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What Colour should poop be?

Poop color is an important indicator of digestive health. The color of your stool provides insight into what is happening inside your gastrointestinal tract and can help identify potential issues. In this article, we will explore the different colors poop can be, what they mean, and when to see a doctor about unusual stool color.

What Determines Poop Color?

The color of your poop depends on a few key factors:

  • Diet – What you eat and drink impacts the color. Foods like beets or blueberries can turn poop red or purple. Green leafy veggies can make it green.
  • Bile – This fluid is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps break down fats and gives poop its brown color. Less bile output can make stool lighter.
  • Transit time – How quickly food moves through the digestive tract affects color. Faster transit times result in lighter brown stool.
  • Health conditions – Issues like infections, bleeding, or liver disease can alter poop color.
  • Medications – Certain supplements, antibiotics, or medicines may change stool color.

Normal Poop Colors

Here are the most common healthy poop colors:


A regular brown color is considered normal for poop. This indicates the stool passed through the digestive tract at a normal pace and bile was able to break it down and give it the typical brown hue.


Stool that is green or greenish in color is also considered normal. Green poop is typically caused by eating large amounts of leafy greens, green foods, or foods with green food coloring. It is not cause for concern.

Yellow or Pale Brown

Stool that is yellow, pale brown or tan may be a sign of excess fat in the stool. It could also indicate fast transit time meaning food passed rapidly through the intestines. This color variation is usually normal.

Black or Very Dark

Poop that appears black or very dark does not always signify a health problem. It can occur after eating black licorice, blueberries, blood sausage, or taking iron supplements or Pepto-Bismol which contain bismuth that colors the stool black.

Abnormal Poop Colors

While many poop colors are normal, some unusual colors may be a sign something is not right. Abnormal colors to watch for include:

White or Clay-Colored

Stool that is white, pale, clay, or grayish is not normal. This indicates a lack of bile reaching the stool to give it the typical brown color. It can signify a bile duct obstruction, problem with the pancreas, liver disease, or malabsorption issue.


A brighter yellow stool also is not normal. This is typically a sign of excess fat in the stool from malabsorption, celiac disease, or infection like giardiasis.


Red stool is most commonly caused by blood in the stool. Sources of bleeding include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, ulcers, colon polyps, colon cancer, or stomach ulcers. Red stool can also occur after eating beets.


Orange stool is abnormal and usually indicates some type of gastrointestinal bleeding. Blood from higher up in the digestive tract, like the stomach, will appear darker and more red, while blood lower down the tract will look orange or yellow.


A green color that is not from food or supplements can indicate rapid transit time, infection like salmonella, or chronic pancreatitis causing malabsorption of fats and bile. A bright or dark green poop can signify bile issues.

Black or Dark Red

If stool appears black or dark red without eating foods that cause this color change, it indicates bleeding in the upper GI tract. Sources include ulcers, cancers, or varices associated with liver disease.

When to See a Doctor

While an occasional abnormal poop color may not be concerning, you should contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Persistent abnormal stool color
  • White, gray, or pale stool
  • Red, maroon, or black stool
  • Yellow or greasy stool
  • New onset diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood visible in the stool
  • Mucus or pus in the stool
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Ongoing abdominal pain or discomfort

Evaluation of abnormal stool color often starts with questions about your medical history and recent diet. Your doctor may order blood work, stool sample tests, a colonoscopy, endoscopy, CT scan, or other imaging to check for potential causes.

Tips for Checking Poop Color

Here are some tips when monitoring poop color:

  • Check color in good lighting soon after using the bathroom.
  • Color can vary across the stool, so look at different areas.
  • Flush toilet water colors poop, so check color before flushing.
  • Compare to poop color chart if concerned.
  • Note if blood is visible – this always warrants seeing a doctor.
  • Track changes in color over time.

