What Does Green Diarrhea Mean and When Should You Worry? (2023)

Passing one solid, green stool is nothing to be concerned about. Even green diarrhea may bewithin the range ofnormal stool. Usually, foods like leafy vegetables, supplements, and medications are to blame.

However, you could also have green diarrhea from a medical condition such as a stomach infection or digestive problem.

This article goes over the different causes of green diarrhea, what to do about it, and when you should talk to your healthcare provider.

Why Green Diarrhea Happens

What Does Green Diarrhea Mean and When Should You Worry? (1)

In a broad sense, green stools are caused by two things:

  • Something you consumed that added color to your stool
  • Something abnormal in the digestive process, usually involving bile, a green substance that helps digest fat in your small intestine

Foods, drinks, medications, and medical conditions are all possible culprits.

Foods That Cause Green PoopMedications That Cause Green PoopConditions That Cause Green Poop
Green, leafy veggies (like kale)AntibioticsFood intolerance/ sensitivity
Purple or blue foods, (like grapes)Anti-diarrhealsInfections, including food poisoning
Foods made with green, purple, or blue dyes (like popsicles)Depo-ProveraInflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
CoffeeIron supplementsInflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS)
Spicy foodsLaxativesNon-alcoholic fatty liver disease
AlcoholPremenstrual syndrome

If you consume a food or drink that turns your poop green, it is because whatever you consumed either had a green or similar hue, or it had a laxative effect on the body. Sped-up digestion is also at play in cases where a medication or medical condition is the root cause.

As stool continues through the digestive tract, the bile becomes dark brown. If the stool is still green by the time it comes out, it could mean that it went through the large intestine too fast to be turned brown. This is known as "rapid transit" or "decreased colonic transit time."

This is especially true with green diarrhea rather than a fully-formed stool.

Food and Green Diarrhea

If you experience green diarrhea, or solid stools that are green, think about what you've eaten over the past several days. Even if the food wasn't actually green, it could be the cause.

Colored Foods and Drinks

Foods that can cause green stool include:

  • Large amounts of greenleafy vegetables, due to chlorophyll (a green pigment in plants)
  • Purple or blue foods (in blueberries, grapes, grape or berry juice, red wine)
  • Green, purple, or blue dyes (in candy, popsicles, soda, gelatin, snowcones, slushies, etc.)

Delayed Color Change

A green stool might not appear for a day or two after eating foods that turn poop green. By then, it is easy to forget what you've eaten. If you think food caused your green stool, just give it a little time. The color should go back to normal in a day or two.

One of the biggest times to see green stools is during holidays when green food dye is commonly used, such as Christmas, Easter, and St. Patrick's Day.

Foods With a Laxative Effect

Some foods with a laxative effect speed up digestion. They can contribute to both green stools, especially if you eat a lot.

These foods not spending a long enough time in the large intestine also means that less water is absorbed, resulting in loose stool.

Foods with a laxative effect that can cause green diarrhea include:

  • Coffee
  • Spicy foods (jalapeños, chili peppers)
  • Alcohol

Green diarrhea or stools from laxative foods is often dark green.

Medications and Supplements

The different medications and supplements that can give you green diarrhea or stools do so for a variety of reasons.

  • Iron supplements often make stool dark green that may look black when in solid stools.
  • Laxatives make digestion faster, which leads to green diarrhea due to green bile and higher water content.
  • Antibiotics alter gut bacteria, which can lead to more bile in stools and diarrhea.
  • Anti-diarrheal medications: Pepto-Bismol/Kaopectate (bismuth subsalicylate) can turn stools green or black due to its interaction with digestive enzymes.
  • Depo-Provera contraceptive: This shot may cause green stools, diarrhea, and many other digestive side effects because of its potential effects on the adrenal glands, which produce hormones that help regulate several body functions.

Under most circumstances, these causes of green diarrhea or stools are nothing to worry about.

Still, if your stools change color or consistency soon after starting a new medication or supplement, check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to see whether it's a normal side effect.

(Video) 7 UNBELIEVABLE Reasons Why Your Poop Is Green | #DeepDives | Health

Also note that stools that are black and tarry stools, as opposed to dark green/blackish, may be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding. If you experience this, report it to your healthcare provider immediately.

