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Why is my Poop Black? What to do for Black or Tarry Stool

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mavra Farrukh


A dark black and tarry stool is not a disease or disorder but a symptom of dysfunctionality in the GI tract or the food you eat. This article is purely written for you if you have noticed that you have black stool but cannot figure out what that indicates.

Here you will learn all about the causes of black stool and how to get the proper treatment for diseases which lead to pooping black.

This article will help address thoughts in your mind related to the black-colored stool.

What is a black and tarry stool?

A black stool is a blackish appearance of your stool, referred to as melenic stools. The black and tarry stool can simply result from the food you ate last night but may be a sign of some chronic disorder that can affect your health as a silent killer. Most of the time, after passing, flush without even noticing it. As it remains unbothered, it remains undiagnosed too.

If you are experiencing fatigue and blood in the stool and notice your poop before flushing it out, you can prevent most of the impending dangers by consulting a doctor on time.

What is Black Stool Indicating?: Causes

Black stool causes can be divided into two reasons. 

  • Medical conditions 
  • Food or Medications 

Black Stool Association with Medical Conditions 

The black oily stool can be a red flag of the onset of different medical conditions. So let us figure out dark stool causes overall. 

Black stool and peptic ulcer 

Black stool can be considered a clear indication of peptic ulcer. You might have an undiagnosed peptic ulcer if you have a black stool and stomach pain. Now the question that may cross your head includes: How can black and tar coloured stool indicate a stomach ulcer? How that happens is when your gastric cavity has wounds or ulcers, they merely bleed out; ultimately, blood mixes out with your stool and turns it into black and tarry stool.

Reasons for peptic ulcer include regular use of certain medications like aspirins and ibuprofen or other associated conditions like bacteria. In addition, stomach ulcers can be associated with other symptoms besides having a black and tarry stool.

  • Gastric pain
  • Burning sensation in the stomach
  • Vomiting and burping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight ( unplanned)
  • Bloating

You will likely have a peptic ulcer if you are experiencing heartburn and black stool. 

Finding the ulcer-related underlying cause of the bleeding is the first treatment step. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) frequently lower stomach acid production and speed up ulcer healing during medical intervention. More severe measures, such as endoscopic therapy or surgery, may be required to halt the bleeding and avoid further consequences if there is active bleeding. Blood transfusions could be necessary to restore blood volume in circumstances of substantial blood loss. Lifestyle changes, including abstaining from alcohol, giving up smoking, and embracing a nutritious diet, can help manage peptic ulcers and lower the risk of recurrence in addition to medical treatment.

Please consult a doctor and get the disorder to end before your healthy living ends.

Black Stool and Esophageal dysfunction 

Dark stool or Black watery stool mirrors your gut health and can indicate something is wrong with your gastrointestinal tract.

Different conditions, like esophageal varices and gastroesophageal reflux, can cause esophageal bleeding, ultimately revealed as black and tarry stool symptoms.

Patients in case of ongoing issues of gastrointestinal reflux can experience gastrointestinal reflux disease.

Management of GERD is possible by visiting doctors on time, lifestyle and dietary modifications and medications. Treating esophageal dysfunction causing black stools typically involves identifying the underlying cause, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, and addressing it with medical intervention. This may include medications like proton pump inhibitors to reduce acid reflux or improve esophageal movement. In cases of active bleeding, endoscopic therapy or surgery may be necessary. Additionally, lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding trigger foods and implementing healthy habits, can help manage esophageal dysfunction and reduce symptom

Black tarry stool may indicate a serious health condition, talk to our doctor to find out more

Black Stool and Colon Polyps

Black poop can result from colon polyps. These small growths in the large intestine cause bloody stool, and a patient may experience black stool. In addition, these polyps may become cancerous with time. Therefore, getting a diagnosis and proper doctor consultation on time is essential.

Various steps are involved in treating black stools brought on by colon polyps. To confirm the presence of polyps, a doctor will first undertake diagnostic testing, such as a colonoscopy. Using methods like snaring or electrocautery, the polyps can be removed once they have been located during the colonoscopy procedure. This excision decreases the likelihood of bleeding and the development of malignancy. Regular monitoring and surveillance are often advised to identify and treat any potential recurring polyps after polyp excision.

