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What Does a Green Bowel Movement Mean?

Updated on April 7, 2017
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Edmund has spent the last 10 years working in clinical research. He has written many articles on human anatomy and physiology.

Look Before You Flush!

Look before you flush! The appearance of your stool can say a lot about your health.
Look before you flush! The appearance of your stool can say a lot about your health. | Source

Many people don’t pay a lot of attention to the color and texture of their stool—they just flush it down without looking. It can be useful, however, to take a peek. The appearance of your stool can often tell you a good deal about what is happening inside your body.

Green bowel movement is a term used when one’s stool has a greenish color instead of the normal rusty brown appearance.

There are various issues that can lead to a green stool. It can result from the intake of a certain medication, a supplement, or an artificially colored food. There may be other causes, as well.

Before we go any further, let us take a look at what a normal bowel movement looks like. Thereafter we will look at the causes of a green bowel movement, and when you should worry.

What is a Normal Bowel Movement?

What is considered a normal bowel movement in adults can differ from one person to another. To most people it is one that is easy to pass. However, the Bristol Stool Chart, pictured below, describes an ideal stool as one that is brownish in color, soft, and shaped like a sausage.

The brown color of feces comes from bile. Bile is a green fluid produced by the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released from there into the gastrointestinal tract to help in the digestion of fat.

As bile mixes with the contents of the gastrointestinal tract, bacteria in the large intestine act on it changing its color from green to yellow and then to brown. The rusty brown color of feces indicates that bile has been completely processed by the digestive system.

The Bristol stool chart showing the Seven form scales
The Bristol stool chart showing the Seven form scales | Source

The Bristol Stool Chart helps you classify your stool into one of seven categories based in its shape and texture. In general, types 4 and 5 are normal. Type 4 is considered ideal because it is the easiest to pass.

To use this chart, all you need to do is point your physician to the category that best describes your stool. Your physician should then tell you whether or not you have a normal bowel movement.

The color of your stool is as important as its shape and texture. So let us take a quick look at the main causes of green bowel movement in adults.

What Causes of Green Bowel Movement?

Some of the reasons associated with green feces are totally harmless; others are not. There are four main reasons behind most green feces:

  • Eating excessive amounts green vegetables, algae and grasses can make your stool green. Our digestive system will flush out the excess food with little to no change in the color.
  • Green dyes are often used in foods such as ice cream, candies, popsicles and gelatin. Eating these foods can stain your stool green. People have reported bright green stool a few hours after drinking green kool-aid.
  • There is a known correlation between the intakes of certain supplements and the production of dark green stool. Spirulina, wheatgrass, barley grass, and chlorophyll are all supplements that contain chlorophyll—the green pigment in plants. Excess chlorophyll that your body can’t absorb will be expelled resulting in a green stool. Iron supplements are also known to cause dark green feces.
  • When material travels too fast through the large intestine, there is not enough time for bile to be broken down. Unprocessed bile will cause your stool to appear bright green. This is often associated with diarrhea.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea increases bowel movement and hence decreases bowel transit time. Some conditions often accompanied with diarrhea include:

  • Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Food poisoning
  • Use of laxatives
  • Side effect of a medication such as antibiotics
  • Bacteria overgrowth in the small bowel

Frequent diarrhea causes rapid loss of body fluids. When you are suffering from diarrhea, it is very important to make sure you are drinking adequate fluids to replace the fluid that is being lost.

Should You Worry About Green Bowel Movement?

A green bowel movement does not directly point to any disease if the shape and texture of your stool are normal. In this case it is very likely due to a certain food you ate or a supplement you took.

Worried? Green BM may or may not be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Worried? Green BM may or may not be a sign of an underlying medical condition. | Source

The color of your stool should return to normal after the course of supplement or after withdrawal from the suspected food. If it persists then talk to your physician to rule out the chance of any disease.

On the other hand, green bowel movement associated with mucus, loose stool or diarrhea is often an indication of an underlying medical condition. In this case you should contact to your physician and get evaluated immediately.

In general, a green bowel movement is considered normal if it is not persistent. However, it is a cause for concern if it is painful, strained, uncontrolled, or excessive. Take appropriate actions when your overall toilet experience deviates from normal. Keep tabs on your poop, stay safe, seek medical attention, and be healthy.

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      KayBee 17 months ago

      You left out drinking red wine. I once had to pay a $610 lab fee because my ignorant doctor was concerned that I had green stool. I had told her that I drink red wine almost every night. She should have put two and two together. I did not even realize the cause until I switched to white wine. Ha!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 5 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very useful information. I was checking for green faeces and Darolac capsules. I was experiencing loose motions and got prescribed Darolac which caused green bowels now. It's a mix of 2,3,4 in your scale now.

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