Dark green stool typically occurs when the body has come into contact with a substance that is having a significant effect on the digestive system. On some occasions this is a perfectly harmless reaction to a nutrient or chemical in your food, but it can also be a sign that your body is having a negative reaction to something that has been ingested. When green stool appears it is important to pay attention to other symptoms that might be present to determine if medical care is necessary. Frequent occurrences of green stool should also be reported to your doctor to ensure that an infection is not present.
Causes of Dark Green Stool
Excessive intake of leafy vegetables, iron or dyes: an excessive amount of leafy green vegetables in the diet can cause the stool to turn a dark green color. Spinach, lettuce, broccoli or even peas can cause discoloration in the stool. This is not a dangerous condition, but rather this is a sign that your body is taking in more nutrients than it can use. Consuming iron supplements can have a similar effect on the body. It can either cause the stool to become green or very dark colored. Strong food colorings or enriched foods can cause the body to emit dark green stool. Some people are more sensitive to these dyes, making them more likely to develop colored stool when they consume prepackaged foods containing these ingredients.
Medications: certain medications such as laxatives or antibiotics can cause the stool to turn a dark green color. Laxatives cause digested food to move through the system more quickly, causing nutrients to be absorbed less effectively. Antibiotics may kill off some of the bacteria that naturally grow in the digestive system which can cause the stool to turn green as it is expelled. This side effect should become limited or will be eliminated all-together as your body becomes used to the medication, or once you stop using your medication.
Infants experiencing dark green stool may be suffering from a lack of intestinal bacteria. If an infant is breast-fed without being given formula it may not have developed bacteria in their digestive system which would normally help break down food. If your infant has only been feeding on one side, they may be missing the breast milk that has a high fat content. This milk assists in the digestion of the breast milk, and its absence can often result in dark green stool. Children who have been prescribed a clear liquid diet may also develop green or watery stools as their body reacts to the lack of solid food in their diet.
Severe diarrhea: those suffering from severe diarrhea may develop dark green stool. This is because your food is not being broken down properly due to the digestive distress you are experiencing and the malabsorption of the nutrients in the food you have eaten. Your diarrhea may also be caused by a bacterial infection in the digestive tract. This can be caused by an excessive amount of the natural bacterial colonies in your digestive system, or exposure to dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause the stool to become a dark green color during an attack. Ulcerative colitis may cause a similar reaction. Digestive discomfort, especially after eating certain foods such as spicy foods or those that are high in gluten can be additional signs that you are suffering from one of these conditions. See your doctor if you suspect that you are suffering from IBS or colitis so you can get the necessary treatment to minimize your risk of injury.
Diagnosis and Treatments of Dark Green Stool
In most cases, you will not need to seek medical attention for your discolored stool. However, if you experience dark green stool for several days, your stool appears to have mucus or blood in the stool, or the stool is very watery then you may need to seek medical attention. Severe conditions may also be accompanied by rectal pain, bouts of constipation, gassiness, fever, indigestion or loss of appetite. Pay attention to your symptoms and describe them carefully to your doctor to help them narrow down your condition.
If you require medical intervention for your dark green stool, your doctor will perform a number of tests to determine the cause of the problem. Your doctor will usually ask for a stool sample to check for bacteria or contaminants which may be affecting your digestive system. Blood tests may also be necessary to determine if you are suffering from an infection. If your symptoms are severe you may require an X-ray or a colonoscopy to help determine if you are suffering from an ongoing condition such as IBS.
When you are suffering from any type of discoloration in your stool it is important to stay hydrated. This will help your body return to your normal bowel habit more quickly. It will also help ensure that you do not become dehydrated or ill during your illness. If your symptoms are ongoing your doctor may recommend changes in your diet to help alleviate your discomfort. Medication may also be necessary if you are suffering from a bacterial infection or digestive disorder that is causing ongoing discomfort.