What Causes Green Poop and What To Do About It

Green Stool Or Green Diarrhea Could Be Caused By Diet Or Supplements

Green, leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, or bok choy contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll can turn your stool green, especially when its eaten in large amounts.. Image © eryk pasta

Don't panic if you have the occasional green stool (green poop). In most cases, there is a reasonable explanation for a green bowel movement that doesn't involve a health problem. A green poop could still be within the range for what is considered to be a normal stool. To explain the green in your stool, think back to the foods you ate or any vitamins or supplements you took over the last several days—even if those things are not actually green.

Purple, black, or other dark colors in foods could also cause stools to turn green. Green diarrhea may be of concern, especially if it goes on for several days, so it's best to consult a doctor in that case.

Why Stool May Be Green

There are several non-medical reasons that stool can appear to be green.

  • Eating Green Foods. The first and most obvious reason for a stool to be green is from eating green foods. Green, leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll, which could be coloring the stool green. Green food coloring is also a common reason for stools to be green.
  • Eating Purple Foods. Foods with dark purple coloring, such as Kool-Aid, popsicles, and gelatin (Jell-O), can also result in greenish or green stools.
  • Iron-Rich Food and Supplements. Iron supplements or even those foods that are rich in iron also have the potential to give stool a green tinge.

Common Times For People To Have Green Stools

Is it the week of a holiday or a special event?

One of the biggest times to see green stools is during holidays when foods may be died green artificially (such as St. Patrick's Day, Easter, or Christmas). Many people might not connect the green coloring to their stool, or even forget that the holiday changed their normal eating patterns. A green stool might not appear for a day or two after eating green foods, and by then it is easy to forget what was eaten.

When Is Green Stool Something to Worry About?

It's not common, but stool can also appear green for physical reasons and not just from the foods you've been eating. In some cases, the green stool might be a sign of a medical condition. We think of a healthy stool as being brown, with some variation. However, bile that is secreted in the first part of the small intestine is actually green. As stool continues through the digestive tract and passes through the large intestine, it changes to become a darker brown.

If stool is still green by the time it is excreted from the body during a bowel movement, it could mean that it went through the large intestine too fast to be changed to brown. This is often called "rapid transit" or "decreased colonic transit time." Rapid transit could cause stool to be green. This is especially true if it is green diarrhea, rather than a fully-formed green stool. Food that is moving so quickly through the digestive system will not spend a long enough time in the large intestine for water to be absorbed, and will result in a loose stool.

Green diarrhea should be checked out by a physician, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms, or the green can in no way be explained by a food or supplement.

Green Stools In Infants

In breast-fed infants, green stool is a normal occurrence, especially in the first days after delivery, and is no cause for alarm. In infants, stools will gradually change to become yellow and then brown, as more varied foods are added to the diet. In older children, the reason for a green stool could be food-related as described above, or even from non-food items. Eating or sucking on colored non-food items, such as crayons or markers, might also put green coloring through the digestive tract, and turn stools green. If you have a concern about your child's stool, talk to a pediatrician. If you think your child has swallowed or eaten a non-food object, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.

When To Call A Doctor About Green Stool

If green stool continues, or your bowel habits have changed in other ways, you will want to call your doctor. This is especially true if you are experiencing diarrhea, which can indicate other problems or could lead to dehydration. Call your doctor if you are experiencing abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting along with the green stool.

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