Yellow, Green, Red, Orange? What Does the Color of Your Poop Mean?

Zandra Palma, MD

Strange colored poop have you nervous? It’s most likely no real cause for concern and it’s normal for your poop color to vary. We’re taking a look into what the color of your poop means and when sudden changes in texture, frequency, and color might be a sign of something more serious.

You’ve probably been told that poop is brown, but what many people don’t realize is that it’s entirely normal for your poop color to vary slightly on a day to day basis. Much of your poop color has to do with the foods you eat and the pigments in them, so the sight of dark red poop is more likely to be due to the beets you had for dinner than anything else. But there are a few times you should tune into the color of your poop and what it’s trying to tell you.

What does the color of your poop mean?

If you’re seeing a poop color that you’ve never seen before, it makes sense you’d be a bit worried, but more times than not, it’s no cause for concern. Since your poop color fluctuates based on the food you eat and the bile in your gut, it’s not uncommon for your poop color to change based on your last meal. However, if irregularities in terms of color, frequency, and texture persist, it might be worth consulting with your doctor.

Green poop

Green poop can be a sign of a bacterial infection, too much bile, or not enough bilirubin. Antibiotics are also known to affect poop color, so if you’re on antibiotics, this is likely the cause of the sudden onset of green poop. Iron-containing foods, such as spinach and other green vegetables can also lead to a green like pigment in your poop.

Yellow poop

Yellow poop can result from a small intestinal infection or certain medications. It can also be a sign of excess fat malabsorption, meaning your body isn’t able to fully absorb the nutrients from fat consumed. This can be a one-time occurrence or develop into a syndrome-like condition. If your poop color doesn’t return to normalcy after a few days, you may want to consult your doctor.

Orange poop

Evidence has yet to exist to link orange colored stool to a more serious condition, but you might see it after consuming beta-carotene containing foods, such as carrots and sweet potatoes.

White poop or light colored poop

White or light clay colored poop can signal that your bile production is low. If this is a rarity and not a recurring issue then there’s likely no reason to worry, but if it does persist then there could be something more serious going on with your bile production. This could be a sign of a liver infection, which would reduce your bile production, or the presence of a blockage that’s inhibiting the release of bile from the liver.

Bright red stool

If you’re passing stool that contains bright red spots or seeing bright red blood on your toilet paper, you could be experiencing hemorrhoids and should seek out your primary care physician. Taking an antibiotic in conjunction with iron supplements can also produce red stool that is deep in color. Red foods, such as beets and berries can bleed pigmentation that will also affect the color of your stool.

Brown poop

Brown is the color you should be aiming for. It’s a sign of healthy poop and means that your body is doing its job to break down old red blood cells. This process produces bilirubin, a pigment that gives your poop its desired brown shade.

Black poop

If you’ve eaten a lot of black licorice or blueberries, or are taking iron supplements or activated charcoal, black poop is probably benign. Medications that contain bismuth subsalicylate, like Pepto-Bismol, also tend to turn your poop black for a few days after taking it. But black poop can also be a sign of internal bleeding in the esophagus or stomach, so if you haven’t consumed any of the above, call your doctor immediately.

What types of poop are normal, anyway?

Easy to pass = healthy poop

Healthy poop is poop that comes out with ease and doesn’t require any force, but rather comes out on its own, naturally, easy to pass. According to the Bristol Stool Chart , a diagnostic chart developed by a teaching hospital in Bristol, England that categorizes seven types of stool, there are only two stool shapes that are considered normal. If you tend to pass a sausage-shaped stool with minor cracks on the surface, then you’re in luck, your poop is normal! Poop that looks like a smooth, soft sausage or snake is also considered normal.

Difficult or quick to pass = unhealthy poop

Stool separated into small hard lumps that are difficult to pass is a sign of extreme constipation. Sausage shaped stool that is very lumpy is also a sign of constipation, though slightly less severe. On the other side of the spectrum is soft, easy to pass stool, such as soft blobs with clear cut edges. Fluffy pieces with ragged edges or a liquid consistency with no solid pieces is a sign of inflammation . If you pass liquid loose stool or stringy poop often or have difficulty passing poop, you might be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or another gut-related condition.

When to see a doctor

– Frequent discoloration
– Constipation
– Diarrhea
– Bloating
– Distention
– Abdominal pain
– Fatigue
– Cramping
– Gas

If discoloration persists and you’re finding it difficult to poop or are pooping too frequently, seek out your primary care doctor for further testing. At Parsley Health we offer advanced stool testing, that helps to identify the root cause of gastrointestinal issues. Finding out why your stool is abnormal is the first step in getting your gut health back on track and helping you return to normal, healthy poop.

Zandra Palma, MD

Zandra Palma received her Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Harvard and her medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. Prior to studying functional medicine, she trained in internal medicine and anesthesiology. She has a special place in her heart (and practice) for environmental medicine, and hopes to use what she’s learned in this area to shift human health on a large scale.

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