Green diarrhea can occur after consuming an excessive amount of dark green vegetables, drinking coffee, or eating spicy foods. These foods, in particular, have laxative properties that can reduce water absorption in the intestines, resulting in diarrhea.
These foods also increase intestinal flow, which disrupts bile function. Bile is a green substance produced by the liver that reacts with intestinal bacteria, turning the stool brown.
Green diarrhea can also indicate a medical problem such as an intestinal infection, irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohn’s disease. These conditions are frequently accompanied by additional symptoms such as excessive gas, abdominal swelling, fever, or loss of appetite.
Treatment for green diarrhea includes drinking plenty of fluids, taking electrolytes and probiotics, and determining the source of the problem. If you have green diarrhea for more than two days, or if you have other symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, you should see your doctor for an evaluation and treatment as needed.
The following are the most common causes of green diarrhea:
- Eating too many dark green vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, chard, arugula, and spinach are high in fiber, which promotes intestinal flow. They can help with both constipation and diarrhea. When consumed in excess, however, they can cause soft or liquid stool, resulting in diarrhea. The green color is caused by high concentrations of chlorophyll, a pigment found in vegetable leaves.
What to do: Diarrhea caused by too many vegetables usually clears up within a day or two of eliminating them from the diet. This type of diarrhea is usually not a cause for concern. You should try to stay hydrated, and if your diarrhea does not improve, you should see a doctor to rule out other possibilities.
- Excessive consumption of coffee, alcoholic beverages, or spicy foods
Excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, or spicy foods can hasten digestion and have a laxative effect. As a result, you’ll have more liquid stools and diarrhea. Because of the faster flow, bile does not have enough time to brown, resulting in a green stool.
What to do: To avoid the laxative effect, consume these foods in moderation and in small amounts. This also gives bile time to work properly in the intestine.
Look into what else can cause green poop.
- The use of iron supplements
Using oral iron supplements to treat anemia, for example, can alter stool color and make it darker. This means the body is absorbing iron adequately.
However, if iron supplements are not completely absorbed in the intestine, you may experience dark green or black diarrhea as a side effect.
What to do: Consult your doctor to assess your treatment and the need for an alternative supplementation method, such as an IV infusion.
- Use of laxatives
Using laxatives increases intestinal flow, which decreases water absorption in the intestine. As a result, you’ll have more liquid stools and diarrhea.
The presence of undigested bile causes the green color. Bile is produced in the liver and is typically brown-green in color. Its main function is to break down fat from food, and it gradually turns brown as it moves through the intestinal tract.
As a result, excessive or prolonged use of laxatives will result in liquid stool and bile buildup.
Stopping the use of laxatives will allow the stool to return to its normal color in 2 to 3 days. However, if your symptoms do not improve or if you experience other symptoms such as intense abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, or bloody stools, you should consult your doctor or go to the hospital.
5. Intestinal infections
Green diarrhea can also be caused by Salmonella sp. or Giardia lamblia bacteria in the intestine. Salmonella sp. infections are typically caused by contaminated food, and symptoms include green diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, bloody stools, headache, and muscle aches.
Giardiasis is an infection caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia, which is spread through contaminated water.
Other symptoms that may accompany liquid green diarrhea include gas, abdominal pain or swelling, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and dehydration. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of an intestinal infection.
What to do: You should drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, as diarrhea can cause moderate water loss. If your diarrhea does not improve, see your doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics and other home remedies for an intestinal infection.
- The use of antibiotics
Antibiotics, such as cephalosporins and penicillins, can cause bacterial imbalances in the intestines. This can interfere with water and nutrient absorption, resulting in softer or liquid stool.
Good bacteria in the intestines are also responsible for bile digestion. When these bacteria do not use bile properly, it remains green, resulting in green stools.
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What to do: Do not discontinue your antibiotics without first consulting your doctor. As a result, if you have diarrhea, you should contact your doctor. When taking antibiotics, you should drink 8 cups of water per day to stay hydrated. Furthermore, consuming probiotics may aid in the regulation of intestinal bacteria and the improvement of green diarrhea.
- Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome
Some people with intestinal conditions, like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis may experience green diarrhea. This is due to poor fat digestion and inflammation of the intestinal mucosa. These conditions are characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain or excess gas.
Additionally, people who have had their gallbladder removed may experience green diarrhea. This occurs because bile produced by the liver is no longer stored in the gallbladder and instead travels directly to the intestines, turning stool green.
What to do: Follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment, including a diarrhea diet recommended by a registered dietitian. This can help to prevent diarrhea or other symptoms from worsening.
Green diarrhea while pregnant
Green diarrhea during pregnancy is caused primarily by iron-containing prenatal supplements. It is not usually a cause for concern. Continue to take your vitamins at the recommended dosages and drink at least 8 cups of water per day.
Meanwhile, if your green diarrhea does not improve within three days, or if it is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, back pain, right-sided abdominal pain, cramping, or abdominal swelling, seek medical attention right away.
Green stools in infants
It is normal for babies to have soft, sticky mucus stool that is black or green in the first 2 or 3 days after birth. This stool is known as meconium, and it is made up of substances released by the intestine during pregnancy.
Babies will go through a transition phase in their stool due to breastmilk after 3 to 5 days of life, and will become more brown by the sixth day of life. Formula-fed babies may have green stools for a longer period of time, most likely due to the iron in formulas.
Green stool in older babies may indicate an infection, a food intolerance, the presence of bile, medication, or from eating green fruits or vegetables.
When should you go to the doctor?
If your green stool persists for more than three days, or if you have symptoms such as:
- Vomiting or nausea
- Pain in the abdomen
- Stomach pain
- Stools that are bloody
If you have dehydration symptoms such as dark urine, a dry or sticky mouth, excessive fatigue, dizziness, headache, confusion, or fainting, you should seek medical attention right away.