Illustration depicting the appearance of gallstones in the toilet bowl

What Do Gallstones Look Like in the Toilet

Gallstones are small, hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. While they might not always result in symptoms, when they do, they can be very unpleasant and painful. Gallstones may occasionally occur in the toilet as a result of passing via the bile ducts and exiting the body through bowel movements. It can be a disturbing sensation, and many people may be curious about the appearance of gallstones in the toilet, whether they float or sink, and whether passing one should raise any red flags.

However, it is rare, passing gallstones in the toilet can occasionally occur. Gallstones are normally tiny, solid, and may seem brown, green, or yellow, however this can vary based on their size and composition. Some people may also observe that some of the gallstones float to the surface while others sink to the bottom of the water. It’s important to remember that even if you pass a gallstone in the toilet, there could still be more stones in your gallbladder or bile ducts, which could mean you are still infected with them.

What are the Sign of Gallstones

Though symptoms from gallstones may not always appear, when they do, they can be very painful and uncomfortable. The following list of typical gallstone symptoms and signs:

  • Abdominal pain: Pain in the upper right side or center of the abdomen, which may extend to the back or shoulder blade, is the most typical sign of gallstones.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Gallstones can cause digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting, especially after eating high-fat foods.
  • Jaundice: In rare cases, gallstones can cause jaundice, a condition where the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow due to the buildup of bilirubin in the body.
  • Fever and chills: If a gallstone cause inflammation or infection in the gallbladder or bile ducts, it can lead to fever and chills.
  • Changes in bowel movements: Some people with gallstones may experience changes in their bowel movements, such as light-colored or greasy stools.

What Do Gallstones Look Like in the Toilet?

When gallstones are expelled from the body, they can appear quite different from the typical stool. Here are some characteristics that may help identify gallstones in the toilet:

  • Shape and Size: Gallstones in the toilet can range in size from small grains to larger, more substantial objects. They often have an irregular shape, resembling pebbles or small rocks. Their texture may be smooth or rough, depending on their composition.
  • Color: The color of gallstones can vary, depending on their composition. Cholesterol gallstones tend to be yellowish or greenish, while those made of bilirubin may be brown or black. It is important to note that gallstones can also be transparent or translucent.
  • Density and Texture: One distinguishing feature of gallstones is their density. When placed in water, gallstones may sink to the bottom of the toilet bowl due to their relatively high density compared to water. However, in some cases, gallstones can float, especially if they contain a significant amount of cholesterol. This ability to float can be attributed to the presence of gas or air trapped within the stones.

Can you Pass Gallstones in Your Stool?

Yes, it is possible to pass gallstones in your stool. Gallstones are solid particles that form in the gallbladder, and they can vary in size and composition. The passage of gallstones is more likely to occur if they are small enough to move through the biliary system, including the common bile duct, without causing a blockage.

Several factors can influence whether a person passes gallstones in their stool, and these factors include the size of the stones, the composition of the stones (cholesterol stones or pigment stones), and the presence of any underlying gallbladder or biliary issues. When gallstones are small and can pass through the bile ducts, they may eventually be excreted in the stool.

How are Gallstones Treated?

The severity of the symptoms, together with the size and composition of the stones, may all affect the gallstones’ course of therapy. Therapy options include:

  • Observation: If the patient is symptom-free, medical professionals may decide to watch the gallstones and wait to treat them until symptoms appear.
  • Drugs: Some drugs may help dissolve cholesterol gallstones, although it may take them months or years to start working.
  • Cholecystectomy: In situations when gallstones are causing repeated problems, surgery may be required to remove the gallbladder. Many patients can return home the same day or the day after this surgery, which is normally safe and successful.

What to Do if You Suspect Gallstones in the Toilet

It’s necessary to get medical assistance as soon as you feel you may have gallstones.

If you think you might have gallstones, follow these measures.

Seeking Medical Attention

  • The first step in dealing with gallstones is to see a doctor or healthcare professional.
  • They can perform a physical exam and order diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of gallstones.
  • If the gallstones are small and not causing any symptoms, treatment may not be necessary.
  • However, if the gallstones are causing pain or other symptoms, treatment may be necessary.

