The alcoholic stool is the medical term that refers to stools that are pale or light in color.
These are a result of the absence or deficiency of bile secretion. Bile deficient feces are clay-colored and may also be fatty.
While normal stools appear in varying shades of brown to yellow, pale stools indicate problems in the biliary system. Problems such as a block in the bile duct or a disease may result in alcoholic stools.
Alcoholic stools are a symptom that could indicate a problem, rather than being a disease in itself.
Read on to find out more on alcoholic stools, looking at what causes it, how it is diagnosed and treated, along with steps to prevent alcoholic stools.
What Happens During Normal Stools?
The biliary system, consisting of organs and ducts, deals with the digestion and absorption of fats. It includes the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
The liver is responsible for producing and releasing bile, which is stored in the gallbladder.
Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid that aids the digestion of fats. It also helps in the transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Bile consists of cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin.
Bile ducts transport the bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Here it is mixed with the food in the process of digestion. The substance bilirubin is broken down in the colon. This is what gives normal stools its brown color.
What Happens During Alcoholic Stools?
Alcholic stools result due to problems associated with the biliary system.Some of the problems are the disease of the organs involved, infection, insufficient bile production and obstruction in the ducts.
These interfere with the regular metabolism of bilirubin and may lead to yellowing of the skin due to bilirubin accumulation.Stools may appear fatty, when the body is not able to absorb fats efficiently.
What Causes Alcoholic Stools?
Here are few conditions and factors that lead to Alcoholic stools:
There are cases of alcoholic stools caused by particular types of medications used. These include:
- Anti-diarrheal medicines like Bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate Pepto-Bismol) in high doses.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen
- Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide
- Some antibiotics or anti-fungal medications
- Birth control pills
- Substances like Barium, used in X-ray procedures.
ii. Alcoholic Hepatitis
This condition is the inflammation or swelling of the liver due to excess alcohol consumption. It affects the production and metabolism of bile, which can cause light-colored stools.It may even result in permanent failure of the liver, a condition known as liver cirrhosis.
Initially, you may follow home remedies to get rid of alcohol hangover.
iii. Biliary Cirrhosis
Biliary cirrhosis is the inflammation of the bile ducts, which may block the flow of bile.
Hard deposits in the gallbladder are known as gallstones. These may block the opening of the gallbladder, causing inflammation. This condition obstructs the flow of bile, which gets accumulated in the gallbladder.
v. Birth Defects
Acholic stools may result due to birth defects of the gallbladder.
Biliary atresia is one such structural birth defect where the ducts transporting bile from the liver to the intestines are blocked. This hampers the functioning of bile, thereby producing pale stools.
Hepatitis is the inflammation or swelling of the liver caused by hepatitis A, B or C viruses. Autoimmune hepatitis is another type, which is not caused by the virus.
This condition interferes with the normal functioning of the liver, including bile production.
vii. Sclerosing Cholangitis
Sclerosing cholangitis is the scarring of the bile ducts. This condition results in inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts, affecting the flow of bile. This may also lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
While the condition may be attributed to genetic reasons, the exact cause is unknown.
viii. Biliary Stricture
A biliary stricture is the narrowing of bile ducts, which hinders the efficient transport and metabolism of bile. This condition can be caused by gallbladder removal surgery. It can further lead to biliary cirrhosis.
ix. Acute Pancreatitis:
Acute pancreatitis is the sudden inflammation of the pancreas. This could be caused by viral infections or immune system reactions. When it persists over a longer period, it may develop chronic pancreatitis. This condition can lead to damage or failure of the pancreas.
You may also follow the method to cleanse your pancreas at home.
Cancer of the pancreas can result in acholic stools. The pancreas supplies digestive enzymes that are essential for efficient digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. This may also block the bile ducts near the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer disrupts the working of the digestive system.
xi. Cysts And Tumors
Cysts and tumors in the biliary system can also result in acholic stools. Tumors may cause the inflammation of the organs. Cysts in the bile duct can obstruct the transportation of bile.
Symptoms Associated With Acholic Stools
As we saw earlier, acholic stool itself is a symptom, which reflects problems with the biliary system.
