It’s one of those questions that many have always wanted to know but were scared to ask. Luckily, in most cases, fluctuations in color aren’t a cause for concern.
The truth is that several factors affect the color of your poop, and most are simply related to your diet and slight changes in your digestive system. For instances, taking antibiotics can alter the composition of healthy bacteria in your gut. These changes can affect the color and density of stool in the short term as well as appear differently as your gut’s biosphere returns to normal after you’ve finished your prescription.
What Does the Color of Your Poop Mean?
In most cases, an unusual color in the bowl is simply the result of what you’ve eaten or drank in the past several hours or preceding days. What we eat can and does sometimes alter the consistency and coloring of our stool. If you think for a minute, it’s usually relatively easy to link why you’re experiencing orange-tinted color stool; you probably had a big serving of sweet potatoes or steamed carrots recently.
What Color Should Poop Be?
Every individual has a different normal. Most experience brown stool, which is caused by the bile; a fluid excreted by the liver that helps to break down certain kinds of dietary fats. Normal levels of bile turn your business from a yellowish to that familiar brown color by the time it’s excreted.
What Poop Color Means: Green, Black, and Yellow Poop
Most will experience green, black, or yellow poop occasionally throughout their lives. Here are the likely underlying causes of each color, and when you should seek medical help to learn more.
Why Is My Poop Green?
Eats your spinach like Popeye does? If you love dark green leafy vegetables, then you’ve probably noticed green stool on occasion. Certain green food coloring (hello, St. Patrick’s Day) can also produce green stool. Dietary supplements, for instance, iron supplements, are a common cause of green stool.
Why Is My Poop Black?
Dark foods like black licorice and blueberries tend to shift stool color from brown to black. Certain diarrhea medicines, specifically Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, are also well known to cause black feces. As with green poop, high levels of iron in your diet can also cause black poop.
Consistent black stool (when experiencing dark stool becomes your new normal), however, can also be a sign of illness and disease. That dark coloring can come from blood, which could indicate bleeding from stomach ulcers, sores in the esophagus, or other issues in the gastrointestinal system. Black stool has also been linked to certain kinds of cancer.
If black stool persists, talk with your healthcare provider.
Why Is My Poop Red?
Certain foods can cause reddish-colored stool, especially beets and those with a lot of red food coloring, like fruit punch or red gummy candy.
Like black stool, red stool can also be a sign of blood in your feces. While darker stool can indicate that blood is entering the elimination process in the upper GI tract, red stool can be indicative of blood entering the flow later (lower) in the lower GI tract, such as in the large intestine, colon, or rectum.
You may also notice traces of red in otherwise normal looking stool. This may also indicate the blood in your stool. If you experience red stool that you don’t believe was caused by your food, talk to your healthcare provider immediately.
When to Worry About Poop Color
Occasional changes to the coloring of your stool are rarely a sign of a health condition. You should get in touch with your doctor if:
- You experience symptoms for more than a few days
- Symptoms don’t align with likely foods that would influence stool color
- Your stool is bright red or dark black, which may indicate the presence of blood
- If changes in your stool color are accompanied by stomach or abdominal pain, changes in appetite or your overall health
Your Digestive Health Matters
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