If you’re here, you’re probably wondering, Why is my poop green? And good news: Green poop is far from uncommon. Pretty much everyone has glanced into the bowl after doing the doo and seen green at some point in their life, Nicole Shen, M.D., a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells SELF. Even better, when it comes to what causes green poop, most culprits are NBD. But to sate your curiosity or ease your mind, we took the liberty of asking doctors to explain the most common reasons you might get a glimpse of green before flushing.
1. You ate something that’s affecting your poop’s hue.
There are plenty of foods that can make your poop Hulk out. For one, green foods like kale, spinach, wheatgrass, and broccoli can make your poop change color because of their chlorophyll, a plant pigment that gives green vegetables their hue, Dr. Shen says. Eating foods that have a lot of green dye in them can also do the trick, Rudolph Bedford, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, tells SELF.
It’s not only green foods that can lead to green poop, though. Eating plants that are blue or purple, like blueberries, can do the job too. The reason for that is basically a callback to grade school art classes: When the pigment in these foods mixes with bile, a yellow-green digestive liquid, the resulting poop can look more vividly green than you’d expect.
To find out whether your diet is behind your verdant poop, try avoiding your usual green (or blue/purple) foods for several days, Dr. Shen says. If your poop goes back to brown, it’s likely that your food choices are causing your green stool, meaning it’s really nothing to worry about.
2. You have some sort of bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection.
So, during the digestive process, enzymes chemically change your bile from its usual yellow-green to brown, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your bile can’t break down properly (for reasons we’ll get to in a sec), it will often maintain some of its original yellow-green color when it leaves your body via your stool.
This can happen if you have an infection from bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, viruses like norovirus, or parasites like giardia, all of which can cause diarrhea by forcing your poop to move through your system too quickly. In those instances, your bile doesn’t have a chance to become brown, Dr. Shen says. Voilà, now you have green diarrhea.
If you’re experiencing green diarrhea along with issues like stomach cramping, vomiting, or fever, it’s a good idea to call your doctor if it doesn’t clear up in a few days, Dr. Bedford says. It could be a sign of a stomach bug that your doctor may be able to speed along with the appropriate treatment.
3. You’re taking certain medications.
Today in random things you never thought could affect your poop: Certain medicines like the prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin (often used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis), and the birth control shot Depo-Provera, can cause green poop, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The mechanism behind this isn’t entirely clear, but it’s thought that the drugs might slightly alter the way you digest food, leading to a green pigment showing up in your poop, Dr. Shen says. Several antibiotics can also interfere with your gut flora (i.e., the bacteria in your digestive system), at times causing bile-filled green diarrhea, Braden Kuo, M.D., attending gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF.
4. You have a certain type of irritable bowel syndrome.
Specifically, IBS-D (irritable bowel syndrome that causes diarrhea) or IBS-M (irritable bowel syndrome that causes a mix of diarrhea and constipation). You’re probably familiar on some level with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that makes life hard by messing with how your large intestine functions. Though experts aren’t sure of the exact cause behind IBS, intestinal contractions are one major factor in this condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.
These contractions help move food through your digestive tract, but if they’re too strong and long-lasting, you might wind up with IBS-D, which stands for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. If your muscle contractions are too weak, you may deal with IBS-C, which is IBS that causes constipation. If it’s really a toss-up depending on the day, welcome to life with IBS-M, or IBS involving a mix of both constipation and diarrhea. No matter your kind of IBS, you may also experience abdominal cramping, gas, and mucus in your stool.
If you have IBS-D or IBS-M, you might get diarrhea and have other symptoms during flare-ups, which can be triggered by stress, foods including wheat, dairy, and citrus, or hormonal changes like being on your period. As with many of the other issues on this list, if IBS is forcing your stool to rush through your body too quickly, you can wind up with green diarrhea.
If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS-D or IBS-M and you pretty much have things under control, you don’t need to freak out over the occasional green poop. But if you’re regularly having green diarrhea, and it seems to be linked with things like eating certain foods or feeling overwhelmed with stress, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. Together, you may be able to figure out if there’s more you can do to avoid flare-ups.
5. You have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Though these inflammatory bowel diseases have various differences, they can both make you more prone to diarrhea that might look green.
Crohn’s disease causes irritation in your digestive system, usually in your small intestine and the beginning of your large intestine, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Diarrhea is a major symptom, and it can be green because of undigested bile, Dr. Shen says. If you have Crohn’s, you might also experience other symptoms like stomach pain, fatigue, fever, weight loss, bloody poop, reduced appetite, and malnutrition, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Ulcerative colitis happens when you have inflammation and sores in your digestive tract, usually in your large intestine and rectum, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to diarrhea, you might experience abdominal cramping, rectal pain, a sensation of really needing to poop, bleeding when you do actually poop, weight loss, fatigue, fever, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Much like with IBS, doctors aren’t exactly sure of what causes inflammatory bowel diseases. And, unfortunately, treating these conditions may require some trial and error. If you’re dealing with persistent poop problems, stomach pain, and anything else that seems concerning, see your doctor to see whether you have an inflammatory bowel disease.
6. You’re taking iron supplements.
First things first: You should take iron supplements only if your doctor says they’re necessary due to an issue like iron deficiency anemia. This happens when you lack enough iron for your body to create hemoglobin, a protein that’s essential for healthy red blood cells. If you start taking iron supplements without a doctor’s guidance, you might accidentally ingest too much and wind up with symptoms like nausea and vomiting, so you shouldn’t just decide to take them out of nowhere.
Now that you know that, if you do need to take iron supplements, keep in mind that they can cause green or black poop, Dr. Bedford says. If your poop is black, it actually may be a sign that your body is absorbing the iron properly, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. On the other hand, green poop when you’re taking iron supplements may be a sign your body isn’t absorbing the nutrient properly, Dr. Bedford explains, in which case you should talk to a doctor to see whether you need to adjust your formulation or dosage.
7. You recently had your gallbladder removed.
Now, for the last stop on the bile train: Removal of your gallbladder, which stores bile, can result in green poop. This pear-shaped organ might need to be removed if you have gallstones, which are hard deposits of material that can block the flow of bile and cause a world of hurt. Also known as a cholecystectomy, this is one of the most common surgeries in the United States.
Once your gallbladder is gone, your body no longer has a place to store bile. As a result, you might have some diarrhea that includes more bile than usual, causing your poop to have a green color, Dr. Bedford says. If you’re dealing with this symptom and you recently had your gallbladder removed, you shouldn’t stress it—the diarrhea typically goes away within eight weeks as your body adjusts. If it doesn’t, or if you’re concerned, bring it up with your doctor.
Here’s when to see a doctor about green poop.
Green poop can be completely normal, but it can also be a sign that you’re dealing with something that needs treating. So if you’re pooping green and can’t figure out what’s going on, don’t feel embarrassed to check with your doctor, Dr. Bedford says.
That said, as a reminder, you should seek medical attention if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms alongside your green poop, as they can be indicative of some of the health issues we covered above that require treatment:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Weight loss
Beyond that, the key factor is whether or not your green poop is persistent, Dr. Shen says. If it pops up only after you inhale a massive salad followed by a wheatgrass chaser, you’ve probably found your culprit. If you can’t track it that easily and it’s sticking around, there’s a chance something might be up with your health, Dr. Bedford says. It’s worth checking in with a medical professional just to be safe.
- Do I Really Need to See a Doctor for Blood in My Poop?
- How to Tell the Difference Between IBS and IBD
- 8 Signs You Should See a Doctor About Stomach Pain
Originally Appeared on SELF