Although you may not pay much attention to your stools, inspecting them regularly will give you a sense of which poop color, shapes, and textures are typical for you. That way, you will know when something is off and when you should contact your healthcare provider.
This article includes a poop color chart and discusses the meaning of different poop colors—from yellow poop, to poop that is green, pale, dark, or red, to stool that is pebble-shaped or that contains mucus.
Keep in mind that you should always talk to your healthcare provider about any new or concerning symptoms.
Yellow Poop Color or Diarrhea
There are a few different possible causes of yellow poop, and what yellow poop means ranges widely.
Having yellow poop may simply mean that you’ve been eating yellow food items, like sweet potatoes, carrots, turmeric, or yellow food coloring. In addition, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and those taking medication for GERD sometimes have yellow poop.
Sudden yellow poop can also be a sign of an infection that affects the intestines, particularly if you also have diarrhea, fever, flu-like symptoms, or stomach cramps. Yellow poop after COVID-19 infection has been reported. And, Giardiasis, a small intestine infection caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia, can also lead to yellow poop or diarrhea.
In some cases, yellow poop can mean excess fat in the stool—a condition known as steatorrhea. This can be caused by anything that disrupts the intestinal lining, such as celiac disease or disorders that affect the pancreas, liver, or gallbladder.
Steatorrhea usually looks greasy and may be foul-smelling, frothy, or float in the toilet bowl. It often sticks to the side of the bowl and is difficult to flush away.
Some people develop yellow poop after gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). This is because there is a larger amount of bile moving directly into your intestines, resulting in watery diarrhea that is often yellow.
Yellow Poop in Babies
Loose, yellow stools in a breastfed baby are normal, as breastmilk passes quickly through their digestive system. The yellow poop color is from bile. Breastfed babies tend to pass six or more stools per day, but if the amount of stools they pass, or the looseness of those stools changes suddenly, then you should suspect diarrhea.
It is also normal for formula-fed babies to pass yellow stools, but their stool is usually less runny than that of a breastfed baby. As your baby gets older, their poop should be brown, not yellow. You can expect this change to occur when you start to introduce solid foods to their diet.
Green Poop Color
There are some common reasons for a green poop color. Eating lots of leafy vegetables like kale or spinach can cause a greenish poop color. But this is normal, and it shouldn’t stop you from getting your fill of these antioxidant-rich foods. Iron supplements and food coloring, including green, purple, and blue dye, can also turn feces an emerald color.
Conditions that speed up intestinal activity, such as a bowel disorder or food poisoning, can also lead to a green poop color or green diarrhea. In women, green stool may occur at certain times during pregnancy.
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Stool That Sinks Quickly
Although normal stool shape and frequency varies from person to person, if your stool sinks quickly, you may not be getting enough fluids or fiber in your diet. This type of stool often has a darker poop color because it stays in the intestines longer.
The FDA recommends a fiber intake of 28 grams per day. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, unsalted nuts and seeds are all great sources of fiber.
If your stool floats every now and then, it’s probably not something to worry about. Most likely, the stool just has an increased amount of gas in it. This can happen after consuming carbonated drinks, beans, and sugary foods. Some gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause floating stool as well.
However, stool that consistently floats may be a sign that your body is not absorbing fat properly. When this happens, you may have steatorrhea.
Stool excreted in small pieces is sometimes called pebble or pellet stool. Fiber forms a gel in the intestines when it is fermented by bacteria in the colon and combined with water. If there is a lack of fiber holding stool together, it may be shaped like small pebbles.
Upping your fiber intake may help; to do this, slowly increase your intake to the recommended daily value of 28 grams. If you are finding it difficult to consume this amount with fiber-rich foods, consider adding a fiber supplement.
Loose stool (diarrhea) lasting a couple of days or less is common and usually isn’t serious. It can be triggered by a number of different foods, supplements, and medications. For example, consuming too much fructose—a sugar found in honey and many soft drinks and processed foods—can cause loose stool.
Another common cause of loose stool is a gastrointestinal infection—otherwise known as the stomach flu.
If your bowel movements are dry, hard to pass, or infrequent (occurring less than three times a week), you may have constipation.
Certain medications and conditions can result in constipation. But, for many people, the cause is a lack of dietary fiber. Legumes and raspberries are just some of the foods that can help constipation. In some cases, natural remedies may also help.
Mucus in Stool
Mucus is a thick, jellylike substance that lubricates your intestines, protecting them from stomach acid, bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It also makes bowel movements slippery and easy to pass.Although mucus is commonly found in stool, you normally don’t notice it because it tends to be clear.
If you start seeing mucus in your stool or notice that the mucus is white or yellow, mention it to your healthcare provider at your next visit. In some cases, it could be a sign of inflammation or irritation in the intestinal wall due to an underlying health issue.
