Why Is My Poop Green?
You have every right to be concerned if you turn around after a BM to see something that resembles a swamp monster staring back at you. As unsettling as green poop can be, it’s not always a cause for concern. In fact, there are actually times when green poop is normal. Let’s look closer at when green poop shouldn’t stress you out, and when it’s something to raise an eyebrow at.
Green Poop: Should You Be Concerned?
According to Mayo Clinic, “all shades of brown and even green are considered normal.”
When You Shouldn’t Be Concerned About Green Poop
If you’ve been eating a lot of algae, leafy greens, or supplementing with liquid chlorophyll (the plant pigment and antioxidant that gives plant foods their color), your poop may turn a greenish hue. And that’s perfectly fine. The same goes for foods that may have green food coloring in them, perhaps after a St. Patrick’s Day feast.
If you have a random bout of diarrhea that happens to be off-colored (perhaps also after too many St. Paddy’s Day beers), there’s no need for immediate concern if it’s just one instance. Alcohol, spicy foods and nicotine are also known to cause diarrhea in some people, and if it has a greenish color, it could mean that bile is present in your stool because food has moved through your body too quickly.
On that note, let’s talk a little more about bile, and when finding it in your stool may be a cause of concern.
When You Should Be Concerned About Green Poop
Bile is a liquid produced by your liver that helps you break down and digest fats. Once the liver produces it, it’s sent off to the gallbladder to be stored, and then released during digestion. Can you guess what color bile is? That’s right— it’s green! While bile may be green, the reason your poop isn’t always green is because bile goes on quite the journey through your intestines during digestion, which changes its color in the end. Bile turns from green to brown as it comes in contact with bacteria, fiber, and enzymes. That’s all fine and dandy, but here’s where the problem comes in: if your poop is green on a regular basis (which means anything more than one random occasion), it could mean the following:
1. Your body isn’t digesting and absorbing nutrients properly.
As mentioned above, the presence of green bile in your stool suggests food has moved through your GI tract too quickly, and hasn’t had time to properly digest. Since bile is the substance needed to digest fats, it’s most likely that you’re not digesting fats properly when it’s appearing in your poop. This could also mean that you’re eating too many unhealthy fats, such as refined vegetable oils found in deep fried foods and processed foods.
If you have chronic (green) diarrhea, it may also a sign of a food intolerance. For example, Celiac disease (the inability to digest gluten) is often accompanied by diarrhea. Food intolerances can also interfere with the digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients.
In any case, having green poop or diarrhea on a regular basis is not normal (unless you’re going overboard with the salads and chlorophyll), and may lead to nutrient deficiencies and serious health complications if it’s not addressed in time.
2. You have a bacterial or viral infection.
Green poop can also suggest you’ve contracted a foodborne illness or stomach bug. Salmonella, E. coli and the Norwalk virus can all be accompanied by discolored poop. These conditions are usually characterized by other painful digestive symptoms, such as cramping, vomiting, dizziness and nausea.
3. You have parasites.
Having a parasite can also turn your poop a dark green color and cause diarrhea.
There are a number of ways to get parasites, the most common being:
- Traveling overseas
- Eating undercooked meat or unwashed produce
- Playing with animals
- Drinking contaminated water
- Walking barefoot through dirt (microscopic parasites can enter your body through surface of your skin on the bottom of your feet)
As you can see, green poop isn’t always something to take lightly. If you’re pooping green and it’s not related to a particular food or circumstance, it’s important that you see a doctor straight away to rule out potential health problems such as underlying food allergies and intolerances, stomach bugs, and infections.
How to Change Your Poop from Green to Brown
Again, green poop that isn’t related to a healthy dose of greens should be reported to a doctor. In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take right now to turn your poop from green to brown.
Step 1: Ease up on fats that could be overexerting the liver and gallbladder (especially the unhealthy fats found in deep fried foods, restaurant foods and hydrogenated oils).
Step 2: Replace unhealthy fats with coconut oil.
Fat is still an important nutrient to have in your diet, but coconut oil is one of the rare fats that doesn’t require bile for proper digestion.
Step 3: Take a high quality ox bile supplement.
Ox bile contains many of the same digestive enzymes humans do, so it may improve fat absorption.
Alternatively, you can take pancrelipase, which is a pancreatic enzyme that further supports fat digestion.
Step 4: Increase the fermented foods in your diet.
Fermented foods contain probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, which support your digestive system as a whole. The best fermented foods to eat are sauerkraut, beet kvass, coconut milk kefir, and kimchi.
What Should Healthy Poop Look Like?
You’ll know your poop is healthy when you see a ‘brown banana’ shape in the toilet bowl, and the texture you’re going for is ‘smooth like a sausage.’ Bowel movements should occur one to three times daily. Healthy poop will also have an ‘S’ shape— similar to the shape of your large intestine— which my fellow nutritionists and I affectionately refer to as ‘python poop.’ All of these factors shapes suggest you have a healthy supply of probiotics in your gut, and your digestive system is functioning optimally. Bravo!
If your poop isn’t looking so spiffy, we recommend giving this article on everything you need to know about your poop a read. By the end of the article, you’ll know exactly how to say goodbye to rabbit pellets, and hello to the most satisfying poops of your life.
The takeaway: green poop is normal when you’ve been eating a lot of green veggies, or supplementing with chlorophyll rich foods (including green algae and liquid chlorophyll). If you’re experiencing green poop more than once a week in the form of diarrhea and/or accompanied by pain and other digestive symptoms, you’ll want to see your doctor to rule out serious underlying health conditions such as parasites, bacterial infections, and food allergies.