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What Causes Green Poop And When To Seek Help

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Why Is My Poop Green?

Green poop is a common stool color change that could either be because you had leafy greens for dinner or are on vitamin or iron supplements. Though it is highly unlikely to be a cause for concern, but if the texture is loose, slimy, and smells of rotten egg it could indicate a gastrointestinal infection. Be sure to see a doctor if the condition accompanies fever or vomiting.

It is one of the questions that Google has been bombarded with for a long time: “Why is my poop green?” Finding green poop in the toilet bowl may come as a shock to some of us. Many health practitioners advise you to regularly inspect the color of your stool and its texture, especially if you suffer from chronic ailments or gastrointestinal disorders.

Researchers all over agree that green poop is not a matter of concern. In fact, the first poop of a newborn child is usually dark green in color. This is called meconium and it is made of bile, mucus, and epithelial cells.1 According to the John Hopkins Children Center, green stools are considered normal in infants.2

But, like every other thing, you grow out of this and your poop starts turning into a shade of brown as you eat different varieties of solid food. To know why green poop is uncommon, let us first look at why normal poop is brown.

Why Is Normal Poop Brown?

Did you know that almost 75 percent of our stool is just plain water? It is the rest of the 25 percent that contains bile, mucus, bacteria, food waste and even undigested parts of foods. According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, the ideal stool is medium-brown, long and smooth, which passes easily from the body with minimum strain or effort.3

The stool’s brown color comes from bile, the green liquid that the liver produces. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and is released to the gastrointestinal tract to help digest fat. When bile mixes with the contents in the gastrointestinal tract, bacteria in the large intestine acts on it and changes its color from green to yellow to medium brown. The brown color is an indication that bile has been completely processed by the digestive system.

Causes Of Green Poop

The color of your poop, as explained earlier, is the result of what you put into your body and what your body produces on its own. So the possible causes for green poop are:

Eating Too Much Green Food

Although there are no scientific studies to back this, many medical practitioners have confirmed that eating a lot of deeply-pigmented green leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, and so on, your poop can have a green tinge.4 This is true both for naturally-pigmented and artificially-pigmented food. The pigment in these foods are strong enough and do not dissolve during the digestion process. If your poop is green because of something you ate, it should turn back to a normal shade in a day in the case of natural pigments or as soon as you stay away from such food in the case of artificial food dyes.

Certain Vitamin/Iron Supplements

Ingesting iron supplements or vitamin tablets or other medicines containing chlorophyll or fructose, you may find a change in the color of your stools.5 Certain colon cleansers and laxatives can also have the same effect due to high roughage and fiber content.

Gastrointestinal Infections

According to a factsheet published by the North Carolina State University, green stools, if they are loose, slimy and smell like rotten eggs, could be a sign of conditions like salmonella gastroenteritis.6 Even those affected by shigellosis, or bacillary dysentery, can have green poop as one of the major symptoms along with diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. But unlike in salmonella gastroenteritis, stools are relatively odorless and contain shreds of mucus.

When To Seek Medical Help?

In most cases, green poop in itself is not life-threatening. Look out for other added symptoms like fever, vomiting, pain, bloating, fatigue, and edema. Also, take another closer look at your poop for blood or mucus traces. A change in smell is also a good indicator of potentially serious health conditions. If your poop continues to be green for more than a few days and you see any other accompanying symptoms, it is best to go to a doctor.

Observing your poop is one of the basic ways, only second to perhaps tracking your food habits, to find out if your system is functioning well. So look out for such changes as this might be an indication of a more serious underlying health condition.

References   [ + ]

1. What are some of the basics of infant health? National Institute Of Child Health and Human Development.
2. Infant Stool Color Chart, John Hopkins Children Center.
3. The Scoop On Poop, Canadian Society of Intestinal Research.
4. General Stool Examination, University of Babylon.
5. Iron Supplements, Mclaren.org.
6. Module 2 – Diseases and Malfunctions, Course 1: Overactivity of the Intestinal Tract, North Carolina State University.