Passing poop is the body's natural way of eliminating waste and toxins that could otherwise hamper your body's internal functioning and cause serious health problems.
The usual color of poop is brown. However, the color of poop can change due to various reasons. Most of the time, changes in the color of one's poop do not indicate any sort of medical condition. However, there are also a number of cases where a change in the color of poop signals a serious medical condition.
The color of stool is largely determined by the kind of food consumed. Consumed foods are processed by the body and synthesized by the bile secreted by the liver. Bile gives poop its normal color: brown.
Facts about stool color you should know
- The normal color of poop is light to dark brown.
- The brown color of one's stool naturally varies almost every day.
- Frequent changes in the color of poop may be a sign of illness or an underlying medical condition. However, color changes in poop may be due to other causative factors such as dietary intake and various harmless, natural conditions.
- Diarrhea can cause alterations in stool color. Other than diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, liver problems, and certain drugs can also cause changes in stool color.
- Stools turning green is a very common change in stool color. This primarily occurs due to the consumption of a lot of greens. The bile juice that helps in the digestion of food has a difficult time breaking down the green color in food. Thus, the consumed food passes out unchanged in color, giving stool a greenish appearance.
- Red or black stool may be an indication of bleeding that is occurring in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Therefore, red or black stools should not be ignored.
- Every stool color change is treated differently by doctors. The diagnostic tests recommended by the doctor will depend on the signs and symptoms seen in the patient.
- The course of treatment, if any, will depend on what has caused the stool to change in color.
Your diet affects the color of your poop
One of the most common reasons for changes in poop color is one's dietary intake. Eating large amounts of food of a particular color, such as dark green vegetables, can influence poop color. Dark green leafy vegetables are high in chlorophyll content, which is difficult for the bile juice to synthesize and digest.
Food coloring additives can also affect the color of poop. Some foods that contain food coloring agents do not get properly processed by the body, thereby leaving a colorful residue in the stool.
What could passing poop of a different color mean?
There are times when you pass poop of a different color. It might alarm or worry you to see that your poop is green, black, red, or even yellow. Most often, the changes in the color of your poop are primarily due to what you have eaten. We eat a variety of foods all the time, and it is natural for poop to change in color because of what we have consumed.
Sometimes, however, a change in the color of poop could be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires immediate medical attention. And, albeit rare, a change in poop color could be due to a serious malfunction in the digestive system. If you notice a change in the color of your poop that seems rather unusual or worrisome, you should speak with your doctor immediately.
The normal color of feces is always brown due to the presence of bile. The color also results from the food that one consumes and the amount of bile that is present in the stool.
The liver is the organ that secretes bile, which helps in the digestion of fats in the body. Bile is essentially yellowish-green in color. However, certain chemical changes occur in the body as food passes through the digestive tract. These chemical changes slowly turn the color of bile into brown, which is the color of normal feces.
In most cases, green-colored poop is considered normal and not a reason for worry. Various factors can cause one's poop to have a greenish appearance. Eating green vegetables such as kale or spinach can often result in passing green-colored stools. Food coloring, both natural and artificial, like the ones found in drinks, popsicles, and some desserts, can cause a change in poop color. Iron supplements prescribed by doctors to meet iron requirements also could be one of the causes for passing green (sometimes black) poop.
Having diarrhea can also cause you to pass green poop. The reason is that, with diarrhea, food moves very quickly through the digestive tract, preventing bile from completely breaking down the food and not allowing one’s stool to give its normal brown color.
For most people, passing yellow poop is almost as normal as passing the usual brown-colored poop and not a cause for concern. Yellow poop is commonly seen in the case of breastfed babies. However, if you pass yellow poop that is extremely greasy and accompanied by an unusual foul smell, then it may be a sign of excessive fat not getting properly digested by your body. Wait and see if it is a one-off case or if it happens repeatedly, in which case you should see your doctor.
