Should I worry, if my baby’s poop is green?

Being aware of the color of the stools is important, but it doesn't always mean a serious health problem. We explain in which cases you should consult your pediatrician immediately.

There are not a few parents who, when they change their baby’s diaper, are surprised to see that their feces are green. Usually, we associate brown (or mustard) as the color their droppings should have, and therefore, as soon as we notice a slight change, panic ensues. But should green poop be a cause for concern? Does it indicate any health problem?

Color is an indicator of the speed of intestinal transit

Feces are that part of the diet that, after digestion, has not been absorbed by the intestine, and the body eliminates it when doing the bowels.

During this digestion, the liver and gallbladder secrete bile, a substance that allows fats to be digested and absorbed, but also excretes other substances such as bilirubin (blond color) and biliverdin (green color). Waste products that come from iron metabolism and that mix with the food bolus in the intestine, giving it color. Hence the colors are brown, green or yellow.

The green color of the stool usually indicates an accelerated transit speed. In other words, it is a marker of intestinal transit speed.

Why can a baby pass green stools?

The cause is insufficient transformation of the bile, which during its passage through the intestine goes from biliverdin to stercobilinogen, and finally to stercobilin, which is what gives the stool its brown color.

If intestinal transit is rapid, the green bile that is excreted in the second portion of the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) when the gallbladder contracts when we eat, does not give time for stercobilin to appear, appearing intermediate products such as stercobilinogen, which is green in color or, even more so, biliverdin.

The causes are generally banal, and he points out some of the most frequent:

  • An excess of fiber in the diet.
  • An excess of lactose, or lactose and galactooligosaccharides (a group of complex sugars found in breast milk). In fact, it is rich in lactose and low in fat, so it is common for babies who are breastfed to have greener stools than those who drink formula milk.

On the other hand, it indicates that, on very rare occasions, it could be due to a more or less serious affectation of the intestine, in addition to an accelerated transit speed.

Should there be a reason to take her to the doctor?

If bowel movements show the following shades, the child should be taken to the pediatrician as soon as possible:

  • White, as this may be a sign that the liver is not secreting enough bile.
  • Reds. Normally, the main cause is a bleeding in the lower part of the intestine. There are times when the feces will contain blood (hematochezia), or directly expel blood. In both cases, it is very important that the parents call the doctor, since it could simply be due to gastroenteritis or anal fissure, or be a symptom of something more serious, such as an inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Black. Note that when talking about the color black, it should not be confused with dark green (as, for example, when it comes to your first poop, meconium). This time, the cause could be bleeding in the stomach or the first half of the intestine, and it takes on this dark hue because the blood oxidizes during transit.