Different stool colors can mean different things, mostly depending on what you’ve eaten. You’d probably notice if your poop is a different hue than normal.
Most of the time, minor changes in the color of your waste are due to diet. After all, we don’t eat the same thing at every meal, every day. But sometimes a color change can signal a minor health issue. In rare cases, it means something serious is wrong with your digestive system.
Normal Poop Color
Poop is normally brown. The color is the result of what you eat and how much bile is in your stool. Bile is a fluid your liver makes to digest fats. It starts out as a yellowish-green color. But as the pigments that give bile its color travel through your digestive system, they go through chemical changes and turn brown.
Normal poop is generally:
- Medium to dark brown: This is because it contains a pigment called bilirubin, which forms when red blood cells break down.
- Strong-smelling: Bacteria in excrement emit gases that contain the unpleasant odor associated with poop.
- Pain-free to pass: A healthy bowel movement should be painless and require minimal strain.
- Soft to firm in texture: Poop that is passed in one single piece or a few smaller pieces is typically considered to be a sign of a healthy bowel. The long, sausage-like shape of poop is due to the shape of the intestines.
- Passed once or twice daily: Most people pass stool once a day, although others may poop every other day or up to three times daily. At a minimum, a person should pass stool three times a week.
- Consistent in its characteristics: A healthy poop varies from person to person. However, a person should monitor any changes in texture.
Why Is My Poop Green?
Green stool or poop is a common stool color change. It may be due to bile pigment in the stool because diarrhea moves food too quickly through the intestine so the intestinal chemicals and bacteria can’t break down the bile pigment to its normal brown color, or the green color may be due to certain foods like green, leafy vegetables or green food coloring. Find below the colors of poop and what they mean according to Mayo Clinic:
|Stool quality||What it may mean||Possible dietary causes|
|Green||Food may be moving through the large intestine too quickly, such as due to diarrhea. As a result, bile doesn’t have time to break down completely.||Green leafy vegetables, green food coloring, such as in flavored drink mixes or ice pops, and iron supplements.|
|Light-colored, white or clay-colored||A lack of bile in stool. This may indicate a bile duct obstruction.||Certain medications, such as large doses of bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) and other anti-diarrheal drugs.|
|Yellow, greasy, foul-smelling||Excess fat in the stool, such as due to a malabsorption disorder, for example, celiac disease.||Sometimes the protein gluten, such as in bread and cereals. See a doctor for evaluation.|
|Black||Bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach.||Iron supplements, bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol), black licorice.|
|Bright red||Bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, such as the large intestine or rectum, often from hemorrhoids.||Red food coloring, beets, cranberries, tomato juice or soup, red gelatin, or drink mixes.|
What causes abnormal poop?
Excessive caffeine consumption may cause abnormal poop. Staying hydrated can prevent constipation. Abnormal poop can have many causes, ranging from minor to severe. Causes can include:
Stress: Digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can be triggered or exacerbated by stress. In some people, it can manifest as diarrhea and in others as constipation.
Dehydration: Not drinking enough water and other fluids can lead to constipation, as stool requires moisture to be able to move through the digestive tract. Too much caffeine and alcohol can contribute to dehydration.
Lack of dietary fiber: Fiber acts as a binding substance to give stool its form. It also helps poop to move smoothly through the digestive tract. A diet that is low in fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses, can lead to bowel problems.
Food intolerances and allergies: People with an intolerance or allergy to certain foods can often experience diarrhea, constipation, or other traits of abnormal poop when they consume problematic food. For example, people with lactose intolerance often experience diarrhea if they have dairy, while those with celiac disease will have an adverse reaction to gluten.
Medical conditions: Certain conditions can cause constipation, diarrhea, or other poop abnormalities. Examples of such conditions include:
- an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Parkinson’s disease
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if changes to poop persist for 2 or more weeks. Seek immediate medical treatment if the stool is bright red, black, or resembles coffee grounds. This suggests blood loss, which could become a medical emergency if left untreated. ALSO READ: Is Mouse Poop Dangerous?