Is It Normal To Have Different-Colored Poop?

Q: You just pooped and what came out looks like it was colored with a crayon. Should you be worried?

A: Brown may not be the most exhilarating of colors, but nobody wants a breathtaking rainbow finish to a bowel movement. It can be a bit unnerving to see an eye-catching hue in the toilet. Boring is better when it comes to poop color.

But the reality is that you might see something unusual now and then. The good news? There’s probably a simple explanation for the colorful #2 that involves breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.

Vegetables, fruits and vibrant food dyes offer a crayon box of tinting options — because what goes in must come out. That can lead to green poop, red poop, black poop, yellow poop … well, you get the picture.

Green is the most common color to make a surprise appearance. So, if you’re eating a lot of “greens” — like kale, spinach and broccoli — you might see that hue naturally appear at the end of the digestive process.

Bright frosting on a cupcake also can turn your poo into some interesting (and unnatural) looking shades.

Any food-related tint should disappear quickly once the source is flushed from your system.

But if odd colors linger, it could be a sign that something more is going on. An unexplained greenish poop could be a symptom of:

  • Medications upsetting your stomach and altering the bacteria flora in your gut.
  • A bacterial infection, viral infection or a parasite.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.

Other colors also may serve as a signal of a medical issue. Be watchful for:

  • Reddish poop. This could be a sign of rectal bleeding or conditions such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers or even colorectal cancer.
  • Blackish poop. This dark hue could indicate blood in your upper digestive system from ulcers or be a byproduct of taking iron supplements or Pepto-Bismol®.
  • Yellowish or greyish poop. These could signal liver, gallbladder or pancreas disorders.

The bottom line on color? Don’t overthink a one-day appearance of an interesting hue, but contact your doctor if the color of your poop doesn’t revert back to boring brown within a few days.

Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD.

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