What the Colour of Your Poo Says About You

Flickr: Margot Wolf

When you have a bowel movement, your body is providing you with incredible insight as to the state of your health and digestion. If you don’t regularly check the toilet bowl after having a bowel movement then you should! Please note: “stools”, “crap”, “bowel movements”, “BMs” all refer to “POOP”. Here’s what you need to know:

Causes of black-coloured poop:

  • iron supplements or foods high in iron
  • Pepto-Bismol or other meds with bismuth
  • acidified blood (blood from higher in the digestive tract)
  • Tylenol and other pain meds
  • black licorice
  • large amounts of spinach or other greens
  • blueberries
  • other foods dark in color

Causes of red-coloured poop:

Causes of pale or clay-coloured poop:

  • a good indication you need to do a liver cleanse
  • liver disease or congestion (such as hepatitis or obstruction of bile ducts)
  • antacids containing aluminum hydroxide
  • barium from a recent barium enema test

Causes of green-coloured poop:

  • large amounts of green, leafy vegetables (ya! for you)
  • green or purple artificial coloring (popsicles, Kool-Aid, gelatin)
  • iron supplements
  • infectious gastroenteritis
  • rapid bowel transit from coffee or decreased colonic transit time (ie. constipation)

Causes of orange-coloured poop:

  • some medications (such as beta-carotene and Rifampen)
  • foods high in beta-carotene: carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, winter squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and mangoes. you would have to eat a heck of a lot of orange foods for this to occur

Causes of undigested food particles in your poop:

  • Not chewing enough (remember your stomach does not have teeth!) and eating too fast
  • Eating food that cannot be digested ie. corn, peanuts etc
  • Consuming too many stimulants, forcing the evacuation of food from your gut before it’s actually ready ie. caffeine containing beverages

Ideal poop colour is chestnut brown.


Changes in the color, consistency, and frequency of your bowel movements is completely normal from time to time. Your diet and level of stress will immediately impact your digestion which will be visible going out the other end. As well, this advice is NOT meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor or qualified practitioner for advice or getting your poop in order.



National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Bleeding in the Digestive Tract.” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. November 2004. 22 Apr 2009.

A.D.A.M. Health Illustrated Encyclopedia. “Bloody or tarry stools.” A.D.A.M. 25 July 2007. 22 Apr 2009.

A.D.A.M. Health Illustrated Encyclopedia. “Stools – pale or clay-colored.” A.D.A.M. 8 Aug 2008. 23 Apr 2009.

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  1. angepeets Mar 6, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    I’ve been looking forward to this post! I often find my morning oats pass right through me because I scarf them down in the 10 minutes I have before my 8 month old starts fussing!
    Looking forward to meeting you tomorrow at your RAW cooking class

    • joyousness Mar 6, 2010 at 6:35 am #

      Hey! That’s great, so glad you are coming to the class tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone!

  2. Jane Mar 6, 2010 at 6:27 am #

    Love this article. I am always too embarrassed to ask my doctor about these sorts of things. So what do you suggest one do to improve the health of their BM’s if they are not the right colour?

    • joyousness Mar 6, 2010 at 6:35 am #

      Thanks Jane! Don’t worry, most people feel the same as you. There are MANY things one can do to improve their digestion and it’s truly one of the most important aspects of human health. Good health stems from a clean gut which means good BM’s. Diet, exercise and limiting stress are all very critical. While I realize that’s a pretty broad response, everyone is different and it’s not until I do a nutritional assessment/intake on a client that I can properly advise and recommend what to eliminate and add to your diet. So while I would love to give recos over my blog, I’m a bit hesitant because everyone is different. However, I won’t leave you hanging, I suggest you peruse my blog and there are a plethora of tips for good digestion, everything from chewing slowly, to avoiding drinking liquids while eating food. Hope that helps!

      • jane Mar 6, 2010 at 6:45 am #

        Thanks Joy. I will get in touch as I definitley need some help.

  3. marty Mar 6, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    I have noticed my BM’s are often pale and wimpy looking after a night of drinking beer. While I realize this is not healthy, I’m a guy – I like beer!

    • joyousness Mar 6, 2010 at 6:50 am #

      Sounds like you need to give your liver some love Marty :) Your liver is the primary organ for detoxifying alcohol, as I’m sure you are aware. The fact that your stools are pale and “wimpy” looking may very well be related to your night of drinking. I have a liver loving detox package you should check out! Visit my services page. As well, cutting back on drinking is obviously going to improve your health immensely. Hope that helps!

  4. aaronjreid Mar 7, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    Speaking from experience, yes, eating beets will turn your poo a deep red coulour, but if you eat a whole lot of beets, your urine will also turn red which I didn’t know before it happened…

  5. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday Mar 8, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    My green smoothie weekends lead to green poop, which, I think, is the coolest thing ever!

  6. Shunyo Mar 13, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    Lol , great post and comments too. BM is a very important indicator of our situation and often ignored one !

  7. The Dame Mar 30, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    I also heard there is a difference if they sink or swim, whats that about?

    • joyousness Mar 31, 2010 at 3:40 am #

      Yes, you want it to sink. Floaters are usually a sign that you are not properly breaking down fat. However, it’s hard to say without doing a proper wellness intake evaluation. That is the most common cause.

  8. Miranda @ Mirandasjeans Jun 19, 2010 at 3:43 am #

    I have def taken notice after eating beats and lots of spinach or kale that’s fore sure! Great article!

  9. drake Jul 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Thanks for the article, and a big thank you for not posting any pictures! now to eat some beets…

  10. Lara Delecheneau Jan 13, 2013 at 8:36 am #


    • Joy McCarthy Jan 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      HAHA! I’m glad you are so excited!!!

  11. Sue Aug 21, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    I’m been feeling sick for 2 weeks and my poo is very pale and floats, I have butterflies in my stomach, I just feel unwell, please can you help.?

  12. Claire Dec 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    So I ate nothing but pre sliced carrots and drank coffee since 2pm yesterday and it’s now 11am. I probably had a third of the bag because I grabbed it to go to work. Is this enough to turn my poop orange? It was probably 1-2 cups.. and it was a darker orange

    • Joy McCarthy Dec 30, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      It’s tough to say, but that could be the cause. I would suggest you try some delicious recipes here!


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