In some medical conditions like celiac disease, the body is unable to properly digest gluten protein, which is found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. If you have celiac disease and continues to eat food that contains gluten, such as bread or pasta, your digestive system will not be able to function as it should, thereby resulting in yellow poop.
There could be several other factors responsible for the yellow color of your poop, but in particular, if your poop is smelly and greasy, consult your doctor immediately to get medical advice.
White or light-colored poop
Certain medications, especially the ones taken for conditions like diarrhea, can often lead to pale or clay-colored poop. Certain medical procedures can also influence the color of one's poop to become light-colored. Barium is a chalk-colored liquid that is administered to patients before they go in for an X-ray. Barium can change the color of one's poop from the usual brown to a gray or very light, almost white color.
There could be more severe causes of white-colored poop such as a decreased production of bile in the liver.
Green poop in babies
In the case of newborns, it is quite normal to find dark green to almost black poop with a tar-like consistency. The reason is that newborn poop is nothing but meconium, which consists of amniotic fluid, cells, and other things the baby ingested while inside the uterus. The poop is not very smelly, but it certainly has a different color. A newborn baby's stool will gradually become lighter in color, usually settling into a yellowish, light brown color, after two to four days from the start of breastfeeding or milk formula feeding.
Any other changes from the usual color of the poop of a baby at any stage merit at least a call to the baby's pediatrician, unless a benign reason, such as food intake, is obvious enough.
Green poop resulting from a Salmonella infection
In some cases, green poop indicates a serious condition, such as food poisoning caused by Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella naturally exists in contaminated food and unprocessed food products like raw eggs. It also exists in contaminated water and meat that has not been cooked well enough to kill these germs. Salmonella infection causes food poisoning and other serious diseases that affect the gut and intestines, often resulting in the infected person's poop turning green.
Green poop in pregnancy
Some people consider green poop to be one of the first signs of pregnancy. Passing green poop can even continue all throughout pregnancy for some women. Green poop during pregnancy may occur due to the following factors:
1) Intestinal disorder - Intestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease often cause the color of stool to change from brown to greenish or black. Crohn's disease causes the intestinal tissues to swell. When this occurs, there can be some amount of bleeding when food passes through the intestinal pipes. When blood gets mixed with bile fluid, it can result in the feces having a greenish or black color.
2) Multivitamins - A pregnant woman is often prescribed a number of multivitamins to meet her body's growing nutritional needs. Prenatal vitamins, which are taken by most pregnant women, can cause green-colored poop. These vitamins are essentially iron and folic acid tablets, which cause poop to have a greenish or black color. Pregnant women need more iron in their bodies than non-pregnant women to meet the growing need for iron for both the mother and the baby. A woman's normal, pre-pregnancy diet is unlikely incapable of meeting the additional iron requirements of pregnancy, which is why multivitamins with iron are often recommended to pregnant women.
3) Medications - Certain medicines such as antibiotics can often result in green-colored stools in pregnant women. A woman who has been prescribed medication to treat some condition, an infection, for example, may find that her feces has turned green. The color usually goes back to normal after the woman has completed the course of medication.
4) Diet - Pregnant women are often advised to eat a variety of healthy foods such as green, leafy vegetables to enhance the development of their babies. Consuming large portions of green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, which are rich in iron and essential vitamins, can cause a change in the color of one's poop.
Is green poop dangerous?
Passing green poop is not really a cause for concern. In most cases, it is a one-off occurrence and usually resolves on its own. However, if passing green poop persists for a longer time, and especially when accompanied by other symptoms, it may require medical attention since it could indicate serious underlying health conditions such as gastrointestinal infections or food poisoning. Consult your doctor right away to rule out abnormalities and possible risks.
- In most cases, green poop is caused by the food one consumes.
- Green poop is quite normal in pregnant women and newborn babies.
- Sometimes, green poop is a sign of food poisoning or an intestinal infection.