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What Do Different Poop Colors Mean?

Learn what your poop says about your digestive wellness.
What Do Different Poop Colors Mean?
Last updated:
10/8/2022
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What do different poop colors mean?

Poop is like a daily health check-in. It tells us so much about our diet, gut microbiome, and whether our bodies are working optimally or works as an alert to our mental and emotional wellness. Taking note of poop color, consistency, and ease of passing it are all benchmarks for discovering how we are doing on the inside.

You may sense what a "healthy poop" or your standard is, but when something is abnormal, it can be rather alarming, especially concerning poop colors like red, yellow, white, or black. Here are the different colors your poop can be and what they mean.

 

 

Brown Poop

Brown is the normal color of stool. This color comes primarily from bile, a digestive fluid made by the liver and secreted by the gallbladder, helping the body break down fats from the diet. Before it begins the digestive process, bile is a yellowish-green fluid, but chemical changes make it brown once it goes through the digestive tract. Bilirubin, a waste product made by the liver when it breaks down old red blood cells, gives bile its yellowish color before it enters the digestive tract.

There can be different shades of brown in color, which usually depend on what you eat. For example, if you eat quite a bit of chocolate cake, you may notice your poop takes on a dark brown shade within the following days.

 

Green Poop

Green is perhaps the most common "unexpected " stool color you may experience. A diet rich in leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale adds chlorophyll creating green stools. Other fruits and vegetables like avocados, blueberries, and green apples may also turn your poop green. Of course, eating foods that have green food coloring will surely catch you off-guard as well. (The same is true for foods with blue dye. Blue poop can happen!) If you have green diarrhea, the color of your food may not be to blame. Your meal likely moved through your gut too quickly, so the fat-digesting bile did not have time to turn brown.

Aside from diet, other factors may turn your poop green. Medications like antibiotics can alter your poop color because they wipe out the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Therefore, this change in the gut ecosystem can affect the normal breakdown of food and digestive fluids like bile.

Infections from parasites like giardia or bacteria like salmonella may also turn your poop green. Although these are less common causes of green poop, it is probably time to see your doctor if you consistently have green stools and other uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea.

Yellow Poop

Yellow-tinged poop may be normal for some people. If it is something that is consistent for you and is not accompanied by changes in stool texture or consistency, it is probably just fine. However, if you notice yellow poop that is greasy or foul-smelling, it may mean you are getting too much fat in your diet or you are not releasing enough bile into your small intestine to digest fats.

 

If you are experiencing foul-smelling greasy stool, look at your diet and try to reduce your fat intake. If you are unable to digest fats, there could be several causes. Some people may have a blockage in their bile duct that may restrict bile from flowing into the small intestine. However, it may be time to visit your doctor if you have pain in the upper part of your abdomen following meals.

 

Additionally, yellow poop may also be a sign of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition when exposure to gluten causes inflammation and damage to the lining of your small intestine. It can lead to malabsorption and commonly produces bloody diarrhea when eating gluten-free foods.

 

Lastly, bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections can also cause yellow stool. A good rule of thumb with poop is if it is not normal for you, it lasts longer than a few days, and you have other symptoms like abdominal discomfort - it is best to see your doctor.

 

Red Poop

Passing red poop can be highly alarming, even if the cause is benign. In a healthy individual, red poop is often a consequence of eating something artificially or naturally red, such as beets or red velvet cake. Chunks of food like tomato skins may also be present in your poop, although it is not likely to turn your stool red.

Red poop may indicate a bleed somewhere in your lower gastrointestinal tract if food is not to blame. Bloody stools can result from an anal fissure (a tear) or hemorrhoids. People with chronic conditions like ulcerative colitis may also have blood in their stools.

If you notice blood in your stool that is not related to your diet, it is crucial to seek medical care. Gastrointestinal bleeds can be a medical emergency, so it is necessary to have expert care to prevent blood loss.

 

 

White or Gray Poop

Gray or white poop is not a common color in stools. Pale-colored poop is usually not a result of your diet, but it may be due to medication. For example, people taking bismuth medications like Pepto-Bismal may have gray stools while taking the medication. You may also have a pale stool if you drink barium liquid for a medical test that looks at your upper digestive tract.

If pale poop is unrelated to medication or a medical procedure, it is most likely a sign that you are not getting enough bile in your stool. Recall that bile gives poop its normal brown color, so you may have a blockage in the ducts that transport bile, or your liver may also be unable to create enough bile because of liver disease.

If white poop is unrelated to medication, it is essential to see your doctor.

 

Black Poop

Black poop often presents when you eat much licorice or take certain medications and supplements.

The most common supplement to cause black poop is iron. If you are taking iron supplements, it is beneficial to see black stools signifying that your body is absorbing the iron. If you do not see changes in your stool, you may not be absorbing the iron effectively and, therefore, may want to switch to a different type of supplement.

Medications containing bismuth like Pepto-Bismal (again) may also turn your stool black. This side effect is expected and usually goes away within a few days when you stop taking it.

More seriously, black stools with a tarry texture may signify an upper gastrointestinal bleed, stomach ulcers, sores in your esophagus, or cancerous and non-cancerous tumors in your upper GI tract. If you have this type of stool, it is essential to seek medical care, as leaving a GI bleed can cause anemia and even death in severe cases.

Poop tips for patients with hypothyroidism

Knowing what your poop is telling you is important for your health. While hypothyroidism typically does not affect your poop color, it certainly does affect the consistency of your poop. Constipation is one of the more common physical complaints accompanying an underactive thyroid. To prevent constipation, it is essential to:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat foods high in fiber (but increase your fiber intake slowly to prevent bloating)
  • Get plenty of exercise daily
  • Aim for 1-2 bowel movements daily
  • Use a prop like a squatty potty to get a better position to eliminate

 

If you are doing these lifestyle modifications and still struggle with constipation, it may be time to test your thyroid to see if you are at optimal levels. Testing your thyroid from home is easy with a Paloma at-home test kit, and if you need to make changes to your thyroid health plan, our holistic thyroid doctors are available to help you feel your best.

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Julia Walker, RN, BSN

Clinical Nurse

Julia Walker, RN, BSN, is a clinical nurse specializing in helping patients with thyroid disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Regis University in Denver and a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Medicine from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She believes managing chronic illnesses requires a balance of medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments. Her background includes caring for patients in women’s health, critical care, pediatrics, allergy, and immunology.

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