Why is My Poop Green?

Although we don’t put much thought into it, bowel movements are a good indicator of our overall health and well-being. 

We don’t really think about the color of our stool until we notice unusual changes, such as the appearance of a green hue. 

Why does that happen? Is there a reason to be concerned? 

Get answers to these and other questions about green stool in this post. 

What does the green poop look like?

If you’ve never experienced this problem before, you’re probably wondering what the green poop looks like in the first place. 

The poop, in this case, has a slightly greenish hue. For example, you may notice a hint of green tint in your stool. But sometimes, your poop may have a vivid green hue as well. 

Is green poop normal?

Generally speaking, stools of all shades of brown and even green are considered normal. Green stool isn’t uncommon. 

While there is no need to panic, you may want to consider seeing a doctor in certain circumstances. Find out when to see a doctor or worry about green stool further in this post. 

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Why is my poop green? 

The usual color of poop is brown due to a leftover combination of waste from bacteria in the bowels and dead red blood cells. While the bile is yellowish-green, bacteria add the rest of the color. In other words, bacteria are the main culprit. 

Your poop is usually brown. But what makes the poop green? One specific answer to this question doesn’t exist. 

Multiple reasons explain why your poop is green. The most significant causes are listed below.

1) Bile pigment

Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. As mentioned above, bile is yellowish-green. 

The main function of bile is to aid the breakdown of fat from the diet when it combines with the foods you eat. As a result, more fat is absorbed in the small intestine. 

The body needs to break down bile as well. After that, bile is excreted in the form of waste. This process isn’t super fast; it takes place as bile travels through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 

When a person has digestive issues or diarrhea, the body can’t break down bile that quickly. That’s why bile pigment remains, and you notice a green tint in your poop.

2) Antibiotics 

Antibiotics are prescribed for the treatment of bacterial infections. According to the CDC, in 2019 alone, doctors in the United States prescribed 251.1 million antibiotics prescriptions. This number is equal to 765 prescriptions per 1000 individuals.

Antibiotics block vital processes in bacteria. In other words, they destroy bacteria or prevent them from spreading. 

By doing so, they may also negatively affect good bacteria in your gut. This is particularly the case for strong antibiotics. 

When that happens, the population of brown-staining bacteria reduces significantly. Your stool may become green as a result. Antibiotics may also cause diarrhea with a greenish hue. 

Besides antibiotics, some other medications and supplements may act on pigments in your stomach and cause green poop. Iron supplements, birth control, some anti-inflammatory drugs, and certain prescription medications are good examples here. 

3) Graft vs host disease

Graft vs host disease (GvHD) is a condition that sometimes happens after an allogeneic transplant. The term allogeneic transplant refers to replacing a patient’s stem cells with new healthy stem cells. 

In patients with GvHD, donated peripheral blood stem cells or bone marrow consider the recipient’s body as a foreign invader and may start attacking the body. 

The disease can be acute or chronic. Acute GvHD occurs within 100 days after the transplant, and symptoms may depend on the affected part of the body. 

When it affects the digestive system, the main symptom is green and watery diarrhea. Sometimes diarrhea may contain blood and mucus as well.

4) Gastrointestinal conditions

Gastrointestinal conditions may also cause green poop. Why? In these conditions, bile may move through the intestine too fast. The body can’t break it down that quickly, which is the green pigment that remains in the waste. 

The conditions that may cause green poop include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and overuse of laxatives. 

In a nutshell, all GI conditions that cause fast bile movement through the intestine can make your feces appear green. 

5-9) Infections

Green stool may also result from infections caused by viruses, parasites, and bacteria. These invaders can wreak havoc on the balance of bacteria in your gut. 

They may lead to diarrhea, during which the bile isn’t broken down properly. Your poop may appear greenish as a result.

Green stool may occur due to infection associated with:

  • COVID-19: green poop isn’t always a sign of COVID, but it can be. The viral infection can cause diarrhea that is green and more watery.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli): just like salmonella, it occurs due to the consumption of food or drinking water contaminated by animal species. People usually experience diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.
  • Giardia: a tiny parasite that causes a diarrheal disease called giardiasis. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, greasy stool, gas, upset stomach, stomach cramps, and dehydration.
  • Norovirus: a highly contagious virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting. People can get infected by interacting with affected individuals, eating contaminated food, or touching contaminated surfaces.
  • Salmonella: a bacterial infection that results from eating food containing these bacteria. This usually happens when someone eats food contaminated by animal feces. The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.

10) Anal fissures

An anal fissure is a small tear or ulcer (open sore) that develops in the mucosa (moist tissue) that lines the anus. 

Common causes of anal fissures are passing large or hard stools, childbirth, anal intercourse, chronic diarrhea, constipation, and straining during bowel movements. People whose anal fissures are related to chronic diarrhea may notice their stool is greenish.

11) Removal of the gallbladder

The gallbladder is a sac positioned under the liver. As mentioned above, it stores bile that the liver produces. 