Abnormal blood vessels in the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum cause Black stool

Conditions such as esophageal varices or gastric varices, which are enlarged and fragile blood vessels, can cause bleeding and result in black, tarry stools. Treatment options may include medications to reduce blood pressure in the portal vein, endoscopic procedures to stop bleeding, or in severe cases, surgical intervention.

Mallory-Weiss tear causing black poop

This refers to a tear in the lining of the esophagus, typically caused by forceful and prolonged vomiting. Treatment may involve supportive care, such as rest, intravenous fluids, and medications to control vomiting. In some cases, endoscopic intervention may be necessary to stop bleeding and promote healing.

Ischemic bowel disease and black stools

This condition occurs when the blood supply to a section of the intestines is compromised, leading to tissue damage and potentially causing bleeding. Treatment options may depend on the severity and location of the ischemia. Still, they may include restoring blood flow through surgical procedures, managing any underlying conditions contributing to the ischemia, and providing supportive care.

Gastritis leading to Black stools

Inflammation in the stomach lining may cause bleeding and result in dark poops. Treatment options for gastritis vary depending on the cause. Still, they may involve medications to reduce stomach acid, antibiotics if an infection is present, avoiding irritants like certain medications or foods, and lifestyle modifications such as diet or stress management.

Trauma or foreign body causing black stool

Injuries to the gastrointestinal tract or the presence of a foreign object can lead to bleeding and black stools. Treatment options depend on the specific situation and may involve endoscopic procedures to remove the foreign body or repair any injuries or surgery in more severe cases. Surgeries of the gastrointestinal tract may also lead to black stool after surgery. This is because surgery acts as a trauma to the tract, and accumulated blood in the tract can colour your stool dark. However, this may be temporary and resolve within few days post surgery.

Black stools due to Esophageal, stomach, duodenal, or ampullary cancer

Cancers in these areas can cause bleeding, leading to black stools. Treatment options for gastrointestinal cancers depend on the stage and location of the cancer but may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these approaches. The treatment plan is determined based on individual factors and in consultation with a healthcare team.

Black Stool Association with Foods and Medications 

Having black and tarry stools is only always a big issue, but a last-night food item might be the cause. Also, certain foods and supplements may turn your stool completely black, and you may notice black speck stool. 

Following list of foods that can turn healthy stool color into black:

  • blood sausage
  • blueberries
  • black licorice
  • green vegetables with high iron content.

Edibles with food color mostly remain unchanged and appear in changing stool color.

Medications for indigestion, such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) and aspirins, can cause black stool.

Iron supplements

When it comes to supplementations, iron tablets are responsible. However, if you start having iron supplementation and black stool, too, there is no need to worry; it’s just iron that turns your poop black or lead to brown tarry stools. 

If it continues for longer, visit the doctor to manage your dosage to avoid toxicity.

Diagnosis of Dark Stool or Black Diarrhea

The choice of diagnostic tests depends on various factors, including the suspected cause of black stool. Here are some diagnostics tests mentioned:


X-rays and a contrast chemical are used to see the blood arteries in the angiography process. It can spot instances of gastrointestinal bleeding or aberrant blood vessels.

Bleeding scan (nuclear medicine)

A bleeding scan involves injecting a radioactive substance into the bloodstream, which helps locate the source of the bleeding. Special imaging techniques are then used to track the movement of the radioactive material and identify areas of bleeding.

Blood studies

Blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), can provide valuable information about an individual’s overall health, such as the presence of anemia or infection. Serum chemistries and clotting studies can help evaluate organ function and assess the blood’s ability to clot properly.


A flexible tube having a camera on the end (colonoscope) is introduced into the rectum and advanced through the colon during a colonoscopy. Direct colon visualization is possible and can be used to locate the cause of bleeding or other anomalies.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD

During an EGD, a flexible tube with a camera is introduced via the mouth into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This diagnosis procedure is known as an upper endoscopy. The upper digestive tract is examined for any anomalies or potential bleeding sources.

Stool culture

A stool culture involves collecting a stool sample and sending it to a laboratory to identify any bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections that may be causing gastrointestinal symptoms, including black stool.

A test procedure for the presence of Helicobacter pylori infection

A bacterium called Helicobacter pylori can lead to gastritis and peptic ulcers. Testing for H. pylori infection may involve blood, stool, or breath examinations to look for the bacterium.

