Poop is not a popular topic of discussion. Of course, there is that niche group that will strongly disagree, but we’re talking about the general opinion here. While it isn’t a very clean topic for friends and family catch-ups, it is a very important one.
You ask why? Our stools are excellent sources of information about what’s going on inside our bodies. This is why stool samples are tested in the preliminary rounds of diagnosis for most diseases. The nature, color, and composition of stools can tell us whether our digestive system is functioning as it should be, whether there are any lesions in our gut, and even what we last ate.
Foods That Change The Color Of Your Poop
The natural color of stools can vary from light to dark brown. The brown is due to the presence of broken down bile pigments. Slightly green-tinted stools can also be considered normal. Anything other than brown requires a second look, as gross as that may sound.
Coming to foods and color, what you eat can change the color of your poop. Besides the obvious artificially coloring in foods, a number of natural foods can tint your stools as well – one wavelength at a time. Here’s a list of common foods sources of the poop palette.
1. Artificially Colored Treats And Drinks
What goes in and is not used by the body, must come out. That is the case with dyes used to make treats (candies, gum, popsicles) and drinks (packaged fruit juices, flavored sodas, energy drinks) more visually appealing. Bright reds, greens, yellows, oranges, blues, and the rest of the spectrum end up reflecting in the toilet bowl. Practically pooping a rainbow, if you may say so!
You don’t always poop the same color you eat. The dyes used in foods may change as they pass through your gut. For instance, green poop can result from eating foods colored with purple, blue, and black dyes as well and not just a green dye.
2. Beets, Cranberries, And Tomatoes
And here is the red brigade! Fruits and veggies that are naturally red due to plant pigments like anthocyanins and lycopene end up tainting your stools red. Beets, cranberries, tomatoes (including tomato sauce), red peppers, and blueberries (not naturally red and surprisingly not causing blue poop) fall into this group. Red wine, too, imparts a reddish hue to poop.
While red stools may make you panic a little at first given our natural association of the color red with blood, recollect what you ate the previous day. If you can’t really pinpoint a food that may have caused it, it may actually be blood in your poop. Lesion lower down in the gastrointestinal tract can color poop a bright red. In which case you need to consult a doctor.
3. Green Vegetables
“Go green!” seems to be the mantra not only for environmentalists but nutritionists as well. However, no one seems to mention this harmless yet very evident side effect – green poop. Eat green, poop green. Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and other non-leafy veggies like broccoli are rich in the green pigment chlorophyll. The pigment may pass out in stools, making it green.
It is important to note that those suffering from diarrhea may have green stools as well. Bile pigments help your body break down and absorb fats in the intestines. After doing so, they are broken down and changed from a natural green-yellow to brown for excretion.
When you have diarrhea, the bile pigments do not spend enough time in the intestines to be broken down and, hence, taint your stools green. So if your visits to the bathroom have increased, you now know why your poop looks different.
4. Licorice And Dark Chocolates
Licorice, a common confectionery ingredient that is black in color, is often implicated in black stools. Dark chocolate too can make your poop black, but you would have to consume large quantities of it for this to happen. Eating one too many dark chocolate cookies can do the trick.
Blood sausages (sausages filled with dried blood and fillers) eaten across the world and squid ink used in Italian cuisine can also cause black poop. Foods that are dark (dark blue or dark green) and not just black, fat-rich foods like junk foods, and sugar-rich foods can cause black stools as well.
A bleeding ulcer can cause black tarry stools as well. Blood from lesions in the upper gastrointestinal tract usually dries up by the time they are excreted, resulting in black and not red stools. Here again, recalling your last few meals may help you understand whether you need to consider the possibility or not.
5. Iron-rich Foods
The presence of iron can make your stool dark. Because of this, iron-rich foods like red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, and dried fruits like raisins, prunes, and apricots give you black stools. Iron supplements have the same effect, which is why pregnant women taking iron supplements often have black stools.
In addition to the list above, certain medications like anticoagulants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also cause changes in the hue of your stools.
When You May Have A Problem
Diet-related changes in the color of your stools are no cause for worry. The problem lies in us being unable to discern whether or not the change is diet-related. Green, red, and black stools are the main suspicion-raising cases.
Bright red or black stools may indicate the presence of blood in stools. While this is not always a cause for alarm, in certain cases, it may be. If you see it happening over two to three bathroom visits, talk to your doctor. As far as green poop is concerned, loose watery stools characteristic of diarrhea is a tell-tale that you probably have diarrhea and it’s not just green food. Again, speak to your doctor and control your diet.