Digestive Disorders / Gastroenterology Expert Forum
Stool appearance
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Stool appearance

Lately I have been examining my stool very closely.  Although the color is normal (light to dark brown), I sometimes notice small dark particles on the toilet paper (a few here and there).  Sometimes they look like small black particles.  I actually picked one up from the toilet paper and it was hard.   I have added unprocessed bran flakes to my oatmeal and notice that these flakes also contain small black particles (they feel hard as well).  I've also eaten blueberries recently.

My stools are not black and tarry nor do they contain any visible blood.  Could the dark particles be coming from different foods I may be eating and I notice them because I am thoroughly inspecting my stool or is this what is meant by coffee ground appearance and indicative of something more serious?  I do not vomit, have a lot of energy and have not lost any weight.

Thank you for your response.
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It is possible that the particles can be coming from the food you are eating.  It may be possible that parts of the food may pass through undigested.  

You can consider a home stool test to test for blood - there are many cases of bleeding where blood cannot be seen by the naked eye.

If there continues to be concern, you can consider an endoscopy such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Coffee-grounds refers to the presence of old blood or gastric juices leading to the "coffee-ground" appearance.  It is a marker of upper GI bleeding and can be found in vomit (i.e. "coffee-ground emesis").

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
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2 Comments
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coffee-ground refers to blood seen in vomitus, not stool. What you describe certainly could be food-related. It's also pretty simple to check for blood: you could ask your doctor for a testing kit, which requires putting a bit of stool on a card and returning it to your doctor for a chemical test. It's cheap; in fact there are many screening facilities that do it for free. You could check with your local cancer society.
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For the last 3 wks I have had very bad gas/ and belching episodes, so bad that I haven't been eating too much, if I eat it hurts more.  I took pepto Bismo, and It helped then I am taking Beano for the gas,  i seem to be getting more gas with anything I eat or drink.  Now by stool is very hard and black?  is this normal?
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