Everyone poops. And yet, it’s a taboo subject in all polite society, across all cultures around the world. Talking about poop- or anything potty related- is embarrassing, something to be relegated to movies with low-brow humor.
Or to mothers.
According to my sisters, once they had children, half their conversations revolved around poop. Either their own or their children’s.
You may as well get used to the subject now because we’re going to talk about pregnancy poops. More specifically: green poop and what it can mean.
So flush your embarrassment down the toilet because I’m about to give you the straight poop on green poop.
Why is my poop green?
Before we get to why your poop may be green, let’s first talk about what makes it its natural brown color.
Your liver secretes a bright yellow-green liquid called bile into your small intestine. Bile absorbs fats and fat-soluble vitamins. As your food progresses to your large intestines, bacteria changes the bile, and consequently the feces, to brown.
One cause of green poop is that your food has passed through your digestive tract too quickly before the bile can be broken down properly. Several unpleasant conditions can cause this to occur:
- Celiac disease. I’m a celiac, and let me tell you, this is no picnic. Before I stopped eating glutenous foods, going to the bathroom was an event, with a myriad of crappy side effects (pun intended). With celiac disease, your body cannot digest gluten, a protein found in certain grains. Gluten destroys the villi in your intestines, so your body can’t absorb nutrients. No fun. No fun at all.
- Giardia. This is an intestinal infection that can be contracted by ingesting contaminated food or water.
- Pseudomembranous colitis. That’s a mouthful, but basically, it’s the inflammation of the colon caused by the bacteria C. difficile outgrowing the other bacteria in your colon, throwing everything off balance. This overgrowth can be caused by certain antibiotics and other medications.
- Irritable bowel syndrome. The exact causes of IBS are unknown, but this condition affects the large intestine. The muscles that move food through the large intestine either contract too strongly and for longer than normal, which causes gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Ulcerative colitis. This is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract.
- Intestinal cancer. Tumors in the intestines may block the flow of food and affect digestion.
- Crohn’s disease. This disease affects a small part of the small intestine and the colon.
- Viral gastroenteritis. Otherwise known as the common stomach flu, this is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, or sharing food, towels, or utensils with someone who is infected.
- E. coli. A bacteria found in feces of humans and animals, E. coli can be contracted through ingesting contaminated food and water. One of the main culprits is undercooked ground beef. One of the strangest things I came across while living in the States was when restaurants would say that their burgers were cooked medium unless otherwise stated. What? That’s ridiculous! Americans! Cook your burgers!
- Salmonella food poisoning. Another bacteria that can be contracted through contaminated food and water. Eating undercooked chicken in the most common way to contract this nasty little bacterium.
Should you be worried?
You may be looking at the above list, which is full of all sorts of nasty conditions, and you may be panicking.
There are plenty of benign reasons for green poops which are far more common for us pregnant ladies to experience.
- Laxatives. You should always consult with your doctor before taking laxatives while pregnant. It’s pretty obvious that if you take laxatives, your food will pass through your digestive system quicker, giving bile less time to turn brown.
- Iron-rich foods or supplements. To stave off anemia, you may be eating more iron-rich foods. Also, prenatal pills contain iron. Iron can potentially tinge your poop green.
- Green foods. Green, leafy vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, can cause green poops. Being pregnant, you’re probably trying to incorporate more leafy greens as part of a healthy diet, so don’t be surprised when that translates into green poops. Foods that are not naturally green, but instead contain green food dye, also can cause green poop. Anyone who’s eaten blue bubble gum ice-cream knows what I’m talking about.
- Purple foods. Everyone knows grape popsicles are the best, but eating too many (or eating other foods with purple food coloring), can cause green poops.
So, before you start imaging the worst, take stock of what you’ve eaten over the last few days. There’s a good chance that your green poops are simply the result of a diet change.
However, if your green poops last more than two days or are coupled with diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, rectal bleeding, or dizziness, call your doctor as it could indicate a serious condition, or lead to dehydration.
What can you do?
If green poop seriously unnerves you, contact your doctor to rule out any serious conditions.
If you’re confident that your green poop is a result of diet, you may want to consider adjusting your diet to eliminate foods with green or purple food dyes. I wouldn’t, however, advise getting rid of those leafy greens, as they are super healthy for you.
You can also ask your doctor about switching to a prenatal pill with less iron.
As far as the bacterial and viral causes go, prevention is key. Make sure you wash and/or cook all your food thoroughly (no medium or rare burgers for you Yanks!)
Wash your hands before eating and definitely after using the washroom. Make sure your kids wash their hands often too, to prevent them from passing anything on to you.
One more thing.
While you may not be worried about your own green poops, you may freak out if your baby has green poops.
Before rushing your kid to the doctor, bear in mind that green poops are common in breastfed babies. Your child’s stool will gradually change from green, to yellow, to brown as more food is introduced. Keep an eye on its consistency and texture. If there’s a radical change there, contact your doctor.