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Digestive Disorders

Stool appearance and bowel function

12/14/2000

Question:

What should a stool look like (on average) when a normal healthy bowel processes food? Does the type of food matter? Does food move through the bowel sequentially, or do some foods pass other foods?

Answer:

This is an unusual question. I have received many previous questions regarding the color of stools. There is not much written on the normal color of stools but most physicians would probably say that "brown" is the most usual color. The most important alteration of stool color occurs when blood mixes with stool - this can change the stool to a black or reddish color depending on where the blood is leaking into the bowel. Components of the diet, especially if colored, can change the appearance of stool.

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Response by:

John D Long, MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati