- Causes of Green Poop
- What Is Green Poop?
- Colon Cancer Poop
- Signs and Symptoms
- Stages and Treatment
Often, poop is green simply because you ate a green food like kale or spinach, or something containing food dyes. Some medicines and supplements can also change the color of your poop. There are other possible causes, however, like infections or underlying issues such as Crohn's disease.
What is green poop?
Green poop is not unusual. In addition to eating green foods, you can get green poop as a result of diarrhea. In that case, the green color is from a buildup of bile when food doesn't have enough time to break down in your digestive tract.
If you're concerned that your green poop is not normal, some signs to watch out for are green poop that smells worse than usual, lasts for several days, or doesn't improve after more than 48 hours when you've taken problem foods out of your diet.
Causes of green poop include:
- Eating leafy greens like kale or spinach
- Eating foods with dyes
- Taking supplements like iron
- Taking medicines like antibiotics
- Food sensitivities
- Infections from parasites, viruses, or bacteria
- Underlying digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis
Diagnosis for green poop
Diagnosing green poop can involve:
- Your doctor reviewing your medical history
- A physical exam
- Imaging procedures like a CT scan or colonoscopy
- Checking stool samples for irregularities
- Blood testing for allergies or other issues like celiac disease
Your doctor may need to determine whether your green poop is a sign of a digestive disorder. Tests for digestive disorders include:
Treatments for green poop
If your green poop is accompanied by other symptoms, you'll want to reach out to your doctor. See your doctor if:
- You have a change in poop color that isn't associated with a change in diet.
- Your diarrhea lasts for a long time.
- Your green poop is chronic (happens for a long period of time — for several weeks).
- You have accompanying symptoms like severe stomach cramping.
Treatments for disorders related to green poop include:
- For bacterial infections, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
- Treating IBS occasionally involves medication. For IBS marked by diarrhea, your doctor may prescribe diarrhea-decreasing medications like loperamide (Imodium). For both constipation-dominant and diarrhea-dominant IBS, antidepressants or antispasmodics — medications to reduce spasms that can cause cramps — might help.
- Crohn's disease may also be treated by a variety of medications.
- For celiac disease, you'll need to follow a gluten-free diet. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian.
- Similarly, IBS treatments include diet changes and stress-relief methods.
- Like other digestive disorders, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis usually require changes to your diet.
In some circumstances, digestive diseases like Crohn's disease will require surgery. Up to 75% of people diagnosed with Crohn's disease need surgery to resolve their symptoms.
Possible complications from treatments
As with every treatment program, there are potential side effects. You'll want to weigh the risks and benefits with your doctor. Some medications include fillers that contain gluten, so they would be a problem for people with celiac disease. Also, if you take multiple medications, they could interact with each other in an unhealthy way.
Surgery can also have complications. People with Crohn's disease often have symptoms reappear after only a few years. Up to 85% of Crohn's patients experience a recurrence after only three years.
What does colon cancer poop look like?
- Black poop is a red flag for cancer of the bowel. Blood from in the bowel becomes dark red or black and can make poop stools look like tar. Such poop needs to be investigated further.
- Poop which is bright red may be a sign of colon cancer. Red poop may be seen in cancers of the lower intestine.
- Stools as thin as a pencil may also need investigation.
What are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?
Typically, symptoms do not show up in the early stages of the disease. Apart from blood in stools or rectal bleeding, patients with colon cancer or rectal cancer may experience other symptoms including:
- Change in bowel habits: Frequent episodes of diarrhea or constipation may indicate problem in the intestine. Sometimes, patients may not be able to empty the bowels or poop may be narrower than usual.
- Diarrhea: If you notice diarrhea for more than 3 days, it is a sign of concern.
- Constipation: If you have constipation for more than 2 weeks, you should see your doctor.
- Blood in stools: One of the distressing symptoms of colon cancer is bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool. The stool might look dark brown or black due to the presence of blood. There could be rectal bleeding or changes in the stool appearance. Blood in the stool can be alarming. Hemorrhoids and fissures can also cause a small amount of blood in the stool. If you notice any blood in the stool, immediately consult your physician. Besides, stool appearance and color can be a good indicator of your overall health.