Capsule endoscopy

A pill-sized camera that collects photographs through the digestive tract is swallowed during a capsule endoscopy. It offers fine-grained images of the small intestine that could be used to locate the cause of bleeding or other anomalies.

Double balloon enteroscopy

This specialized endoscopic procedure uses a long, flexible tube with an attached balloon to visualize and examine the parts of the small intestine that are not easily reached with conventional endoscopy or colonoscopy. It can help identify sources of bleeding or other abnormalities in the small intestine.

Best Treatment For Black Stool

Black stool may be present for various reasons, and it must be considered that the treatment for black stool in each case varies from person to person. In addition, one must consider different diseases, state of health, age, and other related factors to treat black stools.

At the same time, many other factors change the course of treatment, as some people might take longer to recover from the condition.

 The presence of black stool on its own is usually not dangerous until you notice signs of black stool with blood and stomach pain.

Treatment of Black Stool In Children

You can use simple home remedies for treatment if you see thin stool and gas or oily stool in children. However, the complication increases when there is a black stool or black stool with blood and mucus. The condition is often caused by cow milt colitis and can be avoided by replacing cow milk with formula milk.

Black feces with mucus may be a sign of a bacterial infection, and its possible treatment is using antibiotics with a doctor’s prescription. Strep skin infection often causes red specs in black stool and should be treated through anti-inflammatory or anti-bacterial drugs.

On the other hand, anal fissures should not be cured with high-dosage drugs until or unless the stool passage becomes too painful or more blood is seen. It is present in 90% of children, and it can be cured by the improvement of diet or by treating constipation through medicine and hydration.

If the child is consuming Pepto-Bismol, no necessary action is required in Pepto-Bismol black stool.

Have you noticed a change in your stool color? Discuss your concerns with our doctor

Black Stool During Pregnancy Treatment

Black stool in pregnancy is not uncommon. However, most women recently undergoing Caesarean section or normal birth are prescribed iron and folate supplements. Thus, to avoid black specs in stool, you should try replacing iron supplements with more intake of iron-rich foods. This notable change in the dietary style can significantly reduce the black liquid stool in these cases.

Try avoiding unnecessary OTC medicines, as they may change your stool colour. Moreover, if you face black stool alongside constipation, the best method may be to start eating more fibre-rich foods. A fibre-rich diet can help improve your GI tract and reduce the risk of hemorrhoids or any other complication that may occur due to this.

Black stool with bleeding during pregnancy is the underlying symptom of GERD. Hence, the best way to treat this is to consult your doctor to treat gastrointestinal issues. 

However, if you face melena, foul odor, black stool, heavy bleeding with black stool, or black leather stool, the best choice would be to contact your doctor immediately as it may be a sign of internal bleeding.

Black Stool With Blood Treatment

In case the condition worsens, you may have to choose different treatment methods, including angiographic embolization, in which coils are placed into the attached catheter to your body to reduce blood flow.

Surgery may be required in extreme cases if the anal fissure occurs with symptoms of black stool in adults. The doctor may prescribe you proton pump inhibitors, or you may have to undergo thermal techniques or injection therapy for treatment. In rare cases, when it leads to cancer, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery is highly likely.

Home Remedies For Black Stool Treatment

Black stool treatment home remedies are some of the most preferred methods to reduce clinical symptoms at home. These remedies are mostly safe and may be preferred when someone treats himself without medical aid or specialist help. Some of the most beneficial treatments for black stool and additional preventive measures are

  1. Try increasing your water intake, as hydration can improve dark coloured diarrhea and black stool in constipation with blood.
  2. Avoid smoking cigarettes, alcohol, vaping, and other toxic substances, as black stool after drinking is common.
  3. Stay away from increased amounts of artificial food colouring as it may increase the chances of black spots in stool.
  4. Eat less spicy food and incorporate healthy food choices with fruits and vegetables that reduce acid reflux.
  5. Some herbs can help treat loose black stools, including allspice, arugula, basil, and bay leaf.
  6. Vegetables and fruits that should be considered include carrots, avocado, almond milk, cooked apple, apple cider vinegar, barley, acorn, acai, and alfalfa sprouts.
  7. Almond date shakes with cinnamon is one of the most used ayurvedic treatment for black stools. This is followed by chickpea and coconut pesto, a banana with cinnamon, and an almond milk smoothie.
  8. As pungent foods cause tarry black stools, it is best to avoid acai, anise, buckwheat, cardamom, and celery seeds. 
Has your stool turned black? Talk to our doctor to find out the cause

When to consult a doctor if you notice a black stool?

