Green poop can mean that you’ve been eating green foods or green, blue, or purple food coloring. It can also be caused by an illness that causes diarrhea or loose stools.
Stool tends to be brown. But a green poop color change is common and in the normal healthy stool color range. That said, you should see your doctor if the green poop (or another stool color change) is ongoing, or if you have other symptoms, like fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or pain.
Green stool, also referred to as green poop or green feces, can be a temporary condition that results from eating certain foods or taking specific medications or supplements.
Green stool happens when feces has a green coloring or tint. The usual color of feces is light to dark brown.
Stool gets its color from bile, which is a yellow-green fluid produced in the liver that helps digest your food. As food passes through your digestive tract, digestive enzymes break down the bile, resulting in various shades of brown stool.
When a disease or condition causes diarrhea, food passes through the digestive tract rapidly, and feces may be green because digestive enzymes did not have time to turn it brown.
Why is my poop green?
Green poop can occur due to a harmless condition and not be a cause for concern. For example, you may produce green stool after taking iron supplements or consuming certain iron-rich foods, leafy green vegetables, or products that contain green food coloring.
Additionally, newborn babies pass thick, sticky, and dark green stool, called meconium, for the first few days after birth. Babies who are breastfed may also have greenish stool.
Green feces can also be a symptom of various intestinal conditions that interfere with the normal digestion process, such as Salmonella food poisoning. As food passes through the digestive system, a yellow-green fluid called bile that helps digest food changes color, resulting in a stool that is light to dark brown.
However, when an infection, such as Salmonella, causes diarrhea, food and feces pass through the digestive tract quickly before changing to a brown color.
Conditions that can cause green stool
Green stool can result from the following conditions:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- pseudomembranous colitis
- Salmonella or Escherichia coli
- food poisoning
- viral gastroenteritis
- a bacterial infection
- celiac disease
- an eating disorder, such as binge eating or laxative misuse
- intestinal cancer
Ingestible items that can cause green stool
- green food coloring, such as that contained in drinks and popsicles
- iron supplements
- leafy green vegetables, which are rich in iron
- breast milk
- certain antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea and progress to pseudomembranous colitis
- paraquat, which is a type of weed killer
- green crayons
When should I worry about green poop?
Green stool can be healthy based on your individual circumstances, but it can also signify serious intestinal infections or other conditions. You should contact your doctor if you notice a persistent color change in your stool.
Once your doctor has diagnosed the underlying cause, follow the treatment plan that you and your doctor design specifically for you. This can help reduce any potential complications, which may include:
- dehydration from fluid loss
- low potassium levels
- malabsorption syndrome
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Eating green food
Consuming green food like spinach, broccoli or lettuce, or eating food that contains green food coloring can lead to green poop. Stool that is green from diet can occur in both adults and children.
What to do: if you have green poop due to the intake of green food, the best thing to help the stool return to its normal is to avoiding eating the same food, at least for a while. The stool will usually go back to being brown once the green food has been excreted from the body, therefore, it is not a cause for a major concern.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the intestinal villi, which typically causes stomach ache, flatulence and bloating, but can also lead to the production of green stools or yellow stools.
What to do: IBS symptoms can be managed by making some lifestyle changes: diet and stress management. Therefore, we recommend that you follow a suitable diet under the supervision of a nutritionist, and carry out activities that reduce stress levels and stop the symptoms from getting worse or progressing.
Intestinal infections caused by bacteria like salmonella or parasites like Giardia lambli can often cause green poop. This is because stool moves through the intestines much quicker in the presence of infections, which reduces the time that bile and other digestive enzymes have to breakdown the stool. This quicker movement can lead to green diarrhea.
What to do: If you suspect you have an intestinal infection, the doctor will assess you and advise treatment as necessary. Treatment may involve the use of medication to treat the underlying microorganism causing the infection. Plenty of fluids and rest can also speed up recovery.
Use of antibiotics
Some medication, especially antibiotics, can significantly reduce the amount of flora present in the gastrointestinal tract, This can also has an effect with bile production. When bile comes in contact with specific flora and digestive enzymes, it becomes brown, which contributes to the brown color of stool.
When antibiotics are taken, the quantity of flora is affected, which causes the bile to remain green, resulting in green poop. Other medications, like iron supplements, may also interfere with bile and digestion and lead to green coloring.
What to do: Once your doctor has approved you to stop your medication, you should assess your poop color to see if it remains green. If it does, then you should inform your doctor, who may recommend probiotics.
When to See Your Doctor
You should talk to your doctor if your green stools are ongoing and/or you also have any of these symptoms:
- Stomach aches or pain
- Blood in the stool (or black stool)
- Watery or liquid stool
- Any other unusual symptoms
A rare but serious cause of green poop in kids and adults is poisoning by chemicals such as paraquat, a pesticide in weed killers.
Green stools that have visible mucus could mean the lining of your intestines is inflamed. If you notice this often, it could be a sign of a condition that may require treatment, especially if you have other symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, pain in your abdomen, nausea, or vomiting.
Like green poop, floating green stool is often normal and due to what you ate. In some cases (particularly if it’s an ongoing concern), floating stool could mean that your intestines aren’t absorbing fat properly.
Recognizing Healthy and Unhealthy Stool
When to see a doctor
If you’ve experienced diarrhea for more than 3 days, seek medical care. Long-term, untreated diarrhea can lead to dehydration and poor nutritional status.
If your chronic green stool is accompanied by more severe symptoms, such as stomach upset, blood present in the stool, or nausea, these symptoms also warrant a doctor’s visit.
While the nature of the visit may be awkward to discuss, a doctor can review your medication list, diet, and other medical conditions as a means to determine potential causes of chronically green stool.
If you experience green stool as a one-off symptom, it’s highly unlikely to be cause for concern.
However, seeing other colors in your stool may indicate an issue. Bright red signifies potential bleeding in the lower intestines. A black or dark tarry brown could indicate bleeding in your upper GI tract. But remember, it could also be the blueberries or black licorice you had at lunch.
If you’re diagnosed with a medical condition, preventing green poop starts with addressing the underlying problem. For example, avoid foods like gluten that trigger diarrhea if you have celiac disease.
In most cases, occasional green stools are nothing to worry about. Long-lasting bouts of discolored stool may signal something more serious, but a one-time occurrence usually just means you’re eating your vegetables.