We all do it. After you poo you take a look in the toilet bowl to see what just happened. Normally everything is a comforting brown color, but every now and again you may be greeted by a color you didn’t expect. What if it’s green, for example? Is that bad? Is something wrong with your digestive tract? Should you get things checked out? Read on to find the answers.
Factors of Poop Color
You are what you eat, and so is your poop. It will probably not come as a surprise that if you eat green food, you are going to have green poop. Kale and spinach are two vegetables known to affect the color of your poop more than some others. Predictably, eating a lot of these and other vegetables can turn your poop green.
It is possible for a wide variety of colors to show up in your poop. This can include everything from black tarry stool produced by gastritis to white chalky poop if you have a blockage of your bile duct. Shades of bright red can come from something as simple as food coloring or as serious as bleeding in your digestive tract. Yellow poop is also possible if you have conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Taking drugs and supplements can also affect your poop color. This can include antibiotics that turn poop green, iron supplements which can produce green or black poop and anti-diarrheal medication which can contribute to white poop.
Bacteria and parasites are also commonly associated with a change in the color of your poop. Salmonella is a commonly known bacterium that can turn poop green. Giardia and the norovirus are also responsible for changing the color of your stool, as well as causing a tremendous amount of discomfort.
Not all changes in poop color come from the food you are eating. A long list of diseases of the GI tract can produce a change in the color of your poop. Some of these conditions can be quite serious. If you find your stool has made an unexpected change in color that lasts longer than a few bowel movements, it may be time to talk to your doctor. A few of the potential diseases and conditions that can be signaled by a change in poop color are as follows:
- Celiac disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Tears in the lining of the anus
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Some types of cancer
- Crohn's disease
- Diverticular disease
Why Is My Poop Green?
The most common cause of green poop is not a surprise. Eating a diet high in green vegetables such as kale and spinach can turn your poop green.
Sometimes it isn’t the food itself but what is in your food that makes the difference. Kale may be healthy, but at the other end of the health spectrum dyes and coloring can also produce a change in the color of your poop. Drink mixes and frozen deserts are just two examples of foods that can contain green food coloring that may affect the color of your poop, especially if you consume large amounts of food and drink containing natural or artificial colors.
It is also possible that other things you are ingesting could be changing the color of your stool. Iron supplements, for example, can have you seeing a different shade in the toilet bowl. Since iron deficiency is sometimes correlated with other gastrointestinal conditions, you may already be paying closer attention to your stool, which is one reason people notice green stool when taking iron supplements.
Digesting foods can color your stool, be they veggies like kale or less healthy foods with dyes and coloring, but not digesting your food all the way can also have an effect on its color. If you have diarrhea, your food is not staying in your system as long as it normally should to facilitate proper digestion. When this occurs, bile from your gallbladder can still be seen in your poop, giving it a green color. Bile is normally secreted into the small intestine and is processed out as your body digests fat, meaning you normally don’t see it in your stool.
Most of the causes of green poop, especially if it only happens occasionally or when you have diarrhea, are fairly benign. Green diarrhea is something many people have experienced, especially when eating certain foods. If you see a change in your stool color that only lasts for a few bowel movements, it is not likely anything to worry about. If your feces change color for a longer period of time, though, it may be time to consult a doctor. It is possible that a change in stool color can signal a bacterial infection that may require medical treatment to resolve.
Is Green Poop a Sign of Cancer?
There can be many colors of poop associated with tumors or cancer, but green is generally not among them. The color of your poop can tell you some things about what is going on in your body, but normally it is only part of the story. A change in the color of your poop is not, by itself, a problem that always needs to be checked out immediately.
When a change in your poop color is accompanied by other symptoms, that is a different matter. If you are seeing large amounts of blood in your stool or are experiencing nausea, intense abdominal pain, unexplained fatigue, severe bloating and vomiting, you should seek medical treatment no matter what the color of your poop happens to be.
Talk to Your Doctor About Green Poop
For something like a change in poop color, some people might find it embarrassing to talk to their doctor. Unless there is suddenly a massive amount of blood in your stool, waiting a few days to talk to your doctor is alright. If you are curious during this time, you can check out online resources such as the Mayo Clinic to learn more about what might be causing changes to the color of your poop.
No matter what your poop color is, any sudden change that is not tied to a change in diet should be monitored. If that change persists, you should talk to your doctor. Many common causes can be diagnosed by your healthcare professional, though in some cases you will be referred to a gastroenterologist for further diagnosis and treatment. At Carolina Digestive, we know a lot about poop, and we can help you understand what is going on with yours. A change in poop color may not be anything serious, but it could also be a sign of a dangerous condition that could be life-threatening if left untreated. Make an appointment today if you have experienced a change in the color of your poop and are concerned something serious might be going on. We can help you find answers and understand what your poop is telling you.