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

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mavra Farrukh

Overview

A dark black and tarry stool is a symptom that indicates bleeding in the upper GI tract, or it can be due to a food that you have taken. This should not be taken easy; you should see a doctor immediately. This article will detail the reasons behind black, tarry stools and why it is necessary to see a doctor if you have black tarry stools.

What is a black and tarry stool?

The blackish appearance of your stool is also called melanic stool. The black and tarry stool can be either due to food you ate last night or 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.

If you have black tarry stools, get immediate professional help

Causes of black stools

The black appearance of stool can be a red flag of the onset of different medical conditions. Two major causes of black stools include:

  • Medical conditions
  • Food or Medications

The medical conditions leading to black, tarry stools may include the following:
a) Peptic ulcer

b) Esophageal dysfunction

c) Colon polyps
d) Abnormal blood vessels

e) Mallory-Weiss tear

f) Ischemic bowel disease

g) Gastritis

h) Trauma or foreign body

I) Cancer

Go on reading to find out the relation of these conditions with black, tarry stools; however, it is important to note that all of these conditions need urgent medical help.

Black stool and peptic ulcer

Black stools are an 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-colored 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 cause other symptoms besides having a black and tarry stool as:

  • 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, speeding up ulcer healing during medical intervention. More severe measures, such as endoscopic therapy or surgery, are necessary to halt the bleeding and avoid further consequences if there is active bleeding.

Blood transfusions could be essential 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 symptoms.

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 can help treat 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.

Therefore, this excision decreases the likelihood of bleeding and the development of malignancy. Regular monitoring and surveillance identify and treat potential recurring polyps after polyp excision.

Abnormal blood vessels in the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum

Conditions such as esophageal varices or gastric varices, which are enlarged and fragile blood vessels, can cause bleeding and result in black, tarry stools. Meanwhile, 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 interrupted, 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 leads to black stools

Inflammation in the stomach lining may cause bleeding and result in dark poops. Treatment options for gastritis also 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 color your stool dark. However, this may be temporary and resolved within a 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. Your provider determines a treatment plan based on individual factors and in consultation with a healthcare team.

Read More: Common Causes of Blood Clots in Stools

Black Stool due to foods and medications 

Having black and tarry stools is 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. 

The 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; iron turns your poop black or leads to brown tarry stools

If it continues 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. So, here are some diagnostics tests for detecting the cause of dark stool:

Angiography

X-rays and a contrast chemical can help 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. Also, special imaging techniques can track the radioactive material’s movement and identify bleeding areas.

Blood studies

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

Colonoscopy

A flexible tube with a camera on the end (colonoscope) is introduced into the rectum and advanced through the colon during a colonoscopy. Also, direct colon visualization can 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 the upper endoscopy. The upper digestive tract examines 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. Therefore, testing for H. pylori infection may involve blood, stool, or breath examinations to look for the bacterium.

Capsule endoscopy

During capsule endoscopy, the patient swallows a pill-sized camera that collects photographs through the digestive tract. It also offers fine-grain images of the small intestine that locate the cause of bleeding or other anomalies.

Double balloon enteroscopy

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

Treatment for black stool

Black stool may be present for various reasons, and 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.

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

In contrast, avoid treatment of anal fissures with high-dosage drugs, as doctors only recommend it in reverse cases. It is present in 90% of children, and doctors recommend treatment through diet improvement or medicine and hydration.

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

Black tarry stool may indicate a serious illness. Get quick, professional help

Black stool during pregnancy treatment

Black stool in pregnancy is common. Your doctor may prescribe iron and folate supplements to women undergoing cesarean section or normal birth. 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 color. Moreover, eating more fiber-rich foods may be the best method if you face black stool alongside constipation. A fiber-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.

Treatment of black stool with blood

If the condition worsens, you may 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 necessary 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

Along with consultation with a doctor, you can also follow some home remedies to get better sooner. These home remedies for black stool treatment may include:

  1. Try increasing your water intake, as hydration can improve dark-colored 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. Avoid increased amounts of artificial food coloring 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 can help include carrots, avocado, almond milk, cooked apple, apple cider vinegar, barley, acorn, acai, and alfalfa sprouts.
  7. Almond date shakes with cinnamon are one of the most used ayurvedic black stool treatments—chickpea and coconut pesto, banana with cinnamon, and an almond milk smoothie.
  8. As spicy foods cause tarry black stools, avoiding acai, anise, buckwheat, cardamom, and celery seeds is best.
Do not ignore black tarry stool; seek medical attention before it worsens.

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

Seek medical advice if you have more than one episode of black stool or black speck in stools. Besides watching the duration, you must examine your medical history and associated problems. In rare cases you may need to be hospitalized. Especially if you have any of these underlying condition that is causing black tarry stool:

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

FAQs About Black Stools Answered by Your Doctors Online Team

Do black stools cause death?

No, black stools are a symptom of an underlying condition; you should immediately see a doctor to rule out the possibility of anything serious.

Does black stool lead to cancer?

No, black stool cannot lead to cancer, but it can be a symptom of cancer that can help in early diagnosis.

Can stopping iron treat black stool?

Yes, less intake of iron-containing foods can restore normal stool color, but that only works if the cause is iron excess in the body.

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, then consult a doctor.

Why does coffee make you poop?

There is a possibility that caffeine speeds up your digestive process, causing dark diarrhea or loose stools. The hormones your body releases when you consume coffee trigger bowel movements and make you poop.

Can liver cirrhosis cause tarry stool?

Yes, 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, if the black stool is caused by gastrointestinal bleeding, antacid medications, endoscopic therapy, or surgery are possible treatment options. However, it can also be a symptom of gastrointestinal cancer.

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

The treatment time depends on the underlying cause. For example, the black stool may resolve quickly if the cause is gastrointestinal bleeding. However, if the reason is severe as peptic ulcers or gastrointestinal tumors, treatment may take weeks to months.

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

Blood in the stool is usually dark or black and has a tarry appearance known as melena. It tends to be consistent and accompanies abdominal pain, dizziness, or weakness. In contrast, undigested food can appear in various colors, depending on the food consumed, and aren’t consistent.

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