Sometimes, you may notice that your poop looks like coffee grounds. Essentially, coffee ground refers to the remnant of ground coffee beans in a coffee maker or coffee pot after brewing coffee. They appear black or brown, with a loose consistency. Coffee grounds in stool are also known as black specks.
Poop (stool) is a combination of waste products such as undigested food matter, mucus, water, and bacteria. Stool is generally brown in color. The brown color is a result of bile that is broken down by intestinal bacteria. However, the color of stool may change from time to time.
Since stool is largely based on the kind of food you eat, coffee grounds (black specks) in your poop result from your diet. In some rare instances, poop may resemble coffee grounds due to old blood remains in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Blood in stool should be treated as a medical emergency. Thus, it is important to know why your poop looks like coffee grounds to differentiate between normal black flecks and black specks that indicate a health issue. In this article, we will answer your questions on why your poop looks like coffee grounds.
Causes of Coffee Grounds Poop
A coffee ground poop refers to a dark brown stool, black liquid stool, black mussy stool, black speckles or spots in poop, or color spots in poop with brown color or mosaic pattern. A bristol stool chart is used to identify the levels of stool color. So why does my poop look like coffee grounds? Here are the reasons why your stool may have such appearances.
1. Consuming Dark-colored Foods
One of the most common causes of coffee ground stool is eating dark-colored food. If there are no symptoms of a health condition, the discolored stool is mainly a result of eating dark foods. Generally, it is not anything to worry about. Dark foods that have the highest potential of making your stool look like coffee grounds include:
- Fruits- plums, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and bananas.
- Black foods- black beans, dark puddings, and black pepper.
- Iron-rich foods- Beets, oysters, red meat, beetroot, kidney beans, spinach, and molasses.
- Artificial food colors- Chocolate puddings and black licorice.
- Vegetables- Green leafy options (they turn black or dark greenish or brown after digestion).
- Undercooked meat.
- Tomatoes and products made from tomatoes.
Characteristics of poop that looks like coffee ground due to food include:
- Dark brown, green, or brown stools.
- Lack of unique smells (just normal poop smell).
- Non-sticky consistency.
- Easy to flush the poop.
- Intermittent poop discoloration over several days.
- No symptoms of bleeding.
- History of taking iron supplements, iron pills, or consuming block foods.
2. Bleeding in the Upper Digestive Tract
Gastrointestinal bleeding is a dangerous symptom of coffee ground stool. When you bleed in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, the blood may end up in your stool. In this case, you will be diagnosed with melena, a condition of black stools due to GI bleeding. The digestive tract areas prone to bleeding are the duodenum, stomach, and esophagus.
Also, bleeding in the color (small intestine) can cause black spots or dark red blood spots in poop. Coffee grounds poop due to GI bleedings occurs as a result of:
- Duodenum ulcers or stomach ulcers- They are a common cause of bleeding in the gut as a result of the damage they cause on the stomach lining. Its symptoms indicate gastritis and include vomiting (often bloody) and epigastric pain.
- Vascular malformations- These are abnormal blood vessels anywhere along the GI tract. If these blood vessels rupture, they will bleed inside the digestive tract. The blood will be part of your poop.
- Varices in the stomach or esophagus- Esophageal varices are dilated veins on the walls of the esophagus or the stomach. Research studies and existing medical information on published medical articles and journals indicate that these varices are most common among patients suffering from liver failure caused by liver cirrhosis. Such individuals experience symptoms associated with liver disease such as jaundice, ascites, and swelling of the lower limbs.
- Bleeding due to colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, or tumors like polyps- If bleeding occurs due to any of these conditions, there will be symptoms suggesting malignancy like weight loss, abdominal pain, and changes in your bowel movements.
- Inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, blood diseases, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) diverticulitis, Mallory-Weiss syndrome, gallbladder disease, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, adenomyosis, transplants, hemorrhoids, fissures, and diverticulosis are other causes of a GI bleed and coffee ground stools. Most of these complications are linked to the digestive system.
- Depression- Stress, depression, or PTSD in both women and men of any age group can also result in GI bleeding. When the brain or mind is stressed, you can experience gastritis, hence GI bleeding.
Characteristics of poop that looks like coffee ground due to bleeding/Malena include:
- Jet black or tarry color.
- Irony or acidic odor.
- Loose and stick consistency/texture like tar.
- Sudden onset with fast deterioration.
- Challenging to flush the poop even with large amounts of water.
- Vomiting blood (regardless of the amount).
- Weight loss.
- Lots of dizziness and shortness of breath.
- Coffee ground vomitus (vomit that looks like coffe grounds.
