Listen, we get it. Nobody likes to spend time talking, or thinking, about poop.
But the truth is the color, shape and consistency of our bowel movements (BMs) can tell us a whole lot about our health.
They can even serve as an early warning sign of something serious.
And let’s be honest, despite not wanting to focus on poop, when your elimination system isn’t functioning up to par there’s often little else you can think of anyway.
So let’s take a look at what the color of your stool can tell you about your current state of health.
Keep an eye on your poop color
Bile produced in your liver, and used in the digestion process, is responsible for the typical brown color of most BMs.
But when a glance in the toilet reveals a different color than the expected brown that could be a clue about your current state of health. The change in color could be an indication of an infection, digestive troubles or even cancer.
Poop that has a greenish color can be an indication that food is passing through your digestive system faster than it normally does.
Typically there are three days between eating a food and having it arrive in the toilet bowel. But if that transit time through your colon speeds up, the result is often stool with a green tint.
I you eat a lot of spinach and other greens they can add a greenish cast to your BMs. Iron supplements (also see “Black” below) and certain meds can cause stool to become green as well.
If you’re experiencing green BMs regularly and can’t trace them to your diet you might want to talk with your doctor about them.
Stool that is yellow in color could be a sign of a parasite infection, a gall bladder issue or a liver condition including Gilbert’s Syndrome that causes your liver to not process a yellowish waste product called bilirubin properly.
If your poop is yellow it could be a sign of a serious medical condition so you should give your doctor a call.
BMs with a slight bluish cast are almost always simply the result of eating some foods with blue food coloring in them.
Some stool colors are cause for concern
Black or bright to dull red:
If your BM is black or red tinged this can be a sign of internal bleeding somewhere in your esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract. (Black or reddish stool is often “tarry” or sticky as well.)
Bleeding can be caused by an ulcer, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids or certain cancers. It can be a serious sign and shouldn’t be ignored.
Certain foods, such as beets can turn your poop a reddish color. Black licorice, iron supplements or certain drugs can cause black colored BMs.
If you’re experiencing black or red stool you should give your doctor a call right away.
Gray or white:
If your stool is a pale gray, clay colored or white it could indicate that your liver isn’t producing enough bile.
This can be a sign of a serious medical condition such as a blocked bile duct (possibly gall stones), pancreas problems (possibly inflammation or infection… pancreatitis), hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver.
If you are using antacids or anti-diarrheal drugs they can also cause your stool to be paler in color.
If your BMs are gray or white in color call your doctor
If there’s a marked change in your bowel movements, or you are at all concerned about the color or consistency of your stool. give your doctor a call!
We promise he’s heard it all, so don’t be shy.