Do you have green poo? It could signal two underlying conditions, warns expert

Earlier this year, poo become a hot topic as it was propelled into the public’s consciousness by the late campaigner Dame Deborah James who encouraged people to check their poo. The reason for this is because if the poo is red or tarry it can be a sign of internal bleeding, and potentially bowel cancer. However, black and red poo are not the only colours one’s poo can turn. Green can also spell trouble.

Although it may sound unusual, some people do report their poo turning green. To find out what this green in the night could signify, spoke to Matron Cheryl Lythgoe of Benenden Health to find out more.

She said: “Poo can be green for many different reasons. Green poo could be related to your diet, particularly if your diet is rich in chlorophyll plants, that include the chemical that allows plants to make energy from the sun, such as spinach or kale.

“It could also be the result of food that moves through the bowel too quickly, sometimes when you have diarrhoea or other digestive issues such as Crohn’s or Coeliac disease. This means that bile can’t be broken down as quickly causing a greenish tinge in poo.”

However, it’s not just your diet or the speed at which you eat which can be the cause of the unusual colour change, man made objects can play their role too.

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According to Ms Lythgoe: “Some medications can cause green poo, as antibiotics for example can affect the good bacteria in the gut that stains your poo brown.”

Furthermore, nefarious and dangerous organisms can also cause the colour change as Ms Lythgoe explained: “Bacteria that cause food poisoning such as Salmonella, and viruses such as Norovirus can also be responsible for green poo.”

Symptoms of food poisoning include:
• Feeling sick (nausea)
• Diarrhoea being sick (vomiting)
• Stomach cramps
• A high temperature of 38C or above
• Feeling generally unwell.

As to when to see your GP, Lythgoe recommended: “If you have symptoms of green poo with other symptoms such as pain, recurring diarrhoea or vomiting that doesn’t improve. If you have any of these symptoms, please make an appointment with your health care provider right away.”


What if my poo is red?

Before going into the other reasons for red poo, it is important to follow NHS guidance and to remember not to self-diagnose.

If your poo is red, this is the sign of rectal bleeding. While blood in your poo is a sign of bowel cancer, this isn’t always the case.

The reason for this is because it often depends on the shade of the red in question.

If, for example, there is bright red blood on toilet paper, streaks in your poo, or pink toilet water, the NHS says it could be:
• Piles
• An anal fissure
• An STI
• Side effect of blood thinning medication.

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However, if your poo looks very dark or even black, it could be a sign of something more serious such as bowel cancer, a stomach ulcer, diverticular disease, or diverticulitis.

If you also experience a change in bowel habit lasting longer than three weeks and abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating after eating it could be bowel cancer.

While unnerving, the NHS says: “Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.”

However, if you are concerned, it is important to see your GP as soon as possible so all potentially serious conditions can be ruled out.

What happens at your GP appointment?

At your appointment, the GP may carry out a rectal examination and examine your abdomen for any lumps and sensitive areas such as pain.

The NHS adds: “The GP may also check your blood to see if you have iron deficiency anaemia. Although most people with bowel cancer do not have symptoms of anaemia, they may lack iron as a result of bleeding from the cancer.

“If you have anaemia or symptoms of bowel cancer and have not noticed any signs of bleeding from your bottom, the GP may ask you to do a test where a small sample of your poo is sent to a lab.

“Your poo will be checked for tiny amounts of blood, which could be a sign of bowel cancer.”

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