Green Poop: What It Means & What to Do

Clinical review: Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
February 2022

Green poop is not usually a cause for concern, as it is almost always related to diet. It occurs mainly due to a significant intake of green food, like spinach and broccoli, or food that has green food coloring. However, green stools can also be a sign of other issues, like irritable bowel syndrome or an intestinal infection.

The green color noted in stools often occurs due to changes in bile production. Bile, which is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder to help with fat digestion, usually gives stools its usual brown color. 

Any time you experience green stools that last for more than 3 days, you should see your doctor assessment and possible treatment. 

1. Eating green food

Consuming green food like spinach, broccoli or lettuce, or eating food that contains green food coloring can lead to green poop. Stool that is green from diet can occur in both adults and children.  

What to do: if you have green poop due to the intake of green food, the best thing to help the stool return to its normal is to avoiding eating the same food, at least for a while. The stool will usually go back to being brown once the green food has been excreted from the body, therefore, it is not a cause for a major concern.

2. Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the intestinal villi, which typically causes stomach ache, flatulence and bloating, but can also lead to the production of green stools or yellow stools.

What to do: IBS symptoms can be managed by making some lifestyle changes: diet and stress management. Therefore, we recommend that you follow a suitable diet under the supervision of a nutritionist, and carry out activities that reduce stress levels and stop the symptoms from getting worse or progressing. 

3. Intestinal infection

Intestinal infections caused by bacteria like salmonella or parasites like Giardia lambli can often cause green poop. This is because stool moves through the intestines much quicker in the presence of infections, which reduces the time that bile and other digestive enzymes have to breakdown the stool. This quicker movement can lead to green diarrhea. Learn more about the symptoms specifically associated with parasitic infections in the intestine. 

What to do: If you suspect you have an intestinal infection, the doctor will assess you and advise treatment as necessary. Treatment may involve the use of medication to treat the underlying microorganism causing the infection. Plenty of fluids and rest can also speed up recovery.  

4. Use of antibiotics

Some medication, especially antibiotics, can significantly reduce the amount of flora present in the gastrointestinal tract, This can also has an effect with bile production. When bile comes in contact with specific flora and digestive enzymes, it becomes brown, which contributes to the brown color of stool.  

When antibiotics are taken, the quantity of flora is affected, which causes the bile to remain green, resulting in green poop. Other medications, like iron supplements, may also interfere with bile and digestion and lead to green coloring.

What to do: Once your doctor has approved you to stop your medication, you should assess your poop color to see if it remains green. If it does, then you should inform your doctor, who may recommend probiotics.

Green poop in babies

Meconium is the name given to a baby’s first stool, which is actually formed when the baby is still in the mother’s womb. Meconium is thick, viscous and green looking. This is because the gastrointestinal microbiota of the baby is still not completely developed and does not have the necessary bacteria to act on the bile. This makes the poop darker and gives it its green color.

It is normal for the baby to excrete meconium in the first 24 hours of being born. The color and consistency of the stool will progressively change in the following days due to the development of the gastrointestinal tract and consumption of breastmilk or artifical milk.

What to do: Meconium is normal in all babies, however, if the baby does not excrete any green poop after being born or if there are no changes in color within the first week of life, the baby should be assessed by the doctor.  

Learn more about other colors your poop can have and what these changes can mean. 

When to go to the doctor

You should go to a doctor when you have green stool in addition to other symptoms like diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, blood in the stool, headaches or dizziness. Stool testing and additional exams may be ordered to determine the cause of the symptoms.

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em February de 2022. Clinical review por Manuel Reis - Registered Nurse, em February de 2022.

References

  • Kliegman, Robert M. et al. Nelson Tratado de Pediatria. 20 ed.. Rio de Janeiro : Elsevier, 2018.
  • GOLDMAN, Lee; SCHAFER, Andrew I.. Goldman-Cecil Medicina. 25.ed. Rio de Janeiro: Elsevier, 2018.
Show more references
  • LONGO, Dan L. et al.. Medicina interna de Harrison. 18.ed. São Paulo: AMGH Editora, 2013.
Clinical review:
Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
Manuel graduated in 2013 and is licensed to practice under the Ordem dos Enfermeiros de Portugal, with license #79026. He specializes in Advanced Clinical Phytotherapy.