What It Means When Poop Changes Color

What It Means When Poop Changes Color

It may be awkward to talk about, but at one time or another in most people’s lives, a discussion arises about the color of your poop. While most of the time, a color change in your poop means you ate something of a different color the day before, there are other concerns that could be indicated by the color of your stool or the consistency. Let’s take a brief look at what to watch out for.

What’s Normal?

Well, poop usually is brown, as we all know. But changes in diet can cause poop to turn red, black, yellow, green, or a few other colors. The most startling of these is bright red, green or purple-ish, but these are usually of little concern. You may simply have eaten beets, something with a lot of green chlorophyll – such as spinach or leafy lettuce – or some combination of the two. You could have eaten purple cabbage or beet soup. Carrot juice or butternut squash soup will turn your poop from brown to tan – slightly yellow. There’s nothing to worry about here.

See A Doctor

There are times, however, when a color change is best discussed with a physician. Various conditions should be attended to that could change the color of your stool. These conditions include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • An inflamed lining of the large intestine
  • Tumors
  • Diverticular disease
  • Infections
  • Certain cancers
  • Internal bleeding
  • Hemorrhoids

Other Causes

A variety of other factors can cause poop to change color from intestinal infections to food dye in frosting (or other foods) to parasites to the use of antibiotics. Also, bacterial infections, certain surgeries, and bacteria can cause poop color to fluctuate. Common diarrhea also causes poop to change color, often to a weak-looking shade of green.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is a poor way to make a definitive diagnosis, but it can restore calm if you feel panicky about a color change. Certainly, any unexplained color change should be discussed with a physician. But here are some guidelines to consider when you see a color change.

  • Brown is normal. No problems indicated with brown.
  • Green usually indicates a change in diet, a bacteria infection or possibly the result of antibiotics
  • Yellow could indicate a small intestine infection, a dietary influence or overeating fat
  • Reddish can be the result of food dye, red-colored beverages, or bleeding in the rectum or the colon. Bright red could indicate fresh bleeding, sometimes bleeding hemorrhoids
  • Gray or white occurs with some medications. It could also indicate a lack of bile in your gut
  • Black could be the result of a diet heavy in iron or bismuth subsalicylate, which is sold as Pepto-Bismol. Black can also indicate coagulated blood, which turns a dark red color. Mixed with brown, this could cause a stool to look black
  • Black and Tarry could indicate stomach ailments, including stomach cancer. This should be checked by a physician as soon as possible.


Are you concerned about a change in your bowel movements or a color change in your stool? In San Diego, call Pacific Medical Care at 619-333-8114 to schedule an appointment.

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