Don’t freak out. Doctors explain what’s going on.
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Sometimes, you can’t help but notice that instead of brown poop, what you’ve just dumped into the toilet has a distinctly green twinge even perhaps a St. Patrick’s Day type of bright neon green color.
To understand why green’s OK sometimes, you have to know why it’s usually brown. Normally, your liver helps you digest fats you’ve eaten by producing a greenish fluid called bile. That fluid does many helpful things: It helps you break down fat for the rest of your body to absorb, it has anti-microbial properties, can neutralize acidity or pH for vitamin absorption and enzyme activity, and it keeps you regular.
Bile mixes with food and waste products to form stool in the large intestine. When things are working as they should, bacteria in your large intestine break down the bile through a process called oxidation, which helps turn whole mixture brown.
When bile does not have time to be broken down, green happens. Some foods—like spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol—make your body fast-forward through the digestion process, so there’s not enough time for bile to be broken down. This may happen if you don’t usually consume these foods and drinks, or if you consume a large quantity. Healthy digestion involves a breakdown of bile, so most of the time, your body will adjust and slow down accordingly. Your gut may not respond to these foods the same way each time, so don’t be alarmed by the occasional color change.
Other reasons it might be green:
- Artificial coloring in candy or processed foods. But you’re not eating those, right?
- A higher-than-usual volume of leafy greens. If you decided to change things and go all-in on greens like spinach or kale, or even green foods like kiwi, avocado, or cucumbers, you may have green poop until your digestive tract adjusts.
- Diarrhea. That’s a sign of extreme fast transit through your colon. Sneaky things that give you diarrhea include medications or supplement ingredients like senna, which can be found in digestive enzyme/probiotic/health products claiming to help you lose weight. Food allergies and celiac disease can cause diarrhea as well.
If you experience an occasional green bowel movement (once every few weeks or month), it’s probably okay, especially if you have a diet high in vegetables. However, if it’s consistently green when you flush, you should consider seeing your doctor especially if your stools are liquid in consistency and are more frequent than your normal bowel habits. It could be a sign of a number of things, including carbohydrate enzyme deficiency, pancreatic disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or an infection. Best to get it checked out.