Regardless of where your poop color falls on the shade scale, it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern – but it can tell you something about your diet and health.
“It is absolutely normal for stool to vary in color,” says Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, director of the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.
Schnoll-Sussman explains that color changes are due to foods in your diet, and that all shades of brown and most shades of green stool are more or less normal.
“Brown is normally associated with the natural breakdown of bile in the GI tract,” she adds.
But any time there’s a change of color or consistency in stool–or if you’re at all worried about your poop color and other symptoms–it doesn’t hurt to talk with a professional. This is what your poop could be telling you.
Green poop is a strong indicator of a diet heavy in either leafy green veggies or green food coloring.
But green-colored poop may also be a sign that food is moving through the digestive tract too quickly without enough time for bile to turn stool brown. This can indicate diarrhea or something called ‘dumping syndrome’, which is common after stomach surgery.
Clay-colored stool or pale stool
Like black-colored poop, clay or pale stool sets off an alarm bell among GI specialists.
“It can indicate the absence of bile,” says gastroenterologist Brett Mendel, MD. “And a lot of times an obstruction of normal bile flow is one of the first indicators of pancreatic cancer.”
If it’s something dire like pancreatic cancer or liver disease, the clayish or pale stool may come along with jaundice, or the yellowing of the eyes and skin; this indicates the bile is not being released into the GI tract.
Black poop can be a signal of something serious going on in your digestive system.
Black poop is a common indicator of bleeding, typically in the upper GI tract—the stomach or the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. Blood in the upper GI tract is typically the result of ulcers, sores, or tumors. If you’re emitting tar-like poop, seek medical attention immediately.
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