Medical Conditions

The several medical conditions that can cause green diarrhea do so because of their effect on bile and transit time.

Food Poisoning and Infection

If you suspect food poisoning or a gastrointestinal infection and it doesn't get better quickly or symptoms are severe, you should see a healthcare provider. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Diarrhea lasting longer than three days
  • Oral (mouth) temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration (lack of urination, dry mouth and throat, dizziness)

Unless you have concerning symptoms, you probably don't need medical treatment. The key is to get a lot of fluids and electrolytes so you don't get dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting. Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-diarrhea medications can help as well.

For more severe cases, healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics.

Food Intolerance or Sensitivity

Common food issues include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Fructose intolerance
  • Sensitivities to ingredients such as monosodium glutamate, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, food additives and preservatives

The most common treatment for food intolerance or sensitivity is eliminating problem foods from your diet. If you're not sure what's causing your symptoms, you may need your healthcare provider to run some diagnostic tests.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

PMS is a set of physical and mood symptoms you experience just before a menstrual period. Not everyone with PMS gets green diarrhea, but it's a possible symptom. Other symptoms may include:

  • Moodiness/irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating, cramping, and weight gain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems

Exercise, less salt and caffeine, and not smoking or drinking alcohol is often helpful with PMS. For symptoms that interfere with your daily life, your healthcare provider may prescribe:

  • Hormonal contraceptives ("the pill," implants, or shots) or other hormonal treatments
  • SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Lexapro (escitalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, which are serious conditions that affect your digestive system. Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding and bloody stools
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue

Common treatments include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs called 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA), such as Salazopyrin (sulphasalazine), Mezavant (mesalazine), Dipentum (olsalazine)
  • Immunomodulators such as methotrexate, Imuran (azathioprine), Purinethol (6-mercaptopurine)
  • Corticosteroids like prednisone and Entocort (budesonide)
  • Biologic drugs like Humira (adalimumab), Cimzia (certolizumab), Remicade (infliximab)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS causes a range of digestive problems in addition to green stools. Common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea (green or otherwise), sometimes alternating with bouts of constipation
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Whitish mucus in the stool

Diarrhea-predominant IBS treatments may include:

  • Eating more fiber and less gluten
  • Special eating plans such as the low-FODMAP diet
  • Increasing physical activity and sleep
  • Lowering stress levels
  • Medications such as loperamide, Xifaxan (rifaximin), Viberzi (eluxodoline), Lotronex (alosetron)

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

NAFLD generally has no symptoms. Sometimes, it may cause:

  • Green diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Upper-right-side abdominal pain

More advanced cases may cause:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Fluid retention
  • Bleeding

Treatment for this condition includes:

  • Gradual weight loss (for those with overweightness or obesity), as rapid weight loss can worsen liver disease
  • Lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • For type 2 diabetics, controlling blood glucose levels

Researchers are looking into possible medicines for NAFLD but none are available so far.

Green Stools in Infants, Toddlers, and Kids

Green stool is a normal occurrence in breastfed infants, especially in the first days after delivery, and is no cause for alarm.

In infants, stools will gradually change to yellow and brown as the baby approaches their first birthday and more varied foods are added to the diet.

For formula-fed babies, green stool may continue for several months. This is likely due to the iron content of some formulas.

In addition, giving an infant or a child an iron supplement (as is commonly recommended by pediatricians) may also cause green stools.

Some parents say their children have green stools while teething. There is no scientific evidence to support this common observation, however.

In older children, green stool could be food-related or due to eating non-food items, such as crayons.

(Video) Why Is My Poop Green?

If your child has swallowed or eaten a non-food object, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

In some situations, green diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious problem. You should call your healthcare provider if green (or other) diarrhea:

  • Continues for more than three days
  • Is accompanied by severe pain and stomach cramps
  • Is accompanied by vomiting for more than 24 hours
  • Occurs along with signs of dehydration, such as dry skin, mouth, and lips, and decreased urine output
  • Occurs alongside other changes in your bowel habits

Diarrhea Causes and Treatment

Summary

Green diarrhea or stool is unusual but not typically something to worry about.

The most common cause of green stool is diet. Eating green, blue, or purple foods is often the culprit—especially when they contain food dyes.

