Stool is normally brown in color. It attains the color after mixing with varied gastrointestinal chemicals, bilirubin, fat, cellulose, disintegrated red blood cells, water, protein, bile, and bacteria.
There are many reasons why stool may elicit black specks. Some of the common causes are listed below.
Causes of black specks in stool
Some of the common causes of black specks in stool are listed below:
1. Harmless and temporary causes
- Intake of different kinds of foods and drinks such as bananas, plums, black licorice, black pepper, blueberries, cherries, red wine, figs, beets and other iron-abundant foods, meat that is raw or undercooked, foods with excess paprika, legumes, spinach and other leafy dark green veggies, and foods with excess animal blood like black pudding, etc. can cause elimination of feces with black specks.
- Excessive fiber intake may accelerate the passage of food across the digestive tract, thereby leading to improper digestion. Such undigested food may cause changes in stool color.
- Fruit seeds that do not get fully digested may be eliminated as black specks in stool.
- Intake of bismuth containing medications like Pepto-Bismol; aspirin, ibuprofen, and NSAIDs in excess amounts; and iron supplements may also cause black specks in stool.
2. Underlying conditions as causes
Black specks in stool can be caused due to a variety of underlying conditions, especially those that are associated with internal bleeding as a symptom. Some of such conditions are as follows:
- Crohn’s is a disease marked by digestive tract inflammation. Its causes are unknown, but a family history of the illness and smoking poses increased threat to developing it. Inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease affects not just the upper layers of the bowel, but also damages its deeper tissues. This can cause bleeding and eventual changes in stool color.
- Tearing of the mucous membrane connecting the esophagus to the stomach is known as a Mallory-Weis tear. It may occur due to violent and persistent coughing or strenuous vomiting. The tear may be prone to bleeding; such blood is removed from the body as black specks n stool.
- Gastritis is a condition marked by irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining. It occurs due to proliferation and infection of the stomach wall by H. pylori bacteria, excessive and prolonged use of anti-inflammatory medications, and alcoholism. Inflammation of the cells that line the stomach wall may eventually damage it and hamper digestion of food. Such partly digested food may be removed as black specks in stool.
- Inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions like IBS or irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis also cause black specks in stool. The cause of either of the conditions are not known. The former is marked by intestinal wall inflammation, while the latter is characterized by colon wall inflammation.
- Colon cancer refers to the presence of cancerous tumors in the colon. The tumors may bleed subsequently causing black specks in stool. Doctors are unaware of the exact cause of colon cancer, but smoking, lethargic lifestyle, inflammatory bowel conditions, and poor diet can contribute towards the development of colon cancer.
- Ulcers are open wounds that bleed excessively. Ulcers can form on the stomach wall due to H. pylori infection and abuse of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medicines. Stomach or lower intestinal ulcers may bleed. This blood may undergo oxidation and other chemical processes and be eventually eliminated from the body as black specks in stool.
- The anal canal is the section between the anus and the rectum. The canal may suffer from anal fissures or tearing and damage, often due to chronic constipation and passage of hardened stools. People with this painful condition may experience bleeding in the anal canal region due to extensive damage of the area by hard feces. Such blood may be seen as black specks in feces.
- Sometimes, liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, etc. may be marked by disruption of blood circulation to the liver. This can cause the blood to flow in the reverse direction to the esophagus, thereby causing the esophageal veins to swell up and eventually rupture. The leaked blood then travels down to the digestive system and gets excreted as black specks in stool.
- Strenuous bowel movements, pregnancy, or increased bowel movements, etc., can cause inflammation of the veins present in the anal canal. These swollen veins may burst and bleed during defecation and cause black specks in stool.
- Inflammation of sac-like diverticula structures present in the bowel is called diverticulitis. Diverticula form over time after the age of 40 years, often due to low-fiber intake, a sedentary life, and smoking, etc. Bacterial infection of these pouches may cause them to swell, burst, and bleed. The rectal bleeding eventually causes black specks in stool.
3. Parasitic and Bacterial infections of the digestive system
- Intake of contaminated water, foods, and beverages can cause infections of the bowels and other digestive system areas. Such infections may be marked by black specks in stool. For example, Giardia lamblia parasite can cause giardiasis, while or Entamoeba histolytica parasitic infection can cause amoebiasis. Bacterial infections like water-borne cholera, etc. can also cause changes in stool color.
Treatment of black specks in stool
All patients with long-term cases of black specks in stool need to visit a doctor for diagnosis and relevant treatment.
Cases associated with certain medicine or food intake can be resolved via diet changes and/or stopping the medication or opting for an alternative drug.
Once the doctors diagnose the underlying condition causing black specks in stool as a symptom, it will be treated as per the standard treatment options available. For example, parasitic infections are treated with prescription medicines such as metronidazole, etc.
In case, patients are also suffering from diarrhea, then doctors may suggest rehydration options to overcome the loss of fluids from the body. Electrolyte replacement therapy may be prescribed for countering symptoms of electrolyte imbalance.
During the course of treatment, patients may be asked to abstain from intake of red meat and stick to a specific diet. Furthermore, lifestyle changes, daily exercising, and a balanced diet may be recommended to boost the immune system and prevent the conditions from recurring.