation, often with dark stools.
  • Stomach ulcers: If they bleed, the digested blood can turn the stool very dark.
  • Tumors or other growths within the small or large intestine: If these bleed, the stool will appear brown-black to black.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Dark Brown Stool

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced dark brown stool. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Non Specific Stool Change

    There are many factors affecting the appearance of someone's stools. Often a variation in stool color and/or consistency is caused by food or medicines. Leafy greens and certain vegetables like spinach and kale can make stool look green. Iron supplements and medicines containing bismuth like Pepto-bismol can turn stools black. It looks like your stool change is probably a variation of normal.

    A few days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    black stool, green poop, dark brown stool, red stool
    Symptoms that never occur with non specific stool change:
    tarry stool, weight loss, rectal bleeding, fever
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  2. 2.Constipation Resulting From Dehydration

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not drinking enough water, which causes the stools to be dry and hard.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, constipation, general abdominal pain, pain in the lower left abdomen, pain when passing stools
    Symptoms that always occur with constipation resulting from dehydration:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with constipation resulting from dehydration:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  3. 3.Normal Variation of Constipation

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, or not getting enough exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, constipation, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with normal variation of constipation:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with normal variation of constipation:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Chronic Constipation

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, or not getting enough exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well.

    Variable

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, constipation, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), pain when passing stools, rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic constipation:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic constipation:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Dark Brown Stool Treatments and Relief

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Dark brown stool which keeps turning darker, especially if it actually looks tarry and black. The appointment should be made as soon as possible.
  • Yellow or yellow-brown stool, if it does not clear up within a day or so.
  • Any sort of color change that happens suddenly.

Dark brown stool remedies that you can try at home:

  • Eat a diet that is high in lean protein, vegetables, and fruits, and relatively low in fats. The fats found in french fries, potato chips, and other highly processed foods are the most damaging.
  • Avoid constipation by drinking plenty of water, eating a high-fiber diet, and not delaying a bowel movement when it's time to have one.

FAQs About Dark Brown Stool

Here are some frequently asked questions about dark brown stool.

When should you seek medical attention for dark brown stool?

Dark brown stool can be a sign intestinal bleeding. However, other food items can cause dark stool as well such as iron, iron supplements, or dark leafy greens such as spinach or kale. You should seek medical attention if you have any signs of blood loss or have reasons to believe that you might be at higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. If for example, you have gastric ulcers, cirrhosis, diverticulitis (outpouchings of the intestines), or have undergone chemotherapy, you should seek evaluation. If you have any signs of anemia (weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizzyness, decreased exercise tolerance, pale skin) you should also seek immediate medial evaluation.

Why do I have dark brown stool when I'm constipated?

Exposure to bile over a longer period of time can cause darker stool. If your bowel movements are infrequent and you are consuming large amounts of fatty food, this can also occur. Bile can color stool a dark brown or dark green color, which can become more intense if your stool stays in the intestine for a longer period of time. Generally, this color change will abate as your bowels begin to move again.

Do certain medications cause dark brown stool?

Yes, certain medications can cause dark brown stool. Iron and bismuth (in over-the-counter drugs like pepto bismol) can commonly cause darkened stools. Additionally, licorice, blueberries, or any food with a dark red, purple, blue, or green dye can cause darker stools. Beets, tomatoes, and certain candy food colorings can cause red colored stool.

Why do I have dark brown stool with no pain?

Dark brown stool can be perfectly normal. Unless you are experiencing signs of blood loss like blood in the bowl or on the feces (dizziness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, pale skin) it is likely that dark brown stool is a product of the foods you consumed or the beverages you consumed.

Why do I have dark brown stool before my period?

Dark brown stools prior to the onset of menses may be a product of constipation in association with a change in hormones. As your menstrual cycle begins, your body may be holding onto water and this can cause your bowel movements to move more slowly. The longer your stool spends in your intestine, especially if your body is secreting bile to digest fats and other animal products, this may occur.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Dark Brown Stool

  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our dark brown stool symptom checker to find out more.

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Dark Brown Stool Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced dark brown stool have also experienced:

    • 14% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 10% Diarrhea
    • 5% Constipation
  • People who have experienced dark brown stool were most often matched with:

    • 50% Constipation Resulting From Dehydration
    • 50% Normal Variation of Constipation
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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