You’d probably notice if your poop is a different hue than normal. But what does it mean if it’s green? What about red, yellow, white, and black?
Most of the time, minor changes in the color of your waste are due to diet. After all, we don’t eat the same thing at every meal, every day. But sometimes a color change can signal a minor health issue. In rare cases, it means something serious is wrong in your digestive system.
If the color you see before you flush worries you, call your doctor.
Poop Color 101
Poop is normally brown. The color is the result of what you eat and how much bile is in your stool.
Bile is a fluid your liver makes to digest fats. It starts out as a yellowish green color. But as the pigments that give bile its color travel through your digestive system, they go through chemical changes and turn brown.
Most of the time, green or greenish poop is normal. Some of the things that can cause it:
- Green veggies, like spinach or kale
- Green food coloring, such as in drink mixes or ice pops
- Iron supplements
This shade is also normal for many people. It’s common for babies, especially those who breastfeed. But if you have yellow poop that looks greasy and smells very bad, it may have too much fat. That could be a sign your body isn’t digesting food properly.
For example, if you have celiac disease, your body can’t handle a protein called gluten, which is in wheat, barley, and rye. If you have the condition and eat foods that have gluten, like many breads, pastas, and cookies, your intestines won’t work as they should.
There may be other causes of yellow poop that’s greasy and smelly. If it happens to you often, tell your doctor.
White or Light-Colored Poop
Medicines for diarrhea like bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) can sometimes cause pale or clay-colored poop. So can barium, a chalky liquid you drink before you get X-rays of the upper part of your digestive tract.
A more serious cause is a lack of bile in your stool. (Remember, bile gives poop its brown color.) Bile is made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released into your small intestine to help digest your food. If there’s not enough of it to give your poop its typical brown color, it could be the sign of a problem along the way.
- A condition you’re born with called biliary atresia
Babies’ poop is black for the first few days after they’re born. After that, it may be because you ate something very dark-colored or took a medicine or supplement that causes black poop. But this color can be a sign of a more serious problem: bleeding in the upper part of your digestive tract.
Foods, medicines, and supplements that turn poop black include:
- Iron supplements
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol)
- Black licorice
Poop that looks like tar is often a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract. Some causes include:
If you don’t think black poop came from what you ate, you need to talk to your doctor.
Red or Reddish Poop
If you see red or reddish poop in the toilet, don’t be alarmed right away. First ask yourself if you’ve had red foods lately. Beets, Jell-O, tomato soup, and red drinks can change the color of your stool.
- Noncancerous tumors
- Inflammation in the colon, called colitis
- Growths called polyps in your colon
- Conditions caused by small sacs in the wall of the colon, called diverticular disease
Call your doctor if you see red that’s probably not from food you ate.