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Green Stool in Adults

Updated on August 18, 2014

Green stool in adults is normally caused by intake of certain diets and thus a harmless condition. In rare cases however, green stool may also be a symptom of serious underlying intestinal or digestive conditions, especially if it occurs frequently. It is therefore essential for adults to seek medical attention whenever they experience elimination of green stools.

Causes of green stool in adults

Green stool in adults can be caused due to a variety of factors, some of which are listed below:

  • Reaction with bile: Bile is a yellowish green fluid produced by liver. It helps in digestion of food, mainly fats. During the passage of waste matter via the intestines, bile acts on it and the resultant chemical reaction changes the color of bile to brown. The passing of frequent stools may prevent the reaction from occurring resulting in green stools in adults.
  • Intake of supplements: Algae contain a lot of important vitamins, amino acids, and minerals and help boost the immune system. Hence, many people take algae supplements. However, they can cause green stool in adults due to their high fiber content. Another major cause is the intake of iron supplements. The body cannot absorb excess amounts of iron and produces iron salts to counter it. This can cause green stool.
  • Indigestion and/or malabsorption: Any kind of digestive system problem can cause indigestion, insufficient breakdown of fats, or malabsorption of nutrients from the food particles present in the digestive tract. These in turn may be accompanied by diarrhea or constipation.People with lactose intolerance may also suffer from a variety of digestive problems. All the above anomalies can cause green stool in adults.
  • Dietary intake: The stool color can change due to the kind of diet that is consumed. People who eat excess amounts of green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, spinach, etc., on a daily basis are more likely to suffer from elimination of green stools. Such a cause of green stool in adults is not considered abnormal. Similarly people who take excess beet in all salads may experience elimination of pinkish to dark red stools. Intake of varied food items such as cake-frosting, candies, and ice-cream, etc. tend to contain food dyes and artificial colors which can also change the color of stool. Some beverages may contain green artificial food colors which can result in green stool in adults.
  • Laxatives or suppositories: The use of laxatives or suppositories to alleviate constipation or stimulate a bowel movement can also cause green stool in adults. It may however be noted that such is not the case with all laxative use.
  • Food poisoning: Green stool in adults is one of the major symptoms of food poisoning, especially by bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. Food poisoning is quite rare; it typically occurs due to intake or stale food, meats that are somewhat raw or improperly cooked, and unpalatable dairy items. Individuals who experience green stools along with severe abdominal pain and fever for more than 3 days need to seek immediate medical care.
  • Intake of certain medications: Elimination of green stool after intake of some medications often occurs in children than adults. It is important to visit a doctor if it occurs after using an antibiotic.
  • Different diseases: Green stool in adults can also be caused by the presence of diseases like:
    • Celiac disease is characterized by intolerance to wheat or gluten. It causes inflammation of the intestinal walls, thereby severely affecting the digestive processes and leading to diarrhea and green stool in adults.
    • Ulcerative colitis is caused due to intestinal wall inflammation which can result in formation of clustered or scattered ulcers on the intestinal lining. When the large intestine gets affected by this disease, then it can result in diarrhea and green stools.
    • Crohn's disease is caused by ileum inflammation, which results in discomfort and pain in lower areas of the digestive tract, increased intestinal sensitivity, diarrhea, and green stools.
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a condition of the digestive system with no known causes. Among the host of digestive problems and abnormal symptoms, IBS can also cause green stool in adults.
    • Pseudomembranous colitis refers to colon inflammation which may occur after administration of antibiotics, or due to C. difficile bacterial overgrowth. It causes diarrhea with green stools.
    • Any kind of liver disease or abnormality may also result in green stool in adults.

Treatment of green stool in adults

Treatment of green stool in adults is dependent on the underlying cause. Most cases are harmless and often disappear on their own without treatment. However, if green stools persist for more than 3 days, or if it is accompanied by other adverse symptoms, then immediate medical attention is vital for proper diagnosis and effective treatment.

Daily exercises, intake of a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, avoiding or limiting the intake of alcohol, and quitting smoking can help maintain the health of the immune system and thus prevent dangerous instances of green stool in adults.


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