The occasional green stool (green poop) is not a cause for panic. In most cases, there is a simple explanation for this. Eating certain foods or supplements can turn green.
However, green stools can also have a medical cause. A viral infection or other stomach condition can cause loose, greenish stools. Green diarrhea can also be due to digestive problems.
This article looks at the various causes of green stools and when you should speak to your doctor if you have one.
Food or supplements
Green stools can be due to a number of non-medical reasons. There is nothing to worry about if you have a solid green stool in front of you. Green diarrhea can also be within normal bowel movements .
If you have green stools, try to remember what foods you ate or what supplements you took in the past few days. Even if the food wasn't really green, that might explain it. The following foods and supplements can cause green stools:
- Eating green food – The first and most obvious reason for green stool is eating green food. Green leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll, a green pigment that can stain stool. Green food coloring is also a common cause of green stools.
- Eating purple foods: Dark purple foods like Kool-Aid, popsicles, and jelly (Jell-O) can also cause greenish or green stools.
- Iron-rich foods or supplements : Iron supplements or iron-rich foods can give your stools a greenish tint. If iron supplementation is causing you too much digestive upset (such as bloating or constipation), talk to your doctor about changing your supplements.
Green stool around the holidays
One of the biggest cases of green stool is during the holidays, when green food coloring is commonly used:
- Saint Patrick's day
Green food coloring can pass through your body in a day or two, so you may not connect the dots at first.
Eating unfamiliar foods during holiday meals can also lead to loose stools, especially if the food is high in fat.
Green stools may not appear for a day or two after eating green food, and by then it is easy to forget what you ate.
A viral infection can cause green diarrhea, sometimes along with vomiting. Viral gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) usually clears up within a few days, and while it is uncomfortable, there is usually nothing to worry about.
See your doctor if green diarrhea cannot be attributed to a food source or virus causing vomiting and diarrhea. This is rare, but green stools can be a sign of illness.
Healthy stools tend to be brown with some color variations. Bile (a substance that helps digest fat) is secreted in the first part of the small intestine and is actually green in color. As the stool travels through the digestive tract and colon, the bile turns darker brown.
If the stool is still green when it comes out, it could mean that it has passed through the colon too quickly to turn brown. This is known as "rapid colon transit" or "reduced colon transit time."
This is especially true with green diarrhea rather than fully formed stools. Foods that move so quickly through the digestive system do not stay in the large intestine long enough to absorb water, resulting in loose stools.
Green stools in babies and children.
Green stools are normal in breastfed babies, especially in the first few days after birth, and are not a cause for concern.
In babies, stools will gradually turn yellow and brown as the baby approaches his first birthday and a wider variety of foods are added to his diet.
In bottle-fed babies, green stools can persist for several months. This is likely due to the iron content in some formulas.
Additionally, giving an infant or child an iron supplement (as pediatricians often recommend) can also lead to green stools.
Some parents say that their children have green stools during teething. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this general observation.
In older children, green stools can be associated with food or non-food items, such as crayons.
If your child has swallowed or eaten an item that is not food, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
When to call a doctor
In some situations, green diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious problem. You should call your doctor if:
- The diarrhea lasts more than three days.
- Diarrhea is accompanied by severe pain and stomach cramps.
- Diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting for more than 24 hours.
- There are signs of dehydration , such as dry skin, mouth, and lips, and decreased urine output.
- Besides the green diarrhea, there have been other changes in his gut.
Green stools are rare, but there is usually nothing to worry about.
The most common cause of green stools is diet. It is often caused by eating foods that are green, blue, or purple, especially foods made with food coloring.
A viral infection usually causes green diarrhea. This is likely if other symptoms occur, such as vomiting, stomach cramps, fatigue, or fever.
Green diarrhea on its own that lasts more than a few days or comes and goes can be a sign of a digestive problem.
Call your doctor if diarrhea lasts for more than three days or is accompanied by vomiting for more than 24 hours.
Frequently asked questions
Hard, green stools by themselves are not a sign of infection. In fact, it may simply be due to eating green foods like vegetables and fruits, or even green food coloring.
Certain medications can cause green stools and an upset stomach. If the medicine interacts with bacteria in the intestines, the stool may turn green. If you experience these symptoms after taking the drug, it may be worth discussing the problem with your doctor.
Common causes of sudden diarrhea include food poisoning and stomach flu. On the other hand, persistent diarrhea can be caused by celiac disease, food allergies or intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), medications, and genetics.
Loose stools can be caused by a viral infection, stomach disease, or eating foods that are high in fat. Loose stools can also result from food that passes through the digestive system too quickly; If the colon does not have enough time to extract water from food, it can cause loose stools.