Seek medical attention for a black stool when you have had the same blackish stool or black speck in your stool for a long. Besides watching the duration, you must look at your medical history and associated problems. 

It is necessary to get medical aid when the patient has the following:

  • Liver disease
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Yellowish green or pale yellow eyes or skin
  • Manifestation of a parasitic ailment, i.e., worms in the stool
  • Infants having a black colour stool

If you have any above conditions or have noticed that your stool color has changed, talk to our doctor at Your Doctors Online.

FAQs About Black Stools Answered by Your Doctors Online Team

Do black stools cause death?

Black stool may or may not cause death. It depends on the underlying cause. Some chronic diseases, like cancer, may result in death.

Does black stool lead to cancer?

Black stool cannot lead to cancer, but it can be a symptom or indication of cancer that can help in early cancer diagnosis.

Stopping having Iron can treat black stool?

Yes, Not having iron-rich food or iron tablets can restore normal stool colour, but that only works if consuming iron is the real cause of black stool.

When should I be concerned about black stool?

If you have had a black stool for a long duration or have any medical history like liver disorder or cancer, it is a good idea to consult your doctor for evaluation. 

Why does coffee make you poop?

There is a possibility that caffeine will speed up your digestive process, causing dark diarrhea or dark loose stools. The hormones gastrin and cholecystokinin are released by your body when you consume coffee. In response to gastrin and cholecystokinin, your body triggers the gastrocolic reflex, which causes bowel movements. Also, releasing hormones increases colon and rectus motility (peristalsis).

Can liver cirrhosis cause tarry stool?

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage and can lead to black and tarry stools.

Can black stool be treated?

Yes, black stool can be treated in certain conditions. If the black stool is caused by gastrointestinal bleeding, the underlying cause can often be addressed and treated. This may involve medication to reduce acid production, endoscopic therapy to stop the bleeding or surgical intervention. However, it’s important to note that black stool can also be a symptom of serious conditions, such as gastrointestinal cancer, which may require more extensive treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Seeking medical attention for proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment is crucial in managing black stool.

How long does it take for the black stool to stop?

The time it takes for black stools to stop depends on the underlying cause and how well the treatment works. When the underlying problem is resolved, black stool may occasionally disappear within a few days to a week. For example, the black stool may resolve relatively quickly if the cause is a minor gastrointestinal bleed or a temporary reaction to certain medications or foods. However, if the reason is a more significant condition such as peptic ulcers, gastrointestinal tumours, or other severe gastrointestinal disorders, the duration of black stool resolution can be longer. Treatment for these conditions may take weeks to months, and the black stool may persist until the underlying issue is managed correctly.

Is Pepto-Bismol good for black stool?

Most of the patients wonder if Pepto-Bismol can cause black stools. The answer is Yes; Pepto-Bismol can cause the stool to turn black as a known side effect. If you have taken Pepto-Bismol and notice a black stool, it is likely due to the medication and not a cause for concern.

How can you tell the difference between blood and food in stool?

Differentiating blood and food in stool can be challenging, but specific characteristics can help distinguish the two. Blood in the stool is usually dark red or black and has a tarry, sticky appearance known as melena. It tends to be consistent throughout the entire bowel movement and may be accompanied by symptoms like abdominal pain, dizziness, or weakness, indicative of gastrointestinal bleeding. On the other hand, undigested food particles in the stool can appear in various colours, depending on the specific food consumed, and are often isolated or in chunks rather than consistent throughout the stool. Considering personal history, such as current food consumption, can also provide context for the appearance of the stool.

At Your Doctors Online, we are committed to providing high-quality and trustworthy healthcare information to our users. To ensure the accuracy and reliability of our content, we follow strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references and prioritize primary sources of information. We understand the importance of providing up-to-date and evidence-based healthcare information to our users, and our editorial policy reflects this commitment.

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