Excessive straining when you are on the toilet can result in a stool that is long and thin. Bearing down causes the anal muscle to contract and narrows the opening of the anus. Stool that is squeezed through the narrowed opening is thin.
Consistently thin stools, however, could signal a medical problem. Any condition that obstructs the bowels, such as benign rectal polyps, hemorrhoids, prostate enlargement, or cancer of the colon, rectum, or prostate could cause pencil-thin stool.
Pale Poop Color
Bile salts in the intestines give stool its usual brown color. If your poop color is light (either pale, white, grey, or clay-colored), there could be a lack of bile in the stool. A blockage of the bile ducts from gallstones, or a condition affecting your gallbladder, liver, or pancreas, can cause decreased bile output.
If you notice that your poop color is white, clay-colored, or chalky grey, you should see your healthcare provider, especially if the new poop color continues beyond a few days. When there is steatorrhea, pale or light-colored poop may also be shiny or greasy, floating, and foul-smelling.
Additionally, stool may become temporarily pale after a barium enema test.
Anytime you have changes in your bowel habits that are accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or pain in your abdomen, you should see your healthcare provider right away. Sometimes, stool changes that do not resolve within a few days can be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
Undigested Food in Stool
Seeing undigested food and pills in your stool on occasion typically isn’t anything to worry about. Certain plant foods, such as corn and grape skins, are often recognizable in stool. That’s because the human body lacks the enzymes needed to digest certain parts of plant cell walls.
Eating more slowly and chewing each bite thoroughly can help. If you see undigested food in your stool regularly and you also have other changes in your bowel habits, like diarrhea or stomach cramps, it’s a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider.
Bright Red Poop Color
A bright red poop color can be caused by beets, cranberries, tomato juice or soup, or products containing red food coloring, like Kool-Aid or red licorice. Red medicines, such as amoxicillin, may also turn your poop color red.
If there is blood in your stool, the poop color depends on where the bleeding takes place in the digestive tract. Blood from the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach or esophagus, will look dark by the time it exits the body as a bowel movement.
Blood that is bright red is more likely to come from the lower gastrointestinal tract, such as the large intestine or rectum. This may be caused by hemorrhoids, anal fissures, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, or colon cancer, among other conditions.
Blood in the stool doesn’t always appear bright red. Blood may be also present in stool but not visible—this is known as “occult” blood. The fecal occult blood test is a common test used to detect hidden blood in the stool.
Black or Dark Poop Color
Certain foods, supplements, and medications can temporarily cause a black poop color, such as:
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate)
- Iron supplements
- Activated charcoal supplements
- Dark foods, such as black licorice, grape juice, Oreo cookies, blackberries, or blueberries
Stool can also appear darker with constipation. Dark green stool from bile that hasn’t had time to break down may appear to have a black poop color in certain lighting.
A poop color that is almost black, dark, or tar-like with a thick consistency may mean there is bleeding in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. Medical conditions that can cause dark, tar-like stool include duodenal or gastric ulcers, esophageal varices, a Mallory-Weiss tear, and gastritis.
If your poop color is black and it is not from food or supplements, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
When to See Your Healthcare Provider
While it’s normal for bowel movements to vary from day to day depending on what you eat and drink, your poop color should generally be some shade of brown. Stools should leave the body with little straining or discomfort, have a toothpaste-like consistency, and look more like a banana than a pencil. You shouldn’t see mucus or blood.
Be sure to see your healthcare provider right away if your poop color is bright red, black, or pale, or if you have additional symptoms like abdominal pain. You should also see your healthcare provider if it is consistently thin or pencil-like, loose or watery, or accompanied by mucus or pus.
A number of factors could be causing variations in the appearance of your stool. Some factors, such as your daily eating and drinking habits, are less concerning than others.
However, keep in mind that seemingly harmless changes in your poop’s color, shape, or consistency, like a stool that is pencil-thin, can actually be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Consult your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your stool, or if you notice any changes in your bowel habits or additional symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should you check your poop?
The consistency and color of your poop can reveal information about your health. If you have an unusual poop color or shape that persists over an extended amount of time, contact your healthcare provider so they can check it out.
What is the healthiest color of stool?
Normal, healthy stool ranges from a shade of brown to greenish brown. This may vary if you eat lots of colorful foods. Any poop color change that can’t be tied to your diet is reason to call your healthcare provider.
What color poop indicates a problem?
Poop color that suddenly changes without an obvious reason may indicate an issue, especially if you have other unusual symptoms. Red, maroon, or black and tarry stool requires immediate medical attention.
Is yellow poop an emergency?
Yellow stool is unlikely to be an emergency. It may simply be caused by changes in your diet or a medication you are taking. Still, since an infection or an underlying condition that affects your intestinal lining can be to blame, it’s worth calling your healthcare provider about if you can’t trace the cause.