Diagnostic Tests for Gallstones

  • Diagnostic tests that doctors may use to confirm the presence of gallstones include blood tests, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRIs.
  • Once the doctor has confirmed the presence of gallstones, they can recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Do Gallstones Float in the Toilet?

Yes, gallstones can float in the toilet under certain circumstances. The ability of gallstones to float depends on their composition and the presence of gas or air within the stones.


Gallstones can be classified into two main types based on their composition: cholesterol gallstones and pigment gallstones. Cholesterol gallstones, which are the most common type, are primarily composed of cholesterol. These can range in size from as small as grains of sand to as large as a golf ball. On the other hand, pigment gallstones are made up of bilirubin and calcium salts and can also vary in size, often being smaller than a grain of sand. These gallstones can form in the small intestine and then migrate into the gallbladder, where they can cause various health issues.

Cholesterol Gallstones

Cholesterol gallstones tend to be less dense than water, which means they have the potential to float in the toilet. This buoyancy is due to the presence of small amounts of air or gas trapped within the cholesterol stones. As a result, when gallstones are expelled from the body during a bowel movement, they may float on the surface of the water in the toilet bowl.

Preventing Gallstones in the Toilet

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Sustaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of gallstones.
  2. Eat a Balanced Diet: Include a range of fresh produce, whole grains, lean meats, and cereals in your meals. Reduce your consumption of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water helps in maintaining the proper flow of bile and prevents the formation of gallstones.
  4. Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of gallstone formation. Limit your alcohol intake to promote a healthy gallbladder.
  5. Exercise Regularly: Engaging in physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight and promotes optimal digestion, reducing the risk of gallstones.
  6. Consume Healthy Fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil, into your diet. These fats promote the production of healthy bile and reduce the likelihood of stone formation.

How are Gallstones Diagnosed?

To diagnose gallstones, healthcare professionals use various methods and diagnostic tests. Here are the key points on how gallstones are diagnosed:

  1. Medical History: The healthcare provider will gather information about the patient’s medical history, including any symptoms experienced and their duration.
  2. Imaging Tests: Diagnostic imaging tests are commonly used to visualize the gallbladder and detect the presence of gallstones. These tests may include:
    • Ultrasound: This non-invasive procedure uses sound waves to create images of the gallbladder and identify gallstones.
    • CT Scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan provides detailed cross-sectional images of the abdominal area, allowing healthcare professionals to detect gallstones.
    • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the gallbladder and surrounding structures.
  3. Blood Tests: Blood tests can help assess liver function and detect any abnormalities that may be associated with gallstones. Elevated levels of certain enzymes or bilirubin may indicate gallbladder issues.
  4. Endoscopic Procedures: In some cases, endoscopic procedures may be required to diagnose gallstones. These procedures include:
    • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): A medical professional passes a flexible tube with a camera through the mouth and into the digestive system to examine the bile ducts and remove any gallstones present.
    • Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS): This procedure combines endoscopy and ultrasound to visualize the gallbladder and surrounding structures in greater detail.
  5. Surgical Procedures: In certain situations, surgical intervention may be necessary to diagnose and treat gallstones. This includes procedures like laparoscopy or open surgery, where the surgeon directly examines the gallbladder and removes the stones.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Gallstone formation is influenced by a number of variables, including:

  1. Obesity: Gallstone development is more likely when a person is overweight or obese.
  2. Dietary Choices: A diet high in cholesterol, fat, and low in fiber can contribute to gallstone formation.
  3. Family History: Genetics can play a role in predisposing individuals to gallstones.
  4. Gender and Age: Women, especially those over 40, are more susceptible to gallstones.
  5. Rapid Weight Loss: Losing weight too quickly can disrupt the balance of bile salts and cholesterol in the gallbladder, leading to stone formation.


Frequently Asked Questions

Not all gallstones are easily visible in the toilet. Some stones may be too small to notice, while others may dissolve or break down before being eliminated.

If the gallbladder has been removed (cholecystectomy), gallstones cannot recur. However, if medications were used to dissolve the gallstones, there is a possibility of new stones forming in the future.

Surgery is a common treatment for gallstones, but less invasive procedures may be considered based on the size and composition of the stones.

Gallstones can be harmless for some people, but they can also lead to complications. If a gallstone blocks the bile duct, it can cause severe pain, inflammation, infection, or even damage to the gallbladder or liver.


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