The Meaning of Poop Colors, Shapes, Sizes, and Consistency

Spotting Dietary vs. Condition-Related Changes

The consistency and color of your poop can reveal information about your health. Although you may not pay much attention to your stools, inspecting them regularly can help you keep tabs on what is and is not normal for you.

For the most part, changes in bowel movements are to be expected. However, If you have an unusual poop color or shape that persists over an extended period of time, or you have other symptoms like pain or bleeding, contact your healthcare provider.

This article includes a poop color chart and discusses the meaning of different poop colors—from yellow poop, to poop that is green, pale, dark, or red, to stool that is pebble-shaped or that contains mucus.

Be sure to see your healthcare provider right away if your poop color is bright red, black, or pale, or if you have additional symptoms like abdominal pain. You should also see your healthcare provider if it is consistently thin or pencil-like, loose or watery, or accompanied by mucus or pus.

Healthy and Unhealthy Stools

 Verywell / Gary Ferster

What Does an Unhealthy Stool Look Like?

Poop color that suddenly changes without an obvious reason may indicate an issue, especially if you have other unusual symptoms like pain or bleeding. Red or maroon stool as well as black or tarry stool requires immediate medical attention.

What Does the Color of Your Poop Mean?

Normal, healthy stool ranges from various shades of brown to greenish brown. This may vary if you eat lots of colorful foods. Any poop color change that can't be tied to your diet is a reason to call your healthcare provider.

Pale Poop Color

Bile salts in the intestines give stool its usual brown color. If your poop color is light (either pale, white, grey, or clay-colored), there could be a lack of bile in the stool. A blockage of the bile ducts from gallstones, or a condition affecting your gallbladder, liver, or pancreas, can cause decreased bile output.

Poop that is pale or light-colored could also mean there is excessive fat in the poop—a condition called steatorrhea. This can be caused by anything that disrupts the intestinal lining, such as celiac disease or disorders that affect the pancreas, liver, or gallbladder.


Steatorrhea means there is excessive fat in your stool. Your stool may be pale or yellow as well as shiny or greasy, foul-smelling, or frothy. It may float in the toilet bowl and it often sticks to the side of the bowl and is difficult to flush away.

Additionally, stool may become temporarily pale after a barium enema test.

If you notice that your poop color is white, clay-colored, or chalky grey, you should see your healthcare provider, especially if the new poop color continues beyond a few days.

Yellow Poop Color

There are a few different possible causes of yellow poop, and the significance of yellow poop ranges widely.

Having yellow poop may simply mean that you’ve been eating yellow food items, like sweet potatoes, carrots, turmeric, or yellow food coloring. In addition, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and those taking medication for GERD sometimes have yellow poop.

Sudden yellow poop can also be a sign of an infection that affects the intestines, particularly if you also have diarrhea, fever, flu-like symptoms, or stomach cramps. Yellow poop after COVID-19 infection has been reported. And, Giardiasis, a small intestine infection caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia, can also lead to yellow poop or diarrhea.

Some people develop yellow poop after gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). This is because there is a larger amount of bile moving directly into your intestines, resulting in watery diarrhea that is often yellow.

In some cases, yellow poop can also mean you have excess fat in your stool.

Yellow Poop in Babies

Loose, yellow stools in a breastfed baby are normal, as breastmilk passes quickly through their digestive system. The yellow poop color is from bile. It is also normal for formula-fed babies to pass yellow stools, but their stool is usually less runny than that of a breastfed baby. Once you start to incorporate solid foods into your baby's diet, their poop should start to become more solid and brown.

Green Poop Color

There are some common reasons for a green poop color. Eating lots of leafy vegetables like kale or spinach can cause a greenish poop color. But this is normal, and it shouldn't stop you from getting your fill of these antioxidant-rich foods. Iron supplements and food coloring, including green, purple, and blue dye, can also turn feces an emerald color.

Conditions that speed up intestinal activity, such as a bowel disorder or food poisoning, can also lead to a green poop color or green diarrhea. People who are pregnant may also occasionally have green stools.

Bright Red Poop Color

A bright red poop color can be caused by beets, cranberries, tomato juice or soup, or products containing red food coloring, like Kool-Aid or red licorice. Red medicines, such as amoxicillin, may also turn your poop color red.

If there is blood in your stool, the poop color depends on where the bleeding takes place in the digestive tract. Blood from the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach or esophagus, will look dark by the time it exits the body as a bowel movement.

Blood that is bright red is more likely to come from the lower gastrointestinal tract, such as the large intestine or rectum. Bright red blood in poop may be caused by conditions such as:

Blood in the stool doesn't always look obvious. Blood may be also present but not visible—this is known as "occult" blood. The fecal occult blood test is a common test used to detect hidden blood in the stool.

Black or Dark Poop Color

Certain foods, supplements, and medications can temporarily cause a black poop color, such as:

  • Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate)
  • Iron supplements
  • Activated charcoal supplements
  • Dark foods, such as black licorice, grape juice, Oreo cookies, blackberries, or blueberries

Stool can also appear darker with constipation. Dark green stool from bile that hasn't had time to break down may appear to have a black poop color in certain lighting.

A poop color that is almost black, dark, or tar-like with a thick consistency may mean there is bleeding in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. Medical conditions that can cause dark, tar-like stool include:

If your poop color is black and it is not from food or supplements, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.


Click Play to Learn More About Green Stool

What Are The Different Types of Poop?

Occasional changes in your poop's consistency are also normal and usually result from the nutritional content in your food. However, if the change in consistency persists after a few bowel movements, it's best to contact your health provider for an evaluation.

Stool That Sinks Quickly

Although normal stool shape and frequency varies from person to person, if your stool sinks quickly, you may not be getting enough fluids or fiber in your diet. This type of stool often has a darker color because it stays in the intestines longer.

The FDA recommends a fiber intake of 28 grams per day. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, unsalted nuts and seeds are all great sources of fiber.

Floating Stool

If your stool floats every now and then, it's probably not something to worry about. Most likely, the stool just has an increased amount of gas in it. This can happen after consuming carbonated drinks, beans, and sugary foods. Some gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause floating stool as well.

However, stool that consistently floats may be a sign that your body is not absorbing fat properly. When this happens, it may be a sign of steatorrhea.

Pebble Stool

Stool excreted in small pieces is sometimes called pebble or pellet stool. Fiber forms a gel in the intestines when it is fermented by bacteria in the colon and combined with water. If there is a lack of fiber holding the stool together, it may be shaped like small pebbles.

Upping your fiber intake may help; to do this, slowly increase your intake to the recommended daily value of 28 grams. If you are finding it difficult to consume this amount with fiber-rich foods, consider adding a fiber supplement.

Pencil-Thin Stool

Excessive straining when you are on the toilet can result in a stool that is long and thin. Bearing down causes the anal muscle to contract and narrows the opening of the anus. Stool