Several medical conditions can cause green diarrhea. Many of them involve rapid digestion, which makes bile retain its green color instead of turning brown. Green diarrhea on its own that lasts for more than a few days or comes and goes could be a sign of a digestive issue.

Call your healthare provider if diarrhea lasts longer than three days or is accompanied by vomiting for more than 24 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

18 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Tan CK, Chao CM, Lai CC. Green feces. QJM. 2013;106(3):287. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcr271

  2. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Infectious diarrhea: Traveler's diarrhea.

  3. Esmaillzadeh A, Keshteli AH, Hajishafiee M, Feizi A, Feinle-Bisset C, Adibi P. Consumption of spicy foods and the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome.World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(38):6465-6471. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i38.6465

  4. Seattle Children's Hospital. Stools - unusual color.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food safety: Food poisoning symptoms.

  6. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for food poisoning.

  7. National Health Service. Food intolerance.

  8. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Frequently asked questions.

  9. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine: InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Premenstrual syndrome: Treatment for PMS.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

  11. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of irritable bowel syndrome.

  12. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

  13. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of NAFLD & NASH.

  14. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

  15. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for NAFLD & NASH.

    (Video) Why is my Poop Green? Should I see a Doctor?

  16. den Hertog J, van Leengoed E, Kolk F, et al. The defecation pattern of healthy term infants up to the age of 3 months.Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2012;97:F465-70.doi:10.1136/archdischild-2011-300539

  17. Cleveland Clinic. Why Is your poop green?

  18. Yang X, Zhao J, Yan Q, Zhang S, Wang Y, Li Y. A case of COVID-19 patient with the diarrhea as initial symptom and literature review.Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2020;44(5):e109-e112. doi:10.1016/j.clinre.2020.03.013

What Does Green Diarrhea Mean and When Should You Worry? (2)

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.

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(Video) What is Your Green Poop Telling You?

FAQs

When should I be concerned about green diarrhea? ›

Although green stools aren't usually a cause for concern or a sign of cancer, you shouldn't ignore green poop that's accompanied by other symptoms. If you have other symptoms, such as recurring diarrhea or vomiting that doesn't improve, this can indicate another serious medical condition. Talk to your doctor ASAP.

What should I do if I have green diarrhea? ›

Stool tends to be brown. But a green poop color change is common and in the normal healthy stool color range. That said, you should see your doctor if the green poop (or another stool color change) is ongoing, or if you have other symptoms, like fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or pain.

Why am I having green watery diarrhea? ›

Food may be moving through the large intestine too quickly, such as due to diarrhea. As a result, bile doesn't have time to break down completely. Green leafy vegetables, green food coloring, such as in flavored drink mixes or ice pops, iron supplements.

Why am I having green liquid diarrhea? ›

Greenish stool could indicate that you have a bacterial infection (salmonella or E. coli, for example), viral infection (norovirus) or a parasite (Giardia) causing a rapid transit “gush” of unabsorbed bile.

Does green diarrhea mean infection? ›

Yes, in some cases, green stool can be a sign of a parasitic, bacterial, or viral infection. These infections often cause additional symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, reach out to your provider for care.

How long does green diarrhea last? ›

Green poop can take on a sulfur smell. Sulfur-smelling or foul-smelling stools can be a sign of a gastrointestinal infection, most notably, giardia. Most gastrointestinal infections resolve within a week to 10 days.

Does Green Poop Mean liver problems? ›

Bile produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder can be yellow or green, so [green stool] might be a sign of gallbladder or liver problem."

Why is my poop green if I haven't eaten anything green? ›

Bile pigment: Stool may be green due to the presence of bile pigment. If food moves too quickly through the intestine, bile pigment cannot break down sufficiently. One potential cause of this is diarrhea. Antibiotics: Antibiotics can change the types of bacteria present in the gut.

How long should diarrhea last? ›

Treating diarrhoea

In children, diarrhoea will usually pass within 5 to 7 days and will rarely last longer than 2 weeks. In adults, diarrhoea usually improves within 2 to 4 days, although some infections can last a week or more.

What does green bowel movement mean? ›

By Mayo Clinic Staff. Green stool — when your feces look green — is usually the result of something you ate, such as spinach. Certain medications or iron supplements also can cause green stool. Newborns pass a dark green stool called meconium, and breast-fed infants often produce yellow-green stools.

