Why is poop sometimes green? It depends. In most cases, green poop can be considered normal. Often, green stools result from eating green foods and green supplements. Certain foods rich in chlorophyll—a pigment present in plants such as spinach and kale— can result in a green stool. However, there are times when it may indicate something more serious. Viral infections, bacteria, and anal fissures can also cause green stool.
What Is Poop, Anyway?
Stools or feces are made of the undigested food that passes through the digestive system—from the stomach to the large intestine—and is excreted out from the body through the rectum. These feces consists of dead bacteria, bile salts, cellulose, cholesterol, fats, proteins, and even inorganic substances, along with bacteria that release unpleasant odors.
The ingested food passes through a series of steps in our GI tract. The food is mixed with bile and other digestive juices and is broken down into fine pieces. The body then utilizes the extracted nutrients, and the undigested food is excreted in the form of feces.
A healthy human typically poops twice a day and the color largely depends on their diet. Therefore, it can be a bright yellow or yellowish-green color, the usual brown color, white, green, or clay-colored. It's even possible to end up with pale poop!
What Color Should My Poop Be?
According to the Bristol stool chart, an ideal poop color falls in lighter to darker shades of brown. That can be explained by the leftover mix of dead red blood cells and waste from bacteria already in your bowels. If you are passing anything other than brown stool, there is a possibility that you might have an infection in the small intestine or other organs of the gastrointestinal tract (upper GI tract). The consistency of stools can also indicate certain health conditions.
Causes of Green Stool Color
There are a few different reasons why you might have green poop. Listed below are a few of the most common reasons why.
You Ate Something Green
In most cases, green poop occurs due to an increased intake of green foods like spinach, green apples, avocado, aspergillus, and green fruits in your diet. These foods are rich in chlorophyll, which explains the green hue. This is also why vegetarians typically experience green poop. Of course, foods that contain green dyes like powdered green tea or green beer can also influence the color of your stool.
A high intake of antibiotics can also turn your poop green, especially ones rich in bismuth subsalicylate. Common substitutes also include Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, and other antidiarrheal drugs. It's one of the reasons why you aren't supposed to take these medications on a regular basis. Generally, gastroenterologists suggest consuming antibiotics for only up to seven days; however, the window might be increased depending on other underlying health conditions.
The color of poop can also explain health conditions related to the digestive tract, including diarrhea, constipation, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gastrointestinal issues.
The most common symptoms of gastrointestinal issues include abdominal discomfort, nausea, weight loss, vomiting, acid reflux, fatigue, and fecal incontinence. In some cases, patients will experience green stools as well. If you're experiencing both at the same time, it's probably time to see the doctor.
Viruses, Bacteria, or Parasites
Another cause of green poop relates to viruses and bacteria. Parasites in the gastrointestinal tract can also result in black or yellow poop. The most common conditions that turn poop green include Norovirus, Salmonella, and Giardia.
An anal fissure is a small tear in the thin lining of the anus. They typically occur due to the passage of hard stools, though they can also be caused by chronic diarrhea or other conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. In such instances, you may notice some green stool in the toilet bowl. Though more commonly, anal fissures will introduce bright red blood into your stool.
Diarrhea doesn't give the body enough time to break down the foods you eat or the bile that accompanies it. This fluid, which is made in the liver, naturally contains a greenish-yellow color. That pigment is often reflected in the color of your stool.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Before seeking help from a medical expert, you should first take a look at your diet. Are you consuming lots of green foods or foods that contain green food coloring? This is a perfectly normal explanation for green poop. If, however, you are simultaneously experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be time to see the doctor:
- Long-term change in poop color or size
- Blood in poop or the color of poop turns red or black
- Absence of poop (normally, a healthy human poops twice a day)
- Extreme pressure exerted to eliminate poop
- Somatic complaints, such as headaches and nausea
- Loss of appetite and vertigo
- Green poop for more than four days
A plant-rich diet is a common cause of green stools; however, they can also be caused by other conditions associated with the gastrointestinal tract. If you are experiencing any signs of infection, get in touch with a gastroenterologist for advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
It is also important to keep a good anal hygiene to avoid the accumulation of bacteria and subsequent unwanted smells. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends washing rather than wiping when you have anal discomfort.
If you’re at home, you can:
- Wash in the shower with lukewarm water, especially if you have a handheld showerhead.
- Soak in a sitz bath of warm water for just a minute or two. Any longer could irritate the skin more.
- Use a bidet if you have one. Bidet attachments are easy to install and pretty affordable, like the ultra-slim PODDI Clean Wash Bidet.
If you’re dealing with constipation and hemorrhoids or diarrhea bidets are your best options. If you're on the go, you can wash the area with wet toilet paper instead of wiping or use fragrance-free wet wipes made for sensitive skin.
Some wet wipes contain perfumes and chemicals that can dry out or irritate the skin, so make sure to check the ingredients. You can buy hypoallergenic wipes. If dry toilet paper is your only option, aim to use a gentle patting motion instead of rubbing.
Is green poop bad?
Green poop is considered normal when the person has a diet rich in green vegetables; however, there is a possibility that green stools might result from gastrointestinal infections, viruses, bacteria, and even parasites.
Does green poop mean infection?
If you are experiencing heartburn, nausea, excessive or not enough bowel movements, and weight loss along with green stool or green diarrhea, there is a possibility that you might have an infection. In such instances, it's important to book an appointment with your doctor.
What should I do if my poop is green?
If you are experiencing headaches, nausea, heartburn, or vomiting in addition to green stool, you should call your doctor. If you aren't experiencing any additional symptoms, then you don't need to worry. Making some simple changes to your diet will likely resolve issues related to green stool. Stick to foods that contain very low amounts of chlorophyll for best results.
Should I worry about green stool?
Green poop is normal when ingesting foods rich in chlorophyll. Unless you are experiencing other symptoms of illness or infection, there is no need to worry.
Can liver issues cause green poop?
There is a possibility that liver dysfunction or infection may result in green stools. These conditions occur when there is insufficient time for bile to break down food. Green stools may also be caused by infections in the liver that change the pH of bile, causing poop to turn green. Contact your doctor to learn more.
Why does my poop turn red or black?
Poop may turn red due to the intake of red food coloring and red food dyes. This can result from bleeding caused by anal fissures. Poop can also turn black when there is bleeding in the stomach. If you are experiencing such stools, get in touch with your doctor right away.