What The Color Of Your Poop Is Telling You, From A Gastroenterologist
Let's get one thing out of the way here: Everybody poops. It's just a fact of life. And whether you're comfortable talking about it or not, there's valuable information that you can gather about your health simply from looking at your poop. The color of your bowel movements can be indicative of a number of different things, from the contents of your diet to more serious concerns (that you’ll want to check with your doctors about, so paying attention can make a world of difference.
To set the record straight, gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, author of The Fiber-Fueled Cookbook, took to Instagram to decode what the color of your bowel movements is trying to tell you—are you ready to listen?
What the color of your poop means.
According to Bulsiewicz, brown bowel movements are normal and nothing to be concerned about. Of course there are varying shades of brown, but anything that falls under this umbrella term can be considered healthy and what you should strive for in the bathroom.
Your mind may go to the worst-case scenario if you're experiencing black bowel movements, but Bulsiewicz explains that there are actually a number of reasons why your poop may look this way. "It could be [certain] iron supplements, that you're using bismuth products; it could be licorice, or you could have eaten way too many blueberries," he notes. Evaluate your diet and see if any of the above reasons may be plausible before assuming you need medical attention.
Green poop could also mean a number of things, so it's important to listen to your body. It might point to digestion issues, "or way too many greens in your smoothies," Bulsiewicz jokes. We love greens as much as the next person (ahem, mindbodygreen), but if your poop is affected by the amount of veggies you're eating, that's something to note.
Yellow poop is generally not a great thing and can be indicative of an excess of fat in your diet, or fat not being optimally absorbed in the GI tract, so more is passing into stool. "I worry about fat with yellow, so it could be too much fat in your diet," he explains. Again, another thing to take note of but that's not to say you should demonize fat. Even increased gluten inputs or a diet with crazy high amounts of daily carotenoid intake (think: loads of carrot smoothies or lots of turmeric powder every day) may be to blame for yellow stool, so the best way to know where to point your finger is by taking a good hard look at your diet.
If your poop is red it could be a sign of the obvious, or it could simply be...beets. That's right, eating an excess of beets in your diet may change the color of your poop, so before assuming it's the worst-case scenario, think back to your meals from the last day. If they've included beets, that's the likely explanation behind your red stool. Of course, listening to your body and evaluating other health concerns will create a fuller picture.
"Color isn't the only thing that matters. I actually think the form and texture of the stool is the most important thing," adds Bulsiewicz. With that, don't jump to conclusions—even if your poop is black, you very well could be fine.
Nutrition scientist Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D, RDN shares yet another possibility: "Although I recommend steering clear of, or intentionally minimizing, consumption of artificial colors and synthetic dyes in food and supplement products, it's worth noting that food coloring can absolutely color your poop." Not restricted to just the red bowel movement category, Ferira adds that this phenomenon can manifest as, "red, green, blue, etc.—depends on which colorant or combination you consumed."
How to support healthy bowel movements.
Your diet is certainly a major contributor to the color and texture of your bowel movements, but there are other ways you can support your gut health and keep things moving in a healthy manner. Our personal favorite? mbg's probiotic+.
Working to support gut health and promote regularity within your bowel movements, probiotic+ is formulated with four targeted strains that specifically work to create a healthy bathroom schedule and allow you to actually feel your best.* Did we mention it also helps ease bloating?*
If you listen, your body is always trying to tell you something about your health. And one of the simplest to decode is the color of your bowel movements. Whether it's brown, red, or something in between, observing the color—along with the texture and frequency of your bathroom trips—can offer plenty of information about your overall well-being. Just remember, if you're concerned, it's always best to check with a health care professional.
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.