3. Dark-colored Medication
If you are any taking dark-colored medicine, you are likely to excrete poop that looks like grounds. Some examples of the medications that can be the reason for a coffee-like poop appearance include:
- Pepto-Bismol- Also known as Bismus Subsalicylates, it is a common medication used in the treatment of diarrhea and gastritis and among the risk factors of dark poop. Pepto-Bismol is also found in a large number of antacids.
- Iron supplements- You are likely to have dark stools when taking iron supplements found in multivitamins or taking them to treat anemia (iron deficiency).
4. Parasitic Infection
Parasites are organisms that use other organisms as a host, either internally or externally. Parasites typically use humans as a host within the body system. They are often spread through contaminated food, waste, water, blood, or soil. If you notice black specks in poop or toilet paper, they might be signs of parasite waste or eggs, which should be a major concern. In this case, you may need to see a doctor.
Treatments for Poop That Looks Like Coffee Grounds
If your poop has the color of coffee grounds, the prescribed treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If it is as a result of food, identify the food you ate over the last two days that may appear like coffee grounds in poop.
Once identified, stop eating it and substitute it with food that is not likely to cause the coffee grounds appearance. Now see whether the black specks reduce and finally go away. In this case, do not have any anxiety or fear as you will not need any medication since the effects are not a result of any medical condition or drug.
However, poop that looks like black coffee grounds as a result of GI bleeding requires immediate doctor’s attention. In this case, book an appointment with your doctor soonest possible. Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. A laboratory test may be required, including a blood count to check whether your blood count is lower than normal. If there is a low blood count, you are likely suffering from GI bleeding, which results in blood loss.
A stool sample may also be tested for any presence of blood. A hemoccult card may be used to detect blood in your poop. The doctor may recommend specialized procedures such as esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and colonoscopy.
EGD is a procedure that involves inserting a specialized instrument with a thin and lighted camera into the mouth and down the throat. The instrument makes it possible to view the condition of the upper gastrointestinal tract. A colonoscopy is a similar process but is inserted into the rectum to help the doctor visualize the colon (part of the large intestines) with the hope of identifying any bleeding area. These procedures do not involve piercing through the skin.
If any bleeding is identified, special tools may be used to burn or cauterize the bleeding location to block it from further bleeding. Burning the area creates a blockage. If findings indicate inflammatory bowel disease (IDG) such as crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the doctors will proceed to recommend appropriate treatment options for the disorder.
Also, if a parasitic infection is suspected to be the cause of your poop looking like coffee grounds, your doctor will recommend a stool test or blood test. If a parasitic infection is confirmed, your doctor will recommend appropriate medication. Fortunately, there are proven medications that treat parasitic infections.
Why Does My Stool Look Like Black Coffee Grounds?
What makes stool black? If your poop looks truly black or has black spots, you should worry about possible gut bleeding. The most likely cause for this poop color is peptic ulcer disease or any form of peptic ulcers. Also, if the black stool is accompanied by loose consistency and an abnormal smell, you should consider visiting your health care provider for further evaluation. Meconium may also appear like black poop in newborn babies, which may occur in the womb in some rare cases.
Why Does My Stool Look Like Brown Coffee Grounds?
Extremely dark poop is usually a result of dark-colored medications or foods. If you are not experiencing any other symptoms like vomiting or abdominal pain, you should not worry as it is not something serious. However, if you eventually experience any serious sign such as diarrhea, fever, shortness of breath, dehydration, fainting, vomiting, or abdominal pain, then seek medical advice immediately.
Why Does My Stool Look Like Yellow or Light Brown Coffee Grounds?
If your poop looks like yellow or light brown grounds, it is likely a result of ingesting yellow foods. Yellow foods include sweet potatoes, yellow food coloring, alcohol, fatty meals, carrots, and yellow spices such as turmeric. Many people can also experience yellow coffee ground poop due to medications such as gastritis medications, laxative overdose, and some types of antibiotics. You do not have to be concerned with light brown poop. In rare cases, yellowing poop can be a result of bile obstruction or hepatitis (liver inflammation).
Dark Green Coffee Ground Stools
If your poop looks like dark green grounds, the most likely cause is the metabolism of green leafy vegetables. In this case, you do not have to be concerned. However, visit a doctor for diagnosis if you experience problems such as plenty diarrhea, constipation, bloating, impaired bowel movement, severe abdominal pain, fever, or vomit containing blood spots.
Normal poop looks brown due to the presence of bilirubin, which is a pigment in bile salts that are carried by the bile ducts. Sometimes, your poop may look like coffee grounds. If you identify food or medication as the cause, you do not have to worry about anything. The problem may go away when you change your diet lifestyle or after completing your medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
However, if your poop has black specks and you are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, dizziness or lightheadedness, greasy stool, prolonged stomach pain, or upset stomach, you should see your doctor for further diagnosis. Your doctor will be best placed to diagnose the cause of the black specks in your stool for treatment in the best ways possible.