Here's Why Your Poop Is Green
Okay, the topic of green poop might make you giggle — but if you actually see that shade in the toilet bowl someday, you might be more alarmed than amused.
“When one thinks of poop, most people think of the color brown, of course,” says Adrienna Jirik, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic. But with certain circumstances, she adds, "then you may start getting a few more interesting, and completely benign, hues and highlights added to the mix. Daily variations in stool color, in general, are completely normal, say Dr. Jirik, and can range from variations of brown to yellow and green. This is most often due to what you’re ingesting, she says. But there are circumstances in which a variation should be brought to a doctor’s attention, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If the day comes when a mossy-tinted or even bright green-shaded poop happens to you, here are sevent questions to ask yourself that will help you get to the bottom (sorry!) of this.
Have you been eating lots of green veggies?
“Green stools are often seen after eating a large quantity of leafy greens, which are loaded with green chlorophyll pigment,” says Dr. Jirik. This is usually the most common cause: a healthy diet that includes greens like kale and spinach, other green veggies like broccoli, even verdant-colored fruits like honeydew melons, green apples and avocados. Bright-green matcha is another potential cause. Once these foods have passed through your system, you should see your usual color in the toilet.
What seeds and nuts have you been munching on?
Both of those healthy types of foods could be the culprit. “Pistachios and hemp seeds, which also contain a fair amount of chlorophyll and certain carotenes, can also possibly impart a splash of green to brown stools if ingested in larger quantities,” says Dr. Jirik.
Have you been eating blue or dyed-green food?
If you’ve eaten bright green cupcakes at your kid’s class party, or any food that’s dyed a vivid verdant shade, that could be the cause of a Kermit-tinted poop, says Dr. Jirik. And —surprise! — eating blue or purple fruits or veggies (like blueberries) can bring on the green as well. Remember mixing paint colors in art class? Blue + yellow (in this case, from the bile that helps you digest food) = green. Again, once the food has been fully digested, the green hue should disappear.
What meds are you on?
When you’re on a course of antibiotics, this can shift the balance of gut bacteria in your body, and that can result in a greenish tint in the bowl. “Certain antibiotics may cause color changes by affecting bile acid breakdown,” says Dr. Jirik. Iron supplements can cause a color change as well, she notes. And other meds also can have an impact if they bother your stomach and bring on diarrhea that contains bile. In this case, the green color isn’t strong, but you might notice it.
Do you have a gallbladder issue or a GI condition?
“Green stools can also be noted in less benign conditions, such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome),” says Dr. Jirik. “This happens when GI transit time is decreased, which leaves little time for bile to be metabolized in the gut, which normally turns stool brown.” And if you’ve had your gall bladder removed, for a time afterward you may see greenish poop, the result of more bile moving into your digestive system.
Do you have diarrhea from an infection?
Whether it’s a virus or bacteria (like E.coli or salmonella) causing your infection, you may find yourself with diarrhea — and because of the same zippy bowel movements as with a GI condition, there may be more bile in your poop that can turn them a shade of green. Says Dr. Jirik, “If diarrhea, regardless of color, is persistent, and/or accompanied by abdominal pain or weight loss, you should seek a consultation with your medical provider.”
Are you on a new form of birth control?
Specifically, have you starting using Depo-Provera, a shot that suppresses ovulation? That can result in green poop, and though it’s not known why this can happen, doctors don’t feel that it’s anything to be concerned about, and it usually goes away with time.
When you should be concerned:
Dr. Jirik says, “Tarry black stools and red bloody-appearing stools — which can suggest a GI bleed — should be evaluated without delay.” She adds, “Pale stools, which could suggest a blockage in the bile ducts themselves (especially when coupled with jaundice), should also prompt an expedited evaluation to rule out bile duct stones,” as well as other serious health issues.
With green poop, though, the thing you should consider first is what you recently ate, before you start self-diagnosing yourself with something more serious. And of course, contact your doctor if you have other symptoms, or you’re unsure about the cause.
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