There’s an expectation as to what you’ll see in the toilet after pooping. So when you look down into the water and spot something bright green… well, it’s safe to say a few questions might enter your mind.
For answers, let’s turn to gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD.
Should you worry if your poop is green?
Let’s start with a basic fact: You’re not alone in finding an unexpectedly verdant dash of color in the toilet bowl following a splashdown. “The color and shade of a bowel movement can vary day by day,” says Dr. Lee. “It’s like life — always changing and never the same.”
So what causes it? Let’s look at some potential Technicolor triggers.
Green diet = green poop
What you’re eating is the most likely explanation for green poop — especially if you tend to nibble on garden fares such as broccoli, kale and spinach. The chlorophyll that gives those vegetables their green color can do the same to your poop.
Other potential food and drink sources that could make you go green include:
- Blueberries or other blue or purple fruits and vegetables.
- Green fruits such as avocados, green apples and honeydew melon.
- Hemp seeds.
- Herbs such as basil, cilantro and parsley.
- Matcha (powdered green tea).
A less organic force — green food dye — also could be behind the Hulk-like hue on a #2. (Consider this the consequence of eating a St. Patrick’s Day cupcake with unnaturally bright green frosting.)
In any food-related case, the funky tint should disappear within a day or two once the source is flushed out of your system, says Dr. Lee.
Antibiotics can lead to small — and potentially colorful — changes to the way your body digests food. The reason? The medication can alter the bacteria flora in your gut, which can add a greenish tint to what comes out.
Some medications may upset your stomach, too, resulting in bile-filled diarrhea that looks a bit green.
Infections or health conditions
“Turning green” has long been a phrase used to describe someone showing signs of an illness. The same can be said of your poop, too, notes Dr. Lee.
Greenish stool could indicate that you have a bacterial infection (salmonella or E. coli, for example), viral infection (norovirus) or a parasite (Giardia) causing a rapid transit “gush” of unabsorbed bile.
Green poop also could be a symptom of:
- Recent removal of your gall bladder, which could temporarily send more bile into your digestive tract and lead to greenish diarrhea.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
One word of caution, though, before you start fretting at the drop of a doo-doo: “All of these health issues are possible, but they’re not the norm,” says Dr. Lee. “If you feel perfectly fine and don’t have diarrhea, a different color bowel movement is most likely linked to something you ate.”
Other colored poop
Any number of colors from the crayon box can pop up in your poop, says Dr. Lee. Fruits and food dyes offer a rainbow of options and are typically the most common cause of non-brown stool.
However, there are medical issues sometimes associated with certain colors:
- Reddish poop could be a sign of rectal bleeding and issues such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers or even colorectal cancer.
- Blackish poop may by a byproduct of taking iron supplements or (believe it or not) Pepto-Bismol®. Blood that makes its way through your digestive system from the upper digestive tract, possibly from stomach ulcers, also could be a factor.
- Yellowish or grayish poop could signal liver, gallbladder or pancreas disorders.
When should you contact your doctor?
As mentioned, colorful poop isn’t all that unique and is usually connected to something you ate. Think back on what passed through your lips and you’ll probably come up with a simple (and perhaps even regrettable) reason for the burst of color.
That being said, oddly colored poop might indicate something that needs attention — particularly if it lingers or comes with symptoms such as abdominal pain, weight loss, bleeding, fever and vomiting. Pale poop or blood-tinged stool is of particular concern, too.
Call your doctor if symptoms fail to improve or resolve completely, says Dr. Lee.
“Pay attention to your bowel movements, but don’t worry too much if you see something unusual for a day,” says Dr. Lee. “There’s usually a very clear explanation that involves something you ate.”