- Abdominal pain or bloating: Stomach bloating, distention, cramps, or pain in the abdominal or bowel region may be symptoms of colon or rectal cancer. A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty could indicate changes in your colon, preventing a complete bowel evacuation. As a result, you may feel bloated or have a constant feeling of discomfort.
- Unexplained weight loss: Sudden loss of weight due to changes in bowel habits is one of the symptoms of colon cancer. If you start dropping weight for no apparent reason or your energy level drops extremely, you should contact your physician for evaluation.
- Loss of appetite: Loss of appetite is a cause for concern and needs to be checked.
- Weakness and anemia: Colon cancer can cause anemia, which can make you feel tired or fatigued all the time. It can also cause pale skin. Anemia can be a sign of internal bleeding.
- Anemia: Frequent loss of blood through anus and poop may make the patient anemic. Any newly diagnosed anemia in a person older than 60 years must be investigated further.
Symptoms vary depending on the tumor location, type of tumor, the extent of spread, and complications. For example:
- Right side: If the tumor starts in the right-hand side of the colon, blockage usually occurs in the later stages. This is because the space on the left side of the colon is large with comparatively thin walls, and the material that passes through this is liquid. The symptoms include feeling weak or tired because of severe loss of blood.
- Left side: If the tumor starts in the left-hand side of the colon, it may cause significant blockage because the space inside the colon is smaller and the material that passes through it is semi-solid. The symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, cramp-like stomach pain, and stool streaked or mixed with blood.
Colon cancer doesn’t appear suddenly. It may start as a polyp or a small ulcer that may not cause symptoms. Polyps, if left untreated, can lead to colon cancer. Many of the symptoms of colon cancer are similar to those of:
- Infections (loose stools)
- Hemorrhoids (bloody stools)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (flatulence, cramps, weight loss)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain)
If you have the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor to confirm a diagnosis.
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How is colon cancer treated at different stages?
Treatment for colon cancer is based largely on the extent of cancer:
- Stage 0: In this stage, colon cancers have not grown beyond the inner lining of the colon. Surgery is performed to take out the tumor only. In most cases, this can be done by removing the polyp or taking out the area with cancer through colonoscopy (local excision through a diagnostic tube).
- Stage I: In stage I, colon cancers may have grown deeper into the layers of the colon wall, but they have not spread outside the colon wall or into the nearby lymph nodes. If cancer in the polyp is of high grade, more extensive surgery might be recommended. Patient might also be advised to have more surgeries if the polyp cannot be removed completely or if the tumor has seeded to multiple sites locally. Surgery to remove the section of colon that has cancer and nearby lymph nodes is the standard treatment.
- Stage II: In stage II, colon cancers might have grown through the wall of the colon and invaded into nearby tissues, but they may have not spread to the lymph nodes. Surgery to remove the section of the colon containing cancer (partial colectomy) along with nearby lymph nodes may be the only treatment needed. Sometimes, doctor may also recommend adjuvant chemotherapy (chemo after surgery) if cancer has a higher risk of coming back.
- Stage III: In stage III, colon cancers may have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but they have not yet spread to other parts of the body. Surgery to remove the section of the colon with cancer (partial colectomy) along with nearby lymph nodes, followed by adjuvant chemo, is the standard treatment for this stage. Radiation therapy and/or chemo may be options for people who aren’t healthy enough for surgery.
- Stage IV: Stage IV colon cancers may have spread from the colon to distant organs and tissues. Colon cancer most often spreads to the liver, but it can also spread to other organs like the lungs and sometimes brain or to distant lymph nodes. In most cases, surgery is unlikely to cure these cancers. But if there are only a few small areas of cancer spread (metastases) in the liver or lungs and they can be removed along with the colon cancer, surgery may help patient live longer. Chemotherapy is also typically given before and/or after surgery to shrink the size of tumor and slow down the recurrence chances.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation: "Crohn's Disease Treatment Options."
Gastroenterology: "Postoperative recurrence of Crohn's disease: The enemy is within the fecal stream."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Soothing solutions for irritable bowel syndrome."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Digestive Diagnostic Procedures."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Medicines and the Digestive System."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Treatment for Celiac Disease."
National Jewish Health: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)."
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children: "Green Poop."
UC San Diego Health: "End Results: What color is your poop and other pressing fecal matters."
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