Doctors may recommend cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) to patients with very painful gallstones. 

The body has no alternative place to store bile, however. Therefore, you may have diarrhea containing more bile than usual after the procedure. This could make your poop appear green.

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10 foods that can cause green stool

In many cases, the main culprit for the green appearance of stool is the food you eat. Green foods are the biggest offenders here. 

Eating foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, and wheatgrass can make stool change color due to chlorophyll, a pigment that gives plants their distinctive green color.

However, it’s not just green vegetables that change the color of your stool. Consuming foods with green dye can have the same effect if the body doesn’t process them properly. 

For example, cupcakes with green frosting may also cause green stool. Green powder supplements, due to chlorophyll, can change the color of your stool to green.

While green foods (and food dyes) are the biggest diet-related culprit for the changed color of the stool, they’re not the only ones. 

You may notice later that your stool turns green if you eat plants in blue or purple, such as blueberries. 

How does that happen? It happens because the pigment in these foods mixes with bile. As a result, your stool could become bright green.

Purple, blue, and black food colors may also be responsible for green stool. 

Sometimes coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods can cause green poop. That happens because they speed up bowel movements due to the laxative effect. 

There is no time for the body to break down the pile properly and give your poop its brownish color.

The easiest way to determine whether diet caused green stool is to avoid green, blue, or purple foods for a few days. If your stool returns to its normal color, the diet is the problem. If the stool is still green, something else is the cause.

Is green poop a sign of cancer?

The first reaction to a different color of stool is panic. All the worst-case scenarios start piling on one another in your mind. The possibility that green stool indicates the presence of cancer is one of those scenarios for many people.

Indeed, changes in the color of stool can be a sign of a cancerous tumor. However, cancers are usually associated with black or tarry stools. 

This color of stool typically results from bleeding in the upper GI tract. The appearance of bright red blood indicates there could be cancer in the lower GI tract. 

Green stool usually isn’t a sign of cancer. You shouldn’t ignore it, though.

When should I worry about green poop?

You should worry about green stool if the problem is persistent. Other signs of worry include the presence of other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. 

If the green stool is present in combination with other symptoms, a potentially serious medical problem could be involved. 

Should you see a doctor?

Green stool isn’t always a source of concern. See a doctor if a problem persists or becomes chronic. 

In this case, it’s particularly important to schedule an appointment at a doctor’s office if you also experience symptoms such as stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and the presence of blood in stool, among others.

Also, see a doctor if you have diarrhea that lasts longer than three days. Ignoring long-term diarrhea could increase the risk of dehydration. 

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Are there any accompanying symptoms to look out for?

As mentioned above, some symptoms accompany green stool and are a good sign to see a healthcare provider. These include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in stool
  • Fever 
  • Watery or liquid stool
  • Visible mucus 
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Other unusual symptoms

What can I do to make my green poop go away?

You can treat green poop at home by striving to drink plenty of fluid. Also, make sure to get enough rest. Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fiber, especially if you’ve had diarrhea. 

Since many cases of green poop are due to diet, try modifying your food intake. Reduce consumption of foods that give your stool green color. First, make sure the diet is actually the main culprit, following the advice mentioned earlier in the post. 

Another thing you can do is to consume probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha or consult a healthcare provider regarding probiotic supplements. Probiotics restore balance in the intestinal flora and improve digestion

Treatment

Green stool usually doesn’t require special treatment unless it’s a sign of another medical problem. In that case, treatment depends on the underlying cause. 

For example, if antibiotics or other medications cause green stool, the doctor may adjust the dosage or recommend an alternative. The most important thing here is to avoid changing medications or dosages on your own.

If gastrointestinal conditions cause green stool, managing them properly can also take care of this problem. For instance, treatment of Crohn’s disease may include medications, nutrition therapy, or surgery. 

Celiac disease treatment usually revolves around adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. Management of an underlying GI condition can help stabilize digestion and bowel movements. As a result, you are less likely to have green poop. 

Treatment of infections usually requires antibiotics. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics that are less likely to give you green poop, or they may recommend taking probiotics, too, to balance out gut microbiota. 

Management of GvHD may include painkillers to treat abdominal pain and medications to control diarrhea. By controlling diarrhea, you can expect improvements in your stool and its color. 

Conclusion

If you’ve never had green poop before, it’s natural you worry the first time it appears. Green stool usually isn’t a source of concern. 

In most cases, it occurs due to food, but some other health problems could be involved. 

Most importantly, green poop isn’t a sign of cancer. Make sure to see a doctor if your green stool is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, and other unusual symptoms.

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Sources

  1. Almajid AN, Sugumar K. Physiology, Bile. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.
  2. Jahnny B, Ashurst JV. Anal Fissures. [Updated 2021 Nov 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.
  3. Yueh TP, Chen FY, Lin TE, Chuang MT. Diarrhea after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: associated factors and predictors. Asian J Surg. 2014.

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