What Causes Green Diarrhea (Green Poop)?


Green diarrhea

With changing dietary lifestyles of consumers across the globe, diarrhea is observed as the world’s most common digestive disorder.

While keeping up with our chaotic yet proactive work schedules, we tend to eat whenever and whatever, causing our stomach to suffer from at least some degree of diarrhea before it adjusts to the dietary changes.

But, what if you head to the loo to get rid of your diarrhea and notice your bowels discharging “green poop”?

Diarrhea is completely normal and easily treatable, but “green” diarrhea is a strange condition that makes us feel concerned.

A typical stool appears in a range of colors – from light yellow to brown and even black, indicating a normal condition of intestines. But, stool color being green signifies a critical condition commonly known as green diarrhea.

Green poop can certainly take you by surprise, especially when associated with aching diarrhea. Learning what this dark green diarrhea means is important for us, adults as well as kids.

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Wrong dietary choices may lead to green diarrhea and worsen our gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, prompting us to identify the common causes, understand the symptoms and seek treatments.

Related Reading: What Causes Mucus in Your Stool?


What Does Green Diarrhea Mean?

The term “green diarrhea” clearly indicates an atypical stool color. In this condition, the loose watery stools being passed are characterized by green or dark green color.

Green diarrhea is also typified by stools being passed in the form of greenish fluids and semi-solids.

But, why is my diarrhea green?

Green diarrhea

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Many people overlook the fact that the form of our stools is not only affected by what we eat. The intestinal process of creating stools involves the role of green-colored fluid called bile.

The role of bile in digestion is pivotal for having normal colored stools and healthy excretion. So, the green poop that is being discharged indicates an unusually high presence of bile in our digestive systems.

Our liver and gallbladder function together to secrete and store bile, and this greenish fluid usually turns brown in the GI tract under normal digestive conditions.

The condition of diarrhea causes the stool to pass quickly through the GI tract, keeping the bile from breaking down. As a result, the green color is retained, causing our diarrhea to turn green in color.


Green Diarrhea: Common Causes Among Kids and Adults

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five years.

While it is preventable and treatable, peculiar conditions such as green diarrhea tend to grapple the concerns of parents of the children.

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The incidence of green diarrhea is fairly common in adults as well, although very few know what causes green diarrhea.

Factors causing green diarrhea in adults and kids differ categorically. In children, green diarrhea is commonly caused by something that they ate.

Green poop symptoms

Green Diarrhea in Children

Naturally occurring green poop among infants isn’t much of a concern, and the stool color goes back to normal in a couple of days. No treatment is necessary for treating green diarrhea in infants unless it becomes recurrent.

Consuming artificially and naturally green-colored foods is the key cause for green diarrhea among children. Kids on iron supplementation or other medications are also susceptible to green diarrhea.

Fever, vomiting and other abrupt changes can also accompany the condition of green diarrhea among children. The Mayo Clinic recommends parents to get their children checked by a doctor if any form of green diarrhea lasts for more than three days.

Green Diarrhea in Adults

In adults, there are three key causes of green diarrhea, and they largely revolve around the type of substances being consumed in the form of nutrition and medications.

  • Overconsumption of leafy vegetables and green colored foods & beverages
  • Increasing intake of colored supplements
  • Increasing amounts of fibrous meals during pregnancy
  • High intake of iron-rich food that cause digestive strains
  • Anxiety, stress and other nervous issues that lower the time for bacteria absorption in GI tract
  • Influence of antibiotics & other medications on diarrhea and digestive disorders
  • Bacterial infections in digestive tracts that cause food poisoning

Foods, medications, and supplements are probably going to be the key causes for any adult suffering from green diarrhea.

There have been cases where diarrhea medicines have also played a role in inducing green color in the stool. Drugs and medical treatments on the liver have also factored green diarrhea by excessive secretion of bile.

Critical conditions of green diarrhea among adults have been long-term, lasting for more than a week. Such long-term green diarrhea is a major problem for adults.

This means that their digestive systems are pushing the consumed food and nutritive substances quickly through the alimentary canal without performing the necessary biological processes.

Quick Fact: Role of Undigested Bile in Causing Green Diarrhea

The primary cause of green diarrhea is undigested bile. When our liver produces bile fluids for digesting fat inside the foods, some of it gets released into the duodenum – the beginning of the small intestine.

The gallbladder stores the rest of bile, which is further utilized while digesting a high-fat meal. Biological processes inside the GI tract are responsible for breaking down the fats by using bile.

Nutrients are absorbed and released into the bloodstream and this process changes the color of the stool from green to dark brown or yellow.

When this process malfunctions, undigested bile is quickly passed through the intestines, reducing the time for the stool to change color. This causes the green liquid poop to be discharged and leads to diarrhea.

Also Read: Sulfur Burps and Diarrhea: 5 Possible Causes and Home Treatments


Identifying the Symptoms of Green Diarrhea

Sensitive digestive systems of infants (under the age of 12 months) reflect a direct symptom of green diarrhea when their stoop turns green.

However, diarrhea is common in this age as the infant is mostly fed breast milk and lack of solid substances allows the milk to pass rapidly through the tract.

In toddlers and children, consumption of growth supplements gains traction, and with it, symptoms such as dehydration, bloating and excess gas are observed.

Even eating candies that contain coloring agents leads to green diarrhea, and digestive systems of the children reject these foods through vomiting.

Parents should be concerned if their child is vomiting under the condition of green diarrhea. It is advised to seek immediate medical help. Clear fluids such as Pedialyte and Gastrolyte can be a quick remedy, helping the child to change the stoop color.

Green diarrhea symptoms among children are mild in nature. However, adults can face severe health problems while suffering from green diarrhea.

The green poop or the dark green diarrhea is a critical health crisis for digestion among adults. Early identification of symptoms can help adults avoid the risks of long-term green diarrhea, which in rare cases, leads to indigestion-induced mortality.

Some of the key symptoms of green diarrhea in adults include:

  • Weight loss
  • High fever accompanied by weakness and dizziness
  • Blood passing through vomit; bleeding from the rectum
  • Constipation and mucus discharged through stools
  • Swelling of rectum blood vessels
  • Nausea and morning sickness in pregnant women
  • Extreme abdominal pain and frequent urge to pass stools
  • Tearing of skin around the anus
  • Abdominal distention
  • Itchy feeling around the anus

How to Treat Green Diarrhea?

There are a range of effective treatments to get rid of the green liquid poop, but acting upon it quickly and thoroughly is important.

For infants and children, parents can avoid visiting the doctor if green diarrhea lasts for a couple of days. Rehydration salts can be fed to the children to stop vomiting, but if it persists, the child must be immediately checked by a doctor.

Medical treatments for green diarrhea are currently underdeveloped as the condition is easily treatable through proper exercise, healthy diets, and adequate hydration.

Medicines and drugs that restore the normal intestine function are being consumed to treat green diarrhea in adults.

Green diarrhea treatments also include a regular intake of special dietary foods that contain nutrients such as colostrum that can effectively treat diarrhea. Such foods are also safe for children at the age of one year or older.

Green diarrhea treatments are accessible and affordable. And, one can also save up on these costs by preventing green diarrhea in the first place.

Some preventive measures for green diarrhea are:

  • Avoiding processed food and beverages
  • Increasing the body metabolism by opting for proactive lifestyles
  • Getting rid of the toxins by keeping the body hydrated with a proper mix of water, minerals and electrolytic salts
  • Staying away from colored food items, especially the ones which are made from artificial coloring agents
  • Get adequate sleep

Green diarrhea is preventable and treatable, so keep in mind the kind of food you are consuming. Plus, our digestive systems are highly adaptable and can adjust to our changing diets within days.

Thus, green diarrhea can naturally go away in a couple of days.

You can always consult a doctor to avoid green diarrhea leading to severe dehydration. Unless it is accompanied by other irritations, discharging green poop is pretty much normal.

All you need to do is keep an eye on your diet and the stool color till it changes its shade back to normal.


Sources:
den Hertog J, van Leengoed E, Kolk F, et al The defecation pattern of healthy term infants up to the age of 3 months Archives of Disease in Childhood – Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2012;97:F465-F470; http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2011-300539.
Picco MF. “Stool color: when to worry” Mayo Clinic web site; https://www.mayoclinic.org/stool-color/expert-answers/faq-20058080.

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Dr. David Cummings, MD

Dr. David Cummings, MD

David Cummings, MD, is a medical reviewer and editor at Daily Health Cures. David received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.