Apart from blood samples, it is the things that leave our bodies as waste (urine and feces) that provide the most information in diagnostic procedures. When we take that into consideration, it should come as no surprise that the very appearance of our waste products can be a good indication of what’s going on under the hood. For all that, in most circles it is still taboo to talk about the poo, which is why we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the various shapes and colors for your reading pleasure.
Poop comes in more than fifty shades of brown, green, yellow, black, green and red. Some of the hues are perfectly normal, some are caused by artificial food coloring, and some may indicate a serious underlying condition. Without further ado, read on about the various colors of poo.
Pale Stool or Light-Colored Stool
Pale stool sometimes described as white, gray or clay-colored means that the liver is not releasing enough bile into the intestines. It could be a symptom of several serious conditions, including gallstones, duct blockages and conditions affecting the liver.
The black color in black poop comes from blood and high iron content. So, if you don’t remember eating blood sausages, it means that the blood is yours, caused by internal bleeding somewhere along the intestinal tract. Needless to say, that is not supposed to happen, so have a chat with your physician.
Green poop is caused by bile, the digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Green poop is a common occurrence, but it does mean that your stomach contents traveled through the intestines slightly too fast.
Bright Green Stool
Just like with regular green poop, bright green poop is also caused by bile and can happen when you have diarrhea. If the color is particularly unusual, it can be due to dietary causes, such as green food coloring, iron supplements and leafy green vegetables.
Dark Green Stool
Some blue and purple foods can turn dark green when they are broken down in the intestines. Examples include red wine, grapes and blueberries. The dark green poop can even have a blue hue. Nothing to worry about.
Red poop, particularly bright red poop, is most commonly caused by bleeding somewhere in the lower intestine. The bleeding may be due to hemorrhoids (most common), diverticular bleeding, colon polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or anal fissures. These conditions should also be accompanied by other symptoms. If there aren’t any, the red color may be caused by red food coloring (for example in Kool-Aid, popsicles, Gatorade or gelatin).
Yellow poop often means that fat is not being absorbed properly in the intestines. If that is the case, the undigested fat indicates that the pancreas is not working properly (for example, due to inflammation, duct blockage or pancreatic cancer). If the stool is yellow, greasy and if it floats, it is likely caused by one of these conditions or by celiac disease, which can also affect the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients.
Brown stool is ideal and it means that everything is working properly. Light or dark, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s brown. If your poop is solid, in addition to being brown, it means that you’re in good health, at least as far as your digestive system is concerned.
Different colors, different shapes, different sizes. When it comes to poop, anything goes. Of course, some varieties are more desirable than others, and a great number of respected researchers have spent their time determining which poop is a welcome sight (in the right context, of course).
Bristol Stool Chart
The Bristol stool chart or the Bristol stool scale is a table used as a diagnostic aid, which distinguishes between seven different stool types. It was first proposed by Dr. Stephen Lewis and Dr. Ken Heaton of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. The chart below was expanded by Dr. Sandra Cabot to include a short explanation of the stool types.
Ideally, you want your poop to be smooth, shaped like a sausage or a banana and in one piece, even when it is flushed. This poop, illustrated as type 4 on the chart, is the pinnacle of poop perfection. Below we bring you some other varieties.
This type of stool, sticky, thick and dark black, is known under the medical term melena. It is associated with bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, most commonly caused by a peptic ulcer. The half-digested haemoglobin in the stool also lends it its characteristically strong, unpleasant odor.
Loose stool, resembling diarrhoea, although not quite there yet, could be a sign of food sensitivity. If it is a recurring sight in the toilet bowl, consider changing your diet.
If you’re having trouble passing stool and your stool is often hard and lumpy, it is probably caused by constipation (under three bowel movements a week). Luckily, it is a condition that can be alleviated by drinking more water and adding fiber to your diet.
Floating stools can be particularly tricky. You can’t miss them since they’re so incredibly hard to flush! They can be caused by a change in diet and gas. However, if they are also greasy and foul-smelling, it is probably due to the aforementioned malabsorption of fat.
Newborns typically have black, tar-like stools called meconium, composed of mucus, epithelial cells, amniotic fluid and other material the baby ingested in the uterus. After a few days, the baby’s poop will be mushy and green or yellow in color.
Hopefully, you’ve found this short overview helpful. If you notice any sudden changes or poop varieties in the red zone, consider talking to your physician. When it comes to passing changes, don’t overthink it. Most of the time it’s down to your diet. You are what you eat, after all… and so is your poop, sort of.