Other symptoms may accompany the acholic stools to indicate the underlying cause. Take a look at few such symptoms:
- Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
- A backache, which may extend to the shoulders
- Loss of appetite
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Fatty or greasy feces
- Jaundice- It is a condition causing yellowing of the skin and eyes, and dark colored urine. This is caused by the buildup of bile salts in the body.
What Do These Symptoms Indicate?
Symptoms characteristic of liver or bile duct disease include dark urine, fatigue, fever, body ache, pain in the abdomen, jaundice, nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Acholic stools caused due to medications are commonly accompanied by bloating of the abdomen. It may lead to either constipation or loose, watery stools.
Symptoms indicating biliary cirrhosis include weakness, fatigue, poor appetite, and loss of weight.
Pancreatic cancer may result in acholic stools along with abdominal pain, fatigue, sudden weight loss, fever, and loss of appetite.
Symptoms of pain or discomfort while eating, jaundice, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea could indicate pancreatitis.
When acholic stools are accompanied by severe symptoms like bleeding, vomiting blood, blood in stools, passing out, lethargy, confusion, extreme fatigue, high fever or breathing difficulty, it may be signs of a fatal condition. This requires immediate medical care.
When Should You Consult A Doctor?
It may be normal to observe light-colored stools occasionally. However, if it is persistent, frequent or accompanied by other symptoms, it would be best to seek medical help.
Severe symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, seizures, extreme dehydration or intense pain need to be immediately looked into.
Acholic stools indicate an abnormality in the function of the body. As we have seen, it may even be caused by some life-threatening medical problem.
Hence it is important to get it diagnosed and seek treatment appropriate to the condition.
Diagnosis Of Acholic Stools
Medical diagnosis involves physical examination and analysis of the symptoms.
Your doctor may ask you about the following:
- Symptoms- how, when they began, frequency, pattern
- Associated symptoms
- Medications used
- Medical history
- Habits like drinking or drug abuse
The doctor may also conduct tests to ascertain the nature of the cause. These may include:
- Blood test, to detect infections and functioning of organs
- Abdomen ultrasound scan
- CT scan
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
How To Get Rid Of Alcoholic Stool
Diagnosis of alcoholic stools gives us an understanding of the underlying condition that causes it. The medical practitioner would then prescribe treatments for the condition. You may be given medications to treat inflammation, swelling, cirrhosis and liver disease.
Here are few treatment options.
1. Change In Diet Or Lifestyle:
If the cause of the condition is mild, you may be prescribed vitamin supplements. This is commonly used in case of alcoholic stools due to fat and nutrient malabsorption.
If the condition is a result of alcoholic hepatitis, you would be advised to gradually refrain from consuming alcohol. To overcome the effects of malnutrition caused by alcohol, the doctor may prescribe vitamins and nutrients.
In case alcoholic stools are a result of medication, you may be advised to stop it and take an alternative.
2. Gallstone Removal:
This is the treatment used when the bile duct is blocked by stone in the gallbladder.
Dissolution therapy may be used to remove small gallstones. In this procedure, medication is administered orally to dissolve the stones.
It can be done through surgical means, to fix the blockage. In extreme cases, the gallbladder may be removed in a procedure known as a cholecystectomy. This helps to prevent damage to the other organs in the system and ensures proper flow of bile.
3. Stent Tube To Clear Blocks
If the condition arises due to blocks in the bile duct, a stent tube may be used to widen the duct and restore normal bile flow to the intestines.
Surgery can be an option to repair strictures or deformations in the bile duct.Biliary atresia, a birth defect that affects the bile duct, can be rectified through surgery.
Cysts in the bile duct can be removed through a surgical procedure to restore efficient functioning and metabolism of bile. This would also help to prevent further spreading and complications.
Prevention Of Alcoholic Stools
The prevention of alcoholic stools largely depends on what causes it.Generally, following a well-balanced diet with sufficient vitamins, nutrients and fiber help to maintain normal bowel movement and stools.
Regular exercise helps to ensure healthy functioning of all organs and systems of the body. Conditions like hepatitis may be prevented by administering vaccines.
Avoid taking large doses of antacids or medication at a time. Avoiding excess consumption of alcohol can prevent alcoholic hepatitis, thereby preventing alcoholic stools.
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