Did you get up from the toilet and suddenly notice green poop? Oh no!
Don’t worry. Most of the time this is nothing to worry about, even if it’s bright or green, solid or diarrhea. But it’s still useful to pay attention to your green poo to make sure you’re not missing any bigger issues.
Here we’ll cover all the potential causes of green poop, in both adults and kids. You’ll learn what to do if you’re currently having this problem.
What Is Green Poop?
Green stool is a common issue, and it usually doesn’t indicate any serious health issues. Your liver secretes a green fluid called bile into the small intestine to aid in the digestion and absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins. As bile makes its way through to the small intestine and then to the large intestine via the bile ducts, it progressively changes color from green to yellow to brown as bacteria in the large intestine acts on the bile salts. That’s why your poo is usually brown.
Poop can come out green when waste has traveled through your intestine too quickly for the green bile pigment to break down and the poop to turn brown. That’s why diarrhea, no matter what the root cause, often looks green. Its trip through the intestine went by too quickly for it to become a normal brown color.
There are also other causes of green poop, most of which are pretty benign. I’ll go through these possibilities in the next section.
What Causes Green Poop?
Here’s a list of the potential green stool causes in order of how commonly they occur. As you’ll see, the most likely causes can almost always be resolved quickly without a visit to the doctor.
1. Dietary Changes
There are some foods that can make your poop turn green. These include green vegetables like spinach and kale, any foods with green food coloring in them, blueberries, algae and grasses like spirulina and wheatgrass, iron-enriched foods, and nutritional supplements containing chlorophyll.
If you’ve been consuming any of these foods and you have green or dark green stool, it’s probably nothing to be worried about. It just means you’re getting more nutrients than your body can absorb or break down. After a day or so everything should go back to normal – no need for a doctor visit.
2. Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption is another common reason for green poop. The ethanol in alcohol makes your digestive system move more quickly. Your poop doesn’t have time to transition to its normal brown color, so it might look green.
This will pass after you’ve recovered from your hangover, so again, you don’t have to go to the doctor.
3. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning can lead to green poop because food passes through your digestive tract too quickly for the bile pigment to be purged. Your body is attempting to get rid of whatever harmful toxins or bacteria it ingested as quickly as possible. This will usually appear as green diarrhea, since your intestines don’t have enough time to absorb the water in your gut.
Again, this should pass within a day or less without medical intervention.
4. Medication Side Effects
Certain medications can cause green stool. The side effect isn’t serious and should pass quickly. Are you taking any of the below medications?
As you probably know, the point of laxatives is to force the digestion process to move faster. Again, your body doesn’t have time to get rid of the green bile pigment and produce feces that is a normal brown color.
Antibiotics can kill gut bacteria that would normally be a part of the digestion process, leading to changes in the color of your stool. This issue should fade over the course of a few days as your body adjusts to the medication. Furthermore, most antibiotics have a limited course, and once you finish it, your stool should go back to your normal color.
5. Foreign Bacteria
The introduction of foreign bacteria into your digestive tract can cause green feces. These are the most common bacterial ailments connected to change in stool color:
Salmonella and Giardia
These bacterias cause waste to travel through your intestines more quickly, resulting in green diarrhea. They’re pretty simple to diagnose because they’re typically accompanied by other symptoms including abdominal cramps and fever. You’ll usually recover within 4-7 days, and seeing a doctor is not necessary for most people.
Just make sure you drink lots and lots of water and eat healthy whole foods to speed along your recovery. Dehydration is the most dangerous side effect of this sickness; it can sometimes land you in the hospital if it becomes severe enough.
This is a non-specific ailment that might happen if you’re in an unfamiliar place and your digestive system is exposed to new bacteria. It should resolve within a day or two, but if you start to have other more serious symptoms like a fever, you may need to see a doctor. Again, be sure to drink lots of water to prevent serious dehydration.
6. Chronic Digestive Problems
If you have a chronic digestive problem, you probably know it already. Chronic diseases that cause green poop include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease
All of these ailments cause a person to have consistent diarrhea, which often appears green.
But don’t jump to the conclusion that you have one of these conditions simply because your poop is green. A serious problem like this is extremely unlikely compared to the more benign causes listed earlier. Monitor your symptoms so if your overall quality of life gets worse or your poop turns a more concerning color like red, white, yellow, or black you can consult your doctor immediately.
7. Side Effect of a Medical Procedure
If you’re a cancer patient who had a bone marrow transplant, sometimes you end up with something called graft-versus-host disease. This can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including watery green diarrhea.
If you’ve had a recent procedure and notice this, see your specialist immediately if you think you have this problem.
What If Your Baby Has Green Poop?
Green poop in babies can be scary for new parents, but it’s usually not a big deal. Poop tends to travel through an infant’s digestive tract more quickly, so it doesn’t have time to transition to the normal brown color. Because of this, it’s fairly common for infants to have yellow or bright green poop.
You should be more concerned and consult a doctor if your baby’s poop appears white, red, or black because this could indicate more serious health issues.
What Should You Do About Green Poop?
So if you see that your poop has a weird greenish hue, what should you do about it? Usually it’s just a one-time problem, but if you notice ongoing issues, you might want to get it checked out by a professional. Here’s what to do in whichever scenario applies to you:
Case 1: Isolated Incident
If you only see green poop once in awhile, you should be fine. Usually this just means you’re eating your veggies or you had a mild case of food poisoning. Things should go back to normal relatively quickly.
Keep in mind that if you really eat a ton of green vegetables, your poop could look a little bit green on a regular basis, but it’s not cause for concern. You’ll get used to your new baseline level of green poo.
Case 2: Recurring Problem
If you notice that your poop has been consistently green over the course of a week or longer (and you haven’t been eating piles of broccoli every day), it’s probably time to go to the doctor. It’s best to get tests done sooner rather than later to make sure there are no serious problems with your digestive tract.
Conclusion: What Does Green Poop Mean?
Green poop is usually not cause for concern. In most cases, it’s just a result of changes to your diet or a short-lived stomach bug. Don’t go to the doctor unless it goes on for a week or longer and you experience other more debilitating symptoms.
You should be more concerned if you notice your poop is another odd color like red, yellow, white, or black. These colors are more likely to indicate dangerous conditions, so you should see a doctor to verify that nothing serious is wrong.