Why is my poop black?

Black stool can be caused due to minor reasons like intake of certain medications or foods, or it can arise due to serious causes like internal bleeding in the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract. Contact of feces with blood can make the poop change its color to black or bright red.

It is best to contact a doctor as soon as patients detect black poop. Treatment is aimed at finding out the underlying cause, managing the symptoms, and curing the condition as per standard medical procedures.

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Symptoms accompanying black poop

Additional symptoms that occur along with black poop tend to differ as per the underlying causative condition. Some of the common symptoms that accompany black poop are listed below:

  • Persistent abdominal cramping, discomfort, or pain.
  • Change in bowel movements or habits.
  • Sensations of bloating or abdominal swelling.
  • Changes in the bowel movement pattern, i.e., diarrhea or constipation.
  • Fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, cough, pains, aches, and other flu-like symptoms.
  • Indigestion, flatulence, or gas.
  • Poop has a foul odor.
  • Loss or lack of appetite.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Rectal burning sensations or pain.
  • Pain when passing stool.
  • Inexplicable loss of weight.

The presence of below listed symptoms along with black poop may indicate a severe underlying condition. It is vital for patients to seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms are noticed.

  • Sudden change in the behavior or mental status like delirium, confusion, delusions, lethargy, and hallucinations.
  • Change in the level of alertness or consciousness, like fainting or unresponsiveness.
  • Breathing or respiratory difficulties like labored or difficult breathing, breathlessness, lack of or not breathing, wheezing, and/or choking.
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Loss of strength or weakness
  • Fever with body temperatures higher than 101 F.
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Solid or rigid abdomen.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Intense pain in the abdomen.
  • Coffee grounds-like or bloody vomit.

Causes of black poop

Black poop elimination is mostly associated with internal bleeding. Black poop may be caused due to the following reasons:

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  • Gastritis: It is a condition characterized by erosion or inflammation of the stomach lining. Infection by H. pylori bacteria, alcohol abuse, and prolonged use of anti-inflammatory medicines can irritate the stomach lining and cause gastritis. The stomach wall has cells that release gastric acid which helps digestion. Therefore, any kind of stomach wall injury or damage can result in indigestion and black poop.
  • Stomach ulcers: Ulcers can develop due to excessive use of aspirin taken to avoid heart attacks; naproxen, ibuprofen, and other anti-inflammatory drugs; and H. pylori infection. The open wounds can form on the lower areas of the small bowel or the stomach wall and bleed excessively. Such blood passes into the colon, mixes with the feces, and causes black poop.
  • Mallory-Weiss tear: The esophagus and the stomach are connected via a mucous membrane. Mallory-Weiss tear is a condition wherein this membrane is ruptured or damaged. It can arise due to violent vomiting, increased and prolonged coughing, and retching, etc.
  • Diverticulitis: Inflammation of the diverticula is referred to as diverticulitis. The exact cause of diverticulitis is not known. A sedentary lifestyle, smoking, intake of a fiber-poor diet, and an increased age of above 40 years can increase the susceptibility to the developing the condition.
    • The diverticula are pouches or sacs that form on different areas of the colonic wall. Bacterial infection of this abnormal protruding mass can lead to its inflammation, swelling, and eventual rupture. A burst diverticula can cause bleeding in the rectal region and cause black poop.
    • Esophageal varices: It is a condition characterized by swelling or inflammation of the veins present in the lower esophagus. Any kind of blood supply disturbances to the liver can make the blood flow in the wrong direction and collect in the esophageal veins. The swollen veins may eventually burst and release blood which then moves to the intestines, mixes with the stool, and results in black poop.Blood circulation disturbances to the liver can arise due to alcoholism, cirrhosis, hepatitis, or other liver diseases.
    • Crohn’s disease:It is characterized by deep inflammation of the digestive tract tissues. The disease can affect any part of the digestive system, but it typically causes swelling of the small or large bowel. The causes of Crohn’s disease are not known, but those with a family history of the condition and smokers are at greater risk.
    • Anal fissures: It is a painful condition characterized by damage or tearing of the anal canal lining. The passage of hard stools across the anal canal can result in further injury to the canal wall, eventually resulting in bleeding and black poop.One of the main causes of anal fissures is prolonged constipation which results in elimination of hard feces.
    • Colon cancer: It is characterized by formation of cancerous tumors in the colon. The tumors can bleed and cause black poop along with extreme pain. Doctors are unaware about the exact cause of colon cancer, but smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, intake of a poor diet, a family history of colon cancer, and ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other prolonged intestinal conditions are possible factors that increase the risk.
    • Hemorrhoids: This condition is marked by swelling and inflammation of the veins present in the anal canal. The swollen veins may break when passing stool. Such long-term rectal bleeding may finally result in black poop.Hemorrhoids can be caused due to prolonged use of the toilet, pregnancy, and strained bowel movements.
    • Non-serious causes of black poop: Black poop may also be caused due to minor reasons like:
      • Intake of certain foods, especially iron-rich foods. Reducing the intake of such foods will help stop black poop elimination. Some iron-abundant foods include fruits like cherries, bananas, figs, plums, and blueberries; dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and legumes; and chicken, red meat, and egg yolk.
      • Use of Pepto-Bismol to treat digestion issues like heartburn, diarrhea, and nausea can result in black bowel movement. The medicine reacts with saliva’s sulfur to produce black-colored bismuth sulfide, which then mixes with stool and gets eliminated as black poop.
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