Poop Color Chart

This poop color chart identifies common colors and what they typically mean:

Poop Color Common Causes Indication
Brown Normal diet and bile output Healthy / Normal
Green Leafy greens, green foods, green dye, iron supplements Usually normal
Yellow/Pale Brown Rapid transit time, excess fat Usually normal
White/Gray Liver or bile duct issue Abnormal – see doctor
Red Foods like beets, bleeding Abnormal if bloody – see doctor
Black Iron supplements, bismuth medicines Usually normal
Orange Gastrointestinal bleeding Abnormal – see doctor
Yellow Infection, fat malabsorption Abnormal – see doctor

When to Seek Emergency Care

While abnormal poop color often does not require emergency care, some symptoms along with color changes do warrant prompt medical attention. Seek emergency treatment if you experience:

  • Blood in stool along with dizziness, weakness, abdominal pain
  • Black, tarry stool suggesting gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stool color change along with confusion or slurred speech
  • Inability to stand due to feeling faint after bowel movement
  • High fever, chills, or bloody diarrhea indicating infection
  • Recent injury to abdomen along with bruising around umbilicus and discolored stool

Rapid onset of symptoms like these combined with abnormal poop color can signify a medical emergency needing immediate treatment.

Preventing Abnormal Poop Colors

While some stool color variations are normal or dietary-related, others can signal underlying health issues. Taking steps to maintain digestive health can help prevent abnormal poop colors. Recommendations include:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  • Eat more fiber – aim for 25-30 grams daily
  • Take probiotic supplements
  • Limit greasy, fried, processed foods
  • Quit smoking which increases GI issues
  • Follow up on abnormal test results
  • Get colon polyps or hemorrhoids removed

Tracking Your Poop

Paying attention to your poop color and consistency offers insight into your intestinal health. Monitoring and tracking changes over time can help identify problems early before they become serious. Some tips for tracking bowel movements include:

  • Use poop color chart to identify shades
  • Note color and consistency in journal app
  • Track related symptoms like diarrhea or constipation
  • Take pictures to show doctors if concerned
  • List related dietary factors
  • Mark onset dates of abnormal changes

Tools like a poop journal, tracking app, or Bristol Stool Chart can help you monitor color and catch problems. This information aids doctors in determining potential causes if you need medical evaluation.

Common Questions about Poop Color

What does it mean if poop is yellow?

Yellow stool is typically a sign of excess fat in the stool. This fat malabsorption is often caused by infections like giardia, celiac disease, or other malabsorption disorders. Certain medications and supplements can also contribute to fatty yellow stool.

What causes green poop in toddlers?

Green poop is common in babies and toddlers. It is usually caused by the increased intake of green foods when starting solids. Iron in formula or breastmilk can also turn poop green. Unless accompanied by diarrhea, green stool in toddlers is not concerning.

Can anxiety cause yellow stool?

Anxiety itself does not cause yellow stool. But chronic stress and anxiety can contribute to digestive issues that lead to yellow stool. These include diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and bloating which can interfere with normal digestive processes and liver bile secretion.

What does it mean when your poop is consistently pale?

Consistently pale or clay-colored stool indicates a lack of bile reaching the intestines. This is typically caused by obstruction of bile ducts by gallstones, damage to bile ducts, or liver diseases like hepatitis preventing bile production and release.

Is bright red blood in stool always serious?

Bright red blood mixed with or coating stool is considered rectal bleeding. While not always serious, it warrants medical evaluation. Common causes are hemorrhoids and anal fissures, but more serious conditions can cause rectal bleeding including cancer, polyps, colitis, and diverticulitis.

Why is my infant’s poop dark green?

Dark or bright green poop in infants is usually normal, especially when starting solid foods. Introducing greens, green veggies, and green iron-fortified cereals and juices commonly cause dark green baby poop. It is rarely cause for concern if the baby is acting normally otherwise.

What color poop is bad?

Poop colors that are considered abnormal and a potential sign of problems include: white or clay-colored, bright red, maroon, black, bloody, green, yellow, and greasy or shiny stool. Seeing a doctor for evaluation is recommended if abnormal stool color persists.

How can I make my poop normal color?

To help return poop to a normal brown color, try increasing fiber intake, staying hydrated, limiting fatty foods, reducing stress, and exercising regularly. Check for blood and see a doctor if abnormal color persists despite lifestyle and dietary changes.


Poop color provides important insight into digestive health. While many colors are normal and caused by foods or dietary factors, unusual persistently abnormal colors can signify underlying health issues needing medical attention. Paying attention to changes in stool color and consistency allows problems to be caught early. Track your poop color, and when in doubt, consult a doctor for evaluation and peace of mind.