Don't panic if you have the occasional green stool (or poop). In most cases, there is a perfectly good reason for a green stool, and your bowel movement would still be considered to be within the range for a normal stool. To explain the green, think back to the foods you ate or any vitamins or supplements you took over the last several days -- even if those things are not green in color.
Why Stool May Be Green
There can be many reasons that stool appears to be green. The first and most obvious reason for a stool to be green is from eating green foods. Green, leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll, which could be coloring the stool green. Foods with dark purple coloring, such as Kool-Aid, popsicles, and gelatin (Jell-O), can also result in greenish or green stools. Iron supplements or even those foods that are rich in iron also have the potential to give stool a green tinge. One of the biggest times to see green stools is during holidays when foods may be died green artificially (such as St. Patrick's Day, Easter, or Christmas). Many people might not connect the green coloring to their stool, or even forget that the holiday changed their normal eating patterns.
Is Green Stool Dangerous?
Stool can also appear green for physical reasons, and not just from what you've been eating. In these cases, the green stool might be a sign of a larger problem. We think of a healthy stool as being brown. However, bile that is secreted in the first part of the small intestine is actually green. As stool continues through the digestive tract and passes through the large intestine, it changes into a darker brown color.
If stool is still green by the time it is excreted from the body during a bowel movement, it could mean that it went through the large intestine too fast to be changed to brown. This is often called "rapid transit" or "decreased colonic transit time," and green stool color could be the result. In fact, it is more likely to be green diarrhea than a fully-formed stool. Green diarrhea should be checked out by a physician, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms, or the green can in no way be explained by a food or supplement.
Green Stools In Infants
In breast-fed infants, green stool is a normal occurrence, especially in the first days after delivery. In older children, the reason could be food-related as described above, or even from non-food items. Eating or sucking on colored non-food items, such as crayons or markers, might also turn stools a different color. If you have a concern about your child's stool, talk to the pediatrician. If you think your child has swallowed or eaten a non-food object, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.
If green stool continues, or your bowel habits have changed in other ways, you may want to call your doctor. This is especially true if you are experiencing diarrhea, which can be an indication of other problems or could lead to dehydration.