Worried About Tan Colored Stools?

Patients often ask us if tan colored stools are normal. The simple answer is they aren't.

"Bile emusifies fat, breaking it down into smaller, more easily digestible gobules so it can be absorbed into the body."

Scientific - Liver, Bile Duct Gall Bladder

Bile which is made in the liver and stored and secreted by the gallbladder gives stools their normal brown color.

in a healthy functioning digestive system, normal stools should be brown colored.  Stools derive their normal brown color from bile, a detergent-like fluid made by the liver, and released by the gallbladder. 


Bile emulsifies fat, breaking it down into smaller, more easily digestible globules so it can be absorbed into the body. You may be familiar with the process of emulsification that occurs when we use dish washing detergent to wash greasy dishes. Without detergent it's more difficult to clean a dish full of ribs or cheese enchiladas. 

When your stool is tan colored, it's a sign that bile is not being delivered to your small intestine. Inadequate flow of bile into the intestine is like trying to wash the ribs or cheese enchiladas plate without detergent.  Without bile, you can not digest the fats in your food because your body cannot break the fat into small globules. Inadequate amounts of bile also creates problems with digesting your protein and carbohydrates. That's because the fat   coats all your food, not just fatty foods.

Tan colored stools are a warning sign that the billiary system, your liver, gallbladder and bile ducts are not functioning properly.  There may be an obstruction in the ducts, gallstones, or more commonly sludge in the ducts that prevent the flow of bile. Tan colored stools may also be a sign that your stomach is not producing enough stomach acid, as stomach acid is one of the factors that determines how much bile is released by your gallbladder.

While obstructions are usually  addressed by  surgery, gallstones and billiary sludge can be dissolved by dietary changes, along with specialized supplements to support the liver and thin the bile.  If you are not digesting your food well, or you are not a fan of tan, take our quiz.  Call us to attend one of our free seminars or to schedule a consultation.

Yours in health,

Dr. Patrick

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