Parenthood comes with plenty of cuddles, laughter, and happiness – along with its fair share of worries. For instance, your baby or your toddler suddenly excreting piles of green poop. That can be positively unsettling.
However, believe it or not, green poop in children, especially when they’re young, is actually perfectly natural and is not indicative of any serious intestinal problems. Learning about the causes of green stool in your children will prevent you from switching to panic mode and will help you take better control of the situation at hand.
Causes Of Green Stool In Infants
Occasional cases of green poop in your infant’s diapers could have quite a few causes.
During the first few days of their life, newborn babies are very likely to pass meconium or stool that is thick and black in color, with a hint of dark green to it. Meconium is an aggregate of all the things that the fetus consumed while it was still in the womb; these include bile, amniotic fluid, water, mucus, and epithelial cells. This sterile, odorless stool will eventually turn yellow and green after the first 3 to 4 days, once the newborn baby has begun to be breastfed.
2. Your Diet
If you’re eating plenty of green vegetables or foods such as sodas or sports drinks that contain green food coloring, this can change the color of your breast milk, and hence, the color of your breastfeeding infant’s stool.
3. Your Infant’s Diet
Your infant is gradually going to grow bigger and will start eating solid foods. If you’re introducing green colored foods and vegetables such as peas, spinach, or beans green poop may strike again. Introducing foods like beans, peas, and spinach, be it in pureed or solid form, can make your infant’s poop turn green.
If you observe your infant’s poop, you may notice slimy, glistening green colored streaks; these indicate the presence of mucus. It is commonly suggested that this occurs because your infant is drooling excessively or teething. If it persists, consult your pediatrician right away for it could be a sign of infection or a symptom of some other illness.
5. Your Infant Has Fallen Sick
Sometimes, green stool is an indication of a virus or a stomach bug in your infant, whether they are being fed breast milk or baby formula. This can have a significant impact on both the color and consistency of their stools, even more so if they have diarrhea.
6. Your Infant Is Allergic or Sensitive
Infants may pass green colored, mucus-like stools because of sensitivity to something in the mother’s diet, though this is quite rare. They may even be sensitive to a drug that you’re taking. In such cases, the passing of green stool with mucus is usually accompanied by symptoms such as skin, or breathing issues. This may also occur in older babies when new foods are introduced in their diet.
7. Oversupply Or Imbalance Of Foremilk/Hindmilk
The thinner milk that is secreted at the beginning of a feeding is termed as foremilk. It is higher in lactose and lower in fat than the thicker, creamier hindmilk that comes towards the end of a feeding.
An oversupply of breast milk or a forceful letdown reflex may lead to your baby consuming more foremilk than hindmilk. This means that your infant fills up on the foremilk leading to an imbalance between the lactose and the fat intake. Your infant’s system may digest the milk very quickly, which could result in green, frothy, or watery stool. This could also happen if you switch your infant to the other breast before fully draining the milk in the first breast.
It is also believed that too much of lactose may also lead to bloatedness, gas, and discomfort for your infant.
Passing this kind of green stool isn’t something to be worried about as long as your infant is healthy, happy, and gaining weight at a normal pace. The best way to solve this issue of green stool is to allow your infant to nurse on one breast long enough to ingest the higher fat milk.
Causes Of Green Stool In Toddlers And Older Children
Sometimes, toddlers and older children may also pass green stool. While it’s quite uncommon, it’s usually not a cause for concern for this is usually temporary. Some of the reasons for passing green stool could be as follows.
Children’s digestive systems function more quickly than adults’, so it’s perfectly normal to see various undigested bits of food and colorful remains from snacks and meals. Eating a little too many strawberries, for instance, can cause red colored stool. Drinking large quantities of artificially flavored orange drink can result in reddish-orange stools that are so vividly colored, you may panic thinking you’re seeing blood, but in reality, it’s just the artificial orange coloring.
Similarly, green stools could be the result of eating lots of leafy green vegetables. Surprisingly, eating or drinking and eating foods that contain dark purple or blue food coloring may also lead to green stools in children. To gauge if dietary causes are responsible for your child’s green stools, simply limit the intake of artificially colored and green foods for a few days.
2. Digestive Problems
Bile is a juice secreted by the liver that helps aid in the process of digestion. During normal digestion, bile starts off as being green in color, turning slowly to yellow and then turns to brown during the final stages.
Digestive problems may lead to bile passing too quickly through the intestines, thus giving no time from the bile to transition from green to yellow to brown, thus triggering the formation of green stools.
A few disorders that may be responsible for shortened bowel transit time include:
- Thyrotoxicosis associated with hyperthyroidism
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Diarrhea due to food poisoning
- Stomach infections
- Celiac disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
Disorders such as defective re-absorption of bile due to inflammation in the intestines or removal of the terminal ileum, that brings up the amount of mucus in the stool can also be responsible for green colored stools.
3. Medication And Supplements
Stool color may turn green as a result of ingesting vitamins that contain sorbitol and fructose or that are artificially colored, or iron supplements. Sometimes, giving your child laxatives to help speed up bowel movement may lead to the passing of green stool as well, due to the rapid transit of food along with bile through the intestines.
Other medications that may be potential causes of green colored stool are indomethacin – an anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medication and certain antibiotics caused by rapid food transit during diarrhea.
4. Food Poisoning
A child’s digestive system is extremely sensitive to a large variety of different foods. E. coli, a bacterial infection, is the most notorious for causing food poisoning in young children. Passing dark green stools accompanied by abdominal cramps and fever is one of the most common symptoms of E. coli. Most times, food poisoning can be treated by allowing your child’s stomach to rest for a while before easing back into eating, by staying hydrated and by getting lots of rest. However, it is highly advisable to see a doctor if these symptoms last beyond three days.
Cautions For Green Poop In Toddlers
Most instances of green stools in young children are temporary. It is only the long-lasting changes that are not obviously because of diet or medications that will need immediate medical evaluation to rule out potentially serious causes.
When to See a Doctor
Sometimes, your child may be passing green stools that are accompanied by symptoms indicative of a health disease or disorder, so it’s always advisable to monitor your child very carefully and visit the pediatrician right away. Some of these symptoms include:
- Unusual weight loss
- Severe indigestion
- Diarrhea that persists beyond a few days
- Foul-smelling stools
- Gas and flatulence
- Burning, irritable sensations in the rectum area
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Excessive mucous in the stool
- Uncomfortable bloating
- Change in consistency of stools such as excessively loose or hard stools
More severe symptoms accompanying passing of green stools that may require rushing the child to the emergency department or to the physician include:
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Respiratory difficulties
- Decrease in urine output
For newly born babies, if the passing of dark green stools persists after the first five days, schedule a checkup immediately.
2. Pay Special Attention to Dehydration
A child suffering from diarrhea can run a high risk of dehydration, symptoms of which are as follows:
- Unusually high amounts of watery yellow or green stool
- Dry tongue or mouth
- Lethargy or sleeping excessively
- Sunken eyes
You can keep dehydration at bay by giving your child increased amounts of oral electrolytes and clear liquids which contain essential minerals, sugar, and salts. It is a matter of urgency if your child begins to develop fever, excessive vomiting, or if the stool color and diarrhea persist for more than a few days, in which case, you will need to visit your doctor.