What drinks help diarrhea? ›

Water, Pedialyte, fruit juices, caffeine-free soda, and salty broths are some good choices. According to the Cleveland Clinic, salt helps slow down the fluid loss, and sugar will help your body absorb the salt.

How long does it take for stool to go back to normal after diarrhea? ›

Typically, diarrhea starts to get better after about 2 days. If your diarrhea persists, or you notice the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away: dehydration, which includes symptoms like: little to no urination.

What stops diarrhea fast? ›

A diet known as BRAT may also quickly relieve diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This diet is effective due to the bland nature of these foods, and the fact that they're starchy, low-fiber foods. These foods have a binding effect in the digestive tract to make stools bulkier.

Does green diarrhea mean infection? ›

Yes, in some cases, green stool can be a sign of a parasitic, bacterial, or viral infection. These infections often cause additional symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, reach out to your provider for care.

How long does green diarrhea last? ›

Green poop can take on a sulfur smell. Sulfur-smelling or foul-smelling stools can be a sign of a gastrointestinal infection, most notably, giardia. Most gastrointestinal infections resolve within a week to 10 days.

Why is my poop green if I haven't eaten anything green? ›

Bile pigment: Stool may be green due to the presence of bile pigment. If food moves too quickly through the intestine, bile pigment cannot break down sufficiently. One potential cause of this is diarrhea. Antibiotics: Antibiotics can change the types of bacteria present in the gut.

Can IBS make your poop green? ›

An IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) flare-up can lead to changes in stool, including a green discoloration. It is important for those with IBS to keep track of what triggers their symptoms in order to avoid a flare-up.

How long should diarrhea last? ›

Treating diarrhoea

In children, diarrhoea will usually pass within 5 to 7 days and will rarely last longer than 2 weeks. In adults, diarrhoea usually improves within 2 to 4 days, although some infections can last a week or more.

What does green bowel movement mean? ›

By Mayo Clinic Staff. Green stool — when your feces look green — is usually the result of something you ate, such as spinach. Certain medications or iron supplements also can cause green stool. Newborns pass a dark green stool called meconium, and breast-fed infants often produce yellow-green stools.

What stops diarrhea fast? ›

A diet known as BRAT may also quickly relieve diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This diet is effective due to the bland nature of these foods, and the fact that they're starchy, low-fiber foods. These foods have a binding effect in the digestive tract to make stools bulkier.

Should I let diarrhea run its course? ›

Since diarrhea is your body's way of getting rid of toxins, it is best to let it run its course. However, you may use over-the-counter antidiarrheal remedies for convenience, including: Attapulgite (Kaopectate) Loperamide (Imodium)

How much diarrhea is too much? ›

Severe diarrhea means having more than 10 loose, watery stools in a single day (24 hours). Moderate diarrhea means having more than a few but not more than 10 diarrhea stools in a day. Mild diarrhea means having a few diarrhea stools in a day.

What should I do if I have diarrhea for 3 days? ›

See a doctor for diarrhea that lasts longer than three days, or if you show signs of dehydration. This can include extreme thirst, decreased urination, and dizziness. You should also see a doctor if you have: a fever above 102°F (38.9°C)

Is diarrhea a sickness? ›

The most common cause of diarrhea is a virus that infects your bowel (“viral gastroenteritis”). The infection usually lasts a couple of days and is sometimes called “intestinal flu.” Other possible causes of diarrhea can include: Infection by bacteria.

Why is my poop green and my stomach hurts? ›

Green feces can also be a symptom of various intestinal conditions that interfere with the normal digestion process, such as Salmonella food poisoning. As food passes through the digestive system, a yellow-green fluid called bile that helps digest food changes color, resulting in a stool that is light to dark brown.

Does E. coli cause green poop? ›

You have an infection.

An infection that affects your gut and triggers diarrhea can also cause green stool. "If you have an infection from bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, or clostridium difficile; viruses; or parasites like giardia, it can bring on diarrhea and increased bowel movements,” says Dr. Sonpal.

How do you stop watery diarrhea? ›

Lifestyle and home remedies

Drink plenty of liquids, including water, broths and juices. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Add semisolid and low-fiber foods gradually as your bowel movements return to normal. Try soda crackers, toast, eggs, rice or chicken.

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