Looking down into the toilet bowl to be confronted by poop that is any other color than brown can be a disconcerting experience. It’s more common than you might think, and it seems that green poop is perhaps the most common of all. That would explain the question “Why is my poop green?” being the fourth most-asked “why” question on Google, with nearly 75,000 people asking each month.
If you’ve got green poop, what does it mean? The likelihood is that it’s related to what you’ve been eating, although there are several other reasons that could be the cause.
Poop is one of the main methods your body uses to get rid of waste products and indigestible matter that you’ve eaten. Its distinctive brown coloration comes from a combination of dead red blood cells and the leftovers from the bacteria that extract nutrients from your food, as well as from the yellow-green of the bile that is added by your gall bladder. So, anything that interferes with this process can have an effect on the color of what comes out the other end.
You Are What You Eat
Seeing as most of your poop is what’s leftover from what you ate, it should hardly be surprising that what you eat changes what your poop looks like. If you’ve just started a new diet or supplement, that could well be the cause.
Dark green vegetables like broccoli, chard, kale, and spinach are all high in chlorophyll, which is the green chemical that plants use to harvest the sun’s energy for their own use. If you’ve recently added some or all of these to your diet, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s just your body getting rid of the parts that it can’t use, and it’s not likely to be a sign of illness.
The other thing that you might have eaten that can change your poop color is food coloring. This could have been from something that was dyed green artificially, but it’s not just green dyes that break down in your intestine to make green poop. Black, blue, and purple can all end up turning green. And it’s not just eating – if you’ve been chugging down cheap, colorful beverages, don’t be surprised if the next day your poop matches the drink.
As previously mentioned, the bacteria in your stomach and intestine are part of what gives your poop its normal brown hue – the color is thanks to their waste products. If you’ve recently been on a course of antibiotics, especially strong ones, then there’s a good chance that the drugs have killed off much of the helpful parts of your microbiome. Having fewer bacteria means your poop becomes less brown.
Eating prebiotics such as chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke can provide your bacteria with the food that they need to re-establish their numbers, as well as giving you all the dietary fiber you need to ensure regular bowel movements. Probiotic foods like natural yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha can all help reintroduce helpful bacteria into your gut. Using both together will return your microbiome to its best, and will likely return your poop to the right shade.
A few medicines can also cause green poop, including:
- indomethacin (Tivorbex) – a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
- iron supplements
- medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera) – a contraceptive medicine
Bile is produced by your liver and then stored in the gallbladder. Its color can range from a dark green to a brownish-yellow, sometimes described as having the color of freshly cut grass. Bile is added in at the start of your intestines after you eat. It’s vital in breaking down fats that you’ve eaten into a form that your body can use, and then it is itself broken down by the intestine.
If your intestine doesn’t have the time to break the bile down, that can lead to it tinting your poop green. This can happen if you have diarrhea or stomach cramps.
Be it a parasite, bacterium, or virus, any illness that can cause you to experience diarrhea can cause green poop. As mentioned, this is thanks to both the bile not having time to break down and the beneficial bacteria not having time to absorb nutrients from your food.
Similarly to having an infection, if you suffer from a gastrointestinal condition like IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease, these can cause your stools to travel too quickly through your intestines, and so they don’t have time to pick up their traditional brown color. This could also be as a result of overusing laxatives.
If you’ve had a transplant operation recently, such as a bone marrow transplant, then there is a chance of developing graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). This is caused by genetic differences between the donor and the host, and it attacks the gastrointestinal tract, along with the liver and other bodily functions. This can cause diarrhea, which as we’ve seen is one of the main causes of green poop.
Should I See a Doctor?
If this isn’t a regular thing, you’re probably fine. It’s most likely to be caused by the food you’ve been eating, be it healthy greens or less healthy colored foods.
If you’ve been suffering from diarrhea for over three days, you should talk to your doctor. It can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, anal fissures, and a host of other complications.
If your green poop comes with other symptoms, like an upset stomach or nausea – or if black, red, and tarry brown colors also present in the poop – that’s also a sign that you should consult your doctor.
Going Green Isn’t Always a Good Thing
When you’ve got green poop, what does it mean? Most likely, that you’ve been eating your veggies. Otherwise, it’s probably from that green-dyed treat that you spoiled yourself with.
The other likeliest possibility is that you’ve been experiencing a bout of diarrhea. In this case, the green is caused by the natural color of the bile present in your poop, which has not had time to break down yet. It can also come from the lack of by-products created by your intestinal bacteria as they extract nutrients from your food.
If you’ve been suffering for a few days, you might want to talk to your doctor. But normally, don’t worry – green poop happens.