Black Stool Causes and Treatments

What causes black stool?

Black stool that may or may not be accompanied by foul odor is usually a result of taking in certain foods or medications with high content of iron, or worse, may be due to internal bleeding. Melena is termed for black stool caused by bleeding. The black in the stool is an indication that blood has been there for long and originated in the gastrointestinal tract.

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Black stool that is caused by other than blood, such as minerals or medication, supplements and food is known as ‘false melena’. When iron supplements are taken in the body, these may cause the stools to appear black or sometimes green in color. Foods colored black or dark blue also cause the black color in stool. Substances that make the stool black are bismuth, lead, iron supplements, blueberries and black licorice. You will need to consult or seek medical attention if the black stool is not caused nor related to the food you have taken or from the iron supplements. Vitamin B 12 deficiency may also result in black, tarry stools.


The black color of the stool is not sufficient enough to identify its cause, whether it is from the blood or from the food or medications. A doctor is needed to see and identify the cause of the color of your stool. The doctor will do some procedures in order to determine the cause, such as a rectal exam. In other cases the doctor will give you a small kit to place in a sample stool inside and send it to a medical laboratory for analysis. The results will be printed in paper and you will present this to your doctor to see if there are any findings or not.

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There are certain conditions of the body that gives the color of the stool black such as bleeding ulcer, Mallory-Weiss tear or a tear inside the esophagus, gastritis or esophageal varices. The appearance of the stool that is tarry is from blood that has made contact with the digestive juices of the stomach. When melena is diagnosed, the physician handling you will do some other request such as diagnostic tests to help identify the cause and the precise location of bleeding. These diagnostic tests may include blood tests, barium studies, stool culture, gastroscopy, colonoscopy and x-rays.


There are various treatments for black stool and it depends on what is the cause and how severe it is. If it is severe, you will need to seek medical attention or be admitted to the hospital for constant observation. Prevention is an option if the cause is a lighter case.

* If you are a smoker, quit smoking. Smoking leads to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and peptic ulcers.

* Limit the alcohol you drink. Too much alcohol in the body irritates the inner esophagus and the stomach as well.

* Avoid, at all costs, excessive intake of drugs specializing in anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.

* Eat more fresh foods, fruits and vegetables that have high-fiber content and low levels of saturated fat. This will reduce the risks of hemorrhoids, colon cancer, constipation, and diverticulosis.

There are various causes of black stool, from trivial to life-threatening. Hence, if you see black color in your stool, it is best to consult your doctor to find out the root cause. Read more about bowel movement, colors and shapes

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