You may think that poop is always brown. But you’d be wrong! The truth is that poop can vary in colour, size, shape and smell, as well as whether it’s soft or hard.
Poop can be brown, black, red, yellow, white and even green – and it can be light or dark shades of these colours. So if poop can look so different, how do you know if your poop is normal?
Read on to learn what different-coloured poop might mean, and when to see a doctor.
What does normal poop look like?
Usually, poop is brown in colour because it contains a chemical called bilirubin, which is made by your red blood cells. Bilirubin mixes with bile – a greenish-yellow sticky fluid that helps your body digest food and get rid of waste – to give your poop that brown shade.
But poop isn’t always brown, and that doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong. For example, it can change colour because of things you eat.
If your poop looks a different colour, the first thing to ask yourself is: “Have I been eating colourful foods?” Foods such as carrots, spinach, beetroot and liquorice can all affect the colour of your poop.
But changes in your poop can also give helpful hints about what’s going on inside your body, and a change in colour can sometimes be a sign of something more serious.
Is yellow poop normal?
Yellow poop isn’t always something to be worried about. Sometimes, your poop can look yellow if your diet is high in fat. But it could be a sign of one of these conditions:
- coeliac disease, where your body reacts badly to eating gluten.
- liver and gallbladder problems, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis or gallstones, which affect the amount of bile available to make poop
- Problems with the pancreas, such as chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer
- high levels of bilirubin. This has many causes including an inherited disorder causing episodes of high bilirubin levels (Gilbert’s syndrome)
- an infection of the digestive system called giardiasis, which is caused by a parasite found in food and water
Stress and anxiety can also make your poop look yellow, because they can make you digest your food quicker. You might want to try these tips on how to deal with stress.
See your doctor if you still have yellow poop after a few days or you’re also getting other symptoms.
Is green poop normal?
Sometimes, normal brown poop has streaks of green in it. This isn’t always something to be worried about – it could well be something you ate, such as spinach or broccoli.
However, other things can also make your poop turn green, including:
- too much bile. Sometimes, if you have diarrhoea or a stomach ache, your body doesn’t break down bile properly, so you’ll see it in your poop
- bacteria or a virus, such as salmonella or norovirus, or a parasite
- digestive system conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),
- using too many laxatives
- antibiotics, which can upset the normal balance of bacteria in your gut. Eating probiotics may help
- certain other medications
Make an appointment with your doctor if your green poop lasts for more than a few days, or you get any other symptoms.
Is white/grey poop normal?
Having pale poop once in a while is probably not a cause for concern, but if you get it a lot, it may be a sign of a serious illness.
While some medications can cause pale poop, you should always see your doctor if you’re getting pale, white or grey poop, so they can check for any health issues.
Is black poop normal?
Some medicines, such as antacids or iron supplements, can make your poop look black or tar-like.
However, if you’re getting black poop, or even small bits of black in your poop, it can also be a sign that you’re bleeding somewhere. This can be caused by an ulcer or stomach irritation or a more serious condition, such as a blockage, blood or circulation disorder, or cancer.
Always tell your doctor straight away if you’re having black, tar-like poop.
Is red poop normal?
What can make poop red? It may be a sign of bleeding somewhere in your digestive system. This can be caused by:
- piles (haemorrhoids)
- inflammatory bowel disease
- a digestive condition called diverticulitis
- ulcerative colitis
- polyps or growths – which can be harmless or cancerous
Other causes include:
- an anal tear (anal fissure)
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- a side effect of blood-thinning medication
Although it doesn’t always mean there’s a serious problem, see your doctor right away if you’ve been getting red or bloody poop.
- poop isn’t always brown – it can be black, red, yellow, white or green
- your poop may change colour after you eat colourful foods, but it can also be a sign of something else going on inside your body
- if your poop is green or yellow, see your doctor if it doesn’t go away after a few days
- if your poop is white, black or red, see your doctor straight away, as it could be a sign of a serious condition that needs attention