Notice your poo is a hue other than brown? Don’t freak out just yet. We asked Garg about four shades of stool—and whether or not seeing them in the toilet bowl is normal.
If Your Poo Is... Green
It could mean: You had a smoothie for lunch. Some vegetables like spinach and other leafy greens packed with chlorophyll can change the colour of your stool, says Garg. This has to do with the way your body processes these foods—and what’s leftover from that absorption process, she says.
The consensus: No need to panic: “To see some changes in the colour of your stool based on what you eat is normal,” says Garg.
If Your Poo Is... A Greenish-Yellow
It could mean: Your body has bile—a greenish fluid produced by your liver that helps you break down fat. “Sometimes stools are green or yellow because of the colour of bile,” says Garg.
The consensus: No need to panic: It’s typically normal, says Garg. But if you notice dramatic changes in consistency (you went from firm logs to long, thin, watery poops), frequency (you’re going all the time all of a sudden or not going at all), or are experiencing diarrhea, call your doc, says Garg. These bowel changes could signal other GI issues.
If Your Poo Is... A Reddish Hue
It could mean: There are a few explanations for this one. For one, your salad could be to blame. “Beets and other red-coloured vegetables may colour the stool a darker red colour,” says Garg. (Cranberries and red food coloring can also turn your poop red.) The exception: If you see bright red in the toilet bowl or on your stools, this could signal other (more serious) issues like hemorrhoids, colon inflammation, or cancer, says Garg.
The consensus: A red stool with an easily identifiable cause (the beets or the cranberries) is nothing to fret about. But blood in the bowl is. GI health rule number one is if you see blood, call your doc. While a little bit could be nothing more than a small tear, physicians worry about more life-threatening conditions like colon cancer, too, so play it safe.
If Your Poo Is... Black
It could mean: Depends. Medications (like Pepto-Bismol or iron tablets) can colour your stool seriously dark, says Garg. And while that’s usually okay, black poop can sometimes signal blood, too (which is something to worry about). This has to do with the way blood is processed and broken down in your body over time, says Garg. “Blood that has been in your GI tract a long time can be darker—as dark as black.”
The consensus: Tell your doctor what you see. “We as physicians like to tell people to do the best they can to describe the colour and consistency and allow a doctor to help you decide next steps,” says Garg. While your meds could be to blame for darker-than-normal poop, black colouring—if from blood—can also point to infection, inflammation, or cancer, especially if the colouring is paired with other symptoms like exhaustion, nausea, and weight loss, says Garg.