You’re on the toilet when, suddenly, you look down to see black specks in the stool. “I’m dying”, you begin to think.
Well, don’t worry- this symptom is much more common than you think. In most cases, it’s either due to your food intake or a specific medication.
Less common causes include color cancer and digestive tract damage. In this article, we’ll explore the possibilities.
Cause #1: Foods with a Lot of Fiber and/or Iron
Having you been eating a lot of bananas lately? If so, this could be causing your symptom.
But it’s not just bananas- any food with a lot of fiber can cause dark spots to appear in your poop. Other potential culprits include:
Not only are these foods darkly-colored, but they also contain seeds (contributing to the tiny “specks” that you see).
Additionally, certain iron-rich foods can cause it. So, if you’ve been eating a lot of spinach or beets lately, there’s little need to worry.
Eating undercooked steak has been known to cause black specks in the stool since it contains a lot of blood.
Finally, things like licorice candy, black pepper, and red wine can be at fault, so take note of when you eat/drink these.
Cause #2: Medications
A cause that often goes overlooked is medications- specifically, medicines for anemia.
People with anemia often make medications that are rich in iron.
But as we just mentioned, consuming too much iron makes this symptom appear. Other medicines, including Pepto Bismol and NSAIDs, can be the cause as well.
Pepto Bismol, a medicine use to treat heart burn, contains a compound called salicylic acid. Salicylic acid has been shown to cause this symptom in some people.
Finally, be on the lookout for any antimicrobial medications that you’re taking. These medicines cause digestive tract microbes to die off, which contributes to black specks in the stool.
Cause #3: Digestive Disorders
A less common cause for this symptom is digestive disorders. These include:
- Colon Cancer: This is one of the most common types of cancers in Western civilization. It’s heavily linked to poor dietary choices (including the consumption of processed meat). As the cancerous cells grow within the colon, it can cause bleeding. This bleeding can then end up in the poop as dark spots.
- Trauma/Injury: It’s possible that you’ve injured your digestive tract in some way. One possibility is gastric ulcers, a condition caused by the H. pylori virus. Like colon cancer, these ulcers produce blood, which end up in the stool. Fortunately, you can kill the H. pylori virus with the help of antibiotics.
- Inflammatory Disorders: Disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease can lead to black specks in the stool. The chronic inflammation leads to bleeding which, as you just learned, causes the symptom. In a lot of cases, switching to a plant-based diet can dramatically alleviate these disorders.
As you can see, these digestive disorders have one thing in common: they all cause blood to enter the digestive tract. The blood can then appear as a tiny speck.
Cause #4: Liver Disease
Anatomically, the liver isn’t part of your digestive tract. However, it does play a big role in it.
One job of the liver is to release bile into the digestive tract. The bile helps breakdown fats so that the body can absorb them.
If there’s a problem with your liver, then it can lead to speckled stools. Be on the lookout for additional symptoms, including:
- Unexplained Weight Loss
To treat liver disease, you first need to know what’s causing it. For instance, it can be due to alcoholism, gallstones, and more. In very rare cases, you may need a liver transplant.
Cause #5: Infections
Aside from H. pylori, there are many other microorganisms that can cause infections within the digestive tract. For example, there are certain parasites that can cause this symptom.
You can avoid them by drinking from clean water sources. You might also have cholera, an infectious disease that leads to diarrhea and sometimes death.
Treating your infection will depend on what type you have. You’ll need anti-parasitic drugs for parasites and antibiotics for bacteria.
A Quick Note on Vanadium
Vanadium is a trace mineral that’s found in foods like parsley, black pepper, shellfish, and more.
Researchers believe that small amounts of this mineral are needed for normal bone growth.
However, if you get too much, it can lead to speckled poop and even be unsafe.
Many bodybuilders take vanadium in supplement form, which isn’t recommended.
Typically, ingesting too much vanadium will cause tiny blood patches in the stool. If you feel that you’re getting too much vanadium, then talk with your doctor about this.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Firstly, pay attention to what you’re eating. Is your diet filled with a lot of fiber and/or iron? If so, you’re most likely fine and a doctor’s visit isn’t required.
However, if you don’t think that it’s due to your diet, then schedule a visit. In the meantime, try not to panic.
On its own, black specks in the stool usually isn’t a sign of something serious.
Your poop says a lot about your health. Whenever you’re passing stools, take a few seconds to observe them.
Take notice of their color, shape, size, and whether they float. Believe it or not, these observations can tell you a lot about what’s going on in your body.