Why Is My Poop Green?

leafy greens

Story at-a-glance -

  • If you’re wondering what it means when your poop is green, then you should think back to what you ingested lately, as green poop is usually the result of eating too much green-colored foods. It could also be a sign that your digestive system is not functioning properly
  • Learn more about the factors that make your poop green and whether or not this unusual change in color should be a cause for concern

Poop can be an uncomfortable subject for some people, but it's an important health topic to discuss nonetheless. The color, size, consistency and odor of your stools can tell you a lot about your overall health, so it's important for you to know what's normal and what's not.

If you've ever paid attention to your fecal features, you'd know that it normally comes in various shades of brown — this color is caused by the bile in your intestine. Bile is a yellowish green fluid produced by the liver to digest fats. As it travels through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it interacts with enzymes and bacteria and undergoes chemical reactions, causing its pigment to change from yellow-green to brown.1

Seeing green poop instead of the usual healthy brown can be alarming. Before you panic, keep in mind that it's normal to get stool with hints of green every once in a while. If you're wondering what it means when your poop is green, then you should think back to what you ingested lately, as green poop is usually the result of eating too many green-colored foods. It could also be a sign that your digestive system is not functioning properly.

Green poop comes in a variety of shades, from dark green that almost looks black to a pale, light green color. Depending on the cause, some stools may also take on a lime, neon or bright green hue.2,3 There are many other factors that can affect the color of your stool, including medications and underlying health issues, which is why your poop may also come in black, yellow and red.4

What Causes Green Poop?

To better understand the reason why you're passing green stool, take a look at some of its most common causes:5,6,7,8,9

Foods — Diet is the most common reason for green stool. If you recently ate a lot of dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli, then there's a high chance that their chlorophyll content will turn your feces green.

Don't eliminate vegetables from your diet, though, since this is absolutely normal and healthy. Eating foods that use purple, blue and black artificial food colorings may also turn your poop green.  It's best to avoid foods with these dyes, since they may expose you to potentially harmful chemicals.

Bile pigment — When food moves through your intestines too quickly (usually because of diarrhea), your body loses the ability to completely break down bile. As a result, your poop retains the natural green pigment of bile in your body.

Medications and supplements — Taking iron supplements is another common cause of green poop. Other green superfood supplements that may also cause this include chlorella, spirulina, and wheatgrass.10

Strong antibiotics may also cause green poop, as they kill off the good gut bacteria that that helps turn your stool brown. Other medications associated with green poop include indomethacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), and medroxyprogesterone, a contraceptive medicine.

Medical procedures — Major procedures like transplants can cause green stools, gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea if the body rejects the transplanted organ.

Parasites, bacteria and viruses — Pathogens like Salmonella, giardia (a water parasite) and norovirus (a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea) may cause your GI tract to work faster than usual, which in turn hinders the breakdown of bile and causes green stools.

Stress — Stress causes your GI tract to flush more quickly than normal,11 which may keep bile from being broken down completely, resulting in green poop.

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What Does Green Poop Mean in Adults?

As mentioned above, green poop is considered a normal occurrence in adults, as long as it's diet-related or caused by medications or supplements. However, if you haven't taken any medicines or eaten any foods that may change your stool color, then your green poop could be a sign of a health problem that you need to address.12

Green Poop in Kids: Is It Normal?

One of your inevitable duties as a parent is to clean your child's poop, and by doing so, you can check it for unusual changes in color. It's not uncommon for children to have green poop, but the causes behind this may vary depending on the child's age.

During the first few days of your baby's life, their poop still contains thick, black meconium, which can have a greenish tint. Once they've pooped enough to get rid of all the meconium in their body, it's normal for their stool to turn varying shades of yellow, brown and green. Babies and infants who are formula-fed are more likely to pass stool with hints of green.13 Other factors that may also cause green poop in babies and infants include:14

Mother's diet — Diet has a big impact on the quality of breast milk. Babies who are breastfed may pass green stool if their mother consumed foods with green coloring. If their green poop is accompanied by mucus or other symptoms like tummy ache and breathing issues, then it's likely that the mother has eaten foods that their baby is allergic to.

Imbalance in breast milk supply — An oversupply of breast milk may cause a baby to consume more foremilk than hindmilk. Foremilk is a type of thin milk produced during the beginning of breastfeeding. It usually contains more lactose than hindmilk. Babies may digest excess amounts of lactose quickly, causing them to have watery green poop.

As your child ages, more foods are introduced into their diet — this will significantly affect the color of their feces. Just like in adults, green poop in kids is commonly caused by natural and artificial colors found in food, as well as medicines and iron supplements. If your child has recurring diarrhea along with green stools, consult a physician immediately.15

Is It Normal to Pass Green Poop While Pregnant?

Green poop during pregnancy may be caused by prenatal vitamins that are high in iron, certain medications and dietary changes. Pregnant women are also more likely to pass green poop during their third trimester, since this is when diarrhea becomes more common.16,17

If you're passing green poop even if you are not in your third trimester, haven't consumed green-colored foods or haven't taken prenatal vitamins, you should talk with your doctor to find out if your discolored stool is caused by health conditions that decreases your colon transit time.

Is Green Poop a Symptom of Cancer?

Before you assume the worst about your health, you should know that green poop is not a sign of cancer. The stool color that's usually related to cancer is tarry black and/or bright red, which indicate that there's bleeding somewhere in the GI tract.18 If your green poop is accompanied by other symptoms such as recurring diarrhea, then it may be related to digestive issues that cause food to pass through the stomach quickly, such as:19,20

Crohn's disease

Celiac disease

Irritable bowel syndrome

Ulcerative colitis

When Should You See a Doctor About Your Green Stool?

A one-time occurrence of green poop is not something you should worry about. However, if this has become a chronic issue, then you should consult a doctor to see if it's not a sign of a serious gastrointestinal condition.

Runny green stools that occur for more than three days should also be a cause for concern, as it may lead to dehydration and impaired absorption of nutrients. If your green poop is accompanied by other severe symptoms such as stomach upset, nausea and presence of blood, then you should seek immediate medical help.21

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Green Poop

Q: Is green poop bad or just normal?

A: Green poop is considered normal if it's caused by dietary changes or supplements and medications. However, if your green stool is accompanied by other symptoms such as recurring diarrhea and stomach upset, then it could be a sign of a more serious condition that you should talk to your doctor about.22

Q: What happens when your poop is green?

A: Green poop is usually the result of eating foods with green, purple, blue and black pigment, or taking certain medications and supplements. This may also occur if food goes through your digestive tract too quickly, preventing your body from properly breaking down bile. The presence of bile pigment in your poop makes it green.

If your green poop is dietary-related, rest assured that it will go back to its usual brown color without any problems. However, if it's caused by underlying medical issues, you may need to consult your doctor to determine the right treatment plan.23

Q: Is green poop a sign of infection?

A: Yes, green poop can be a sign of a bacterial or viral infection. Some of the pathogens associated with green poop include Salmonella, giardia and norovirus. You may also experience other symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever if your green stool is caused by an infection.24

Q: Can stress cause your poop to turn green?

A: Yes, stress is one of the possible causes of green poop, as it makes your GI tract work faster than normal, hindering the breakdown of bile.25

Q: Can IBS cause green stool?

A: Yes, IBS is one of the GI conditions that may lead to green stool, as it speeds up the bowel transit and prevents your body from properly breaking down bile. Some of the other GI issues that may also cause green stool include Crohn's disease, celiac disease and ulcerative colitis.26

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