Have you ever looked in the toilet and asked yourself, why is my poop green? Green stool may be scary to see, but the causes vary greatly from dietary causes to even discharged bile. More often than not, green poop is benign, so there isn’t much cause for concern. But before we explain more about green poop, let us explain why poop is typically brown.
Brown poop is a result of leftovers mixed with dead red blood cells along with other waste from your digestive tract. Bile is typically a greenish yellow color and so the other waste that makes up your stool adds the darker hue.
Normally, when your poop is an alternative color aside from brown, it is a result of not properly absorbing your food or because your food isn’t spending enough time in the digestive tract. For example, in case of diarrhea, products in the digestive tract are coming out too quickly, so it often isn’t the normal brown color you are used to.
Much of the food we eat contains color pigment, which can add color to your stool when it’s not properly absorbed. For example, eating dark leafy greens can change the color of your stool. But although food plays a role in stool color change, sometimes an underlying medical condition can be the cause of the different colors, so it’s important to look at other factors that may be changing the color of your stool.
Here we will outline the causes of green poop along with complications and treatment.
What causes green poop?
Green poop can be a confusing and frightening sight. There are many reasons why this can occur, although most are not a cause for concern. The following are some of the most common reasons why you have green poop:
Medical procedures: Such as bone marrow transplants can cause stool discoloration. Rejection of transplants in procedures such as this can lead to gastrointestinal upset, which can cause diarrhea and green stools.
Parasites, viruses, and bacteria: Foreign invaders can wreak havoc on the digestive tract potentially cause green stool. Bacteria like Salmonella, the water parasite giardia, and norovirus are all potential causes.
Gastrointestinal conditions: Having Chron’s disease or another GI condition can promote the fast movement of bile throughout the intestinal system, leading to the appearance of green stools. Other possible causes of green stools include irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and overuse of laxatives.
Anal fissures: Small tears found on the lining of the anus can cause severe pain when passing hard stool. Fissures cause green and red (blood) stools.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A common disorder that affects the large colon. It differs from more other inflammatory bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease, in that it doesn’t change the bowel tissue or increase the risk of colorectal cancer. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
Food poisoning: Often caused by contamination by bacteria or toxins. It is characterized by nausea and vomiting and followed by diarrhea. Every year, probably one in six in the U.S. will have a foodborne illness, 128,000 will be hospitalized, and 3,000 will die, according to the CDC.
Lactose intolerance: A dietary inability to digest the type of sugar found in dairy products called lactose. It is caused by a deficiency in a particular enzyme called lactase, which normally digests the sugar. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include cramping, excess gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
Green poop as a result of food and medications
Green foods: The consumption of green food such as spinach and broccoli is often the simplest explanation. This is nothing to be concerned about and is usually just the result of eating a lot of green plants.
Blue and purple foods: Blueberries, grapes, and red wines are just some foods that could make your poop dark green or blue. Food coloring dyes may also lead to this as well.
Coffee, spicy foods, and alcohol: These may induce a laxative effect and result in the premature excretion of bile from the gastrointestinal tract. Bile may present as a green color.
Vitamins, supplements, and medication: Iron pills, for example, can change the color of your poop to dark green or black. Other vitamins, supplements, and medications that can change the color of your stool. These include rhubarb, fiber supplements, spirulina, barley grass, chlorella, Yerba mate tea, metformin, Lexapro (escitalopram), Nyquil, and Zoloft (sertraline)
Antibiotics: Taking a course of antibiotics can destroy a large portion of your gut’s normal bacteria. This can lead to abnormality in digestive processes and cause green appearing poop. Several medications can break down the brown-staining bacteria that normally make your stool appear brown.
Special diets: These often result from the exclusive consumption of a green food or juice as part of a particular diet. Generally, these are plant-based, meaning that they contain exuberant amounts of chlorophyll—the substance that makes plants green.
Lastly, green poop can be a sign of stress. When your body reacts to stress, it causes bowel movements to release much quicker. It has no time to pick up additional waste and bacteria, so it’s mainly green bile.
Green poop during pregnancy
It is a common occurrence for pregnant women to pass green poop and there are a variety of reasons for this, including intestinal ailments like IBS or IBD, prenatal vitamins, certain medications like antibiotics, diet changes as pregnant women are advised to consume meals high in vitamins and minerals, and, lastly, decreased colon transit time.
Any of these factors can result in a green stool color, but if you haven’t been taking vitamins or added extra greens to your diet, you may want to speak to your doctor about other conditions that may contribute to green poop.
Green poop complications
Green poop can be a sign of digestive complications, including malabsorption syndrome, dehydration, malnutrition, and low level of potassium. Unless caused by dietary changes, green poop is not typically seen as normal in adults and could be a sign of something more serious.
Although passing of green poop itself is not dangerous, frequent green poop is definitely a sure sign of some sort of complication you should talk to your doctor about.
Green poop diagnosis and treatment
To diagnose green poop for any problems, doctors will conduct x-rays, stool culture analysis, colonoscopy, and blood tests to rule out any conditions that could contribute to green poop. These tests can check for any abnormalities that may result in green poop, whether it be digestive problems like IBD or salmonella.
Treatment for green poop depends on the cause. For example, if the cause of your green poop is dehydration, you should begin taking in greater amounts of fluid. If the cause is iron supplements, speak to your doctor about proper dosages. If the cause is more serious like IBS or IBD, then your doctor will put you on a specific treatment plan for these conditions.
You may also want to steer clear of artificially colored food items in the meantime to rule out if that is the cause of your green poop.
Supporting your digestive system through the food you eat is the simplest way to ensure your stool is a healthy brown color. The following are some tips to help you get you started.
Skip processed foods: Your body thrives when you eat food that is free of refined sugars and grains. Instead choose to eat more organic fruits and vegetables, and plenty of healthy fats. Reducing or eliminating the amount of time you snack will also help improve digestion, as you will allow your gallbladder and their digestive enzyme producing organs full release during proper meal times. You may also want to steer clear of artificially colored food items in the meantime to rule out if that is the cause of your green poop.
Sour foods: This is referring to the consumption of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and apple cider vinegar. When incorporated into your diet, fermented foods help to stimulate bile production, supporting digestion.
Eat fat: The consumption of fat has been labeled as an enemy for decades, but fat is actually an essential part of a healthy diet. Our brains, cell membranes, and other various tissues require adequate levels of fat from our diet to function properly. In fact, according to some sources, our gallbladders will not work optimally unless we eat at least 12 grams of fat per meal. However, like most things in life, too much of a good thing can be bad, so it is advised to eat your daily recommended intake of fat.
Bile-stimulating elixir: For some extra support, this special elixir can help stimulate the gallbladder, helping to promote the digestive process. It is recommended to mix and consume this on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
- 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon, grapefruit, or orange juice
- 1 tablespoon of organic olive oil
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor immediately if your green poop also contains mucus or blood, or if you experience frequent stomach pains, fevers and chills, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, rectal pain, and indigestion.
So if you are someone who quickly flushes without ever looking into the toilet bowl, you may wish to slow down and have a peek the next time around. The smell, color, consistency, and shape of your fecal matter could say a whole lot about your digestive tract, not to mention your overall health. And remember: If you see any consistent, dramatic changes in your waste, be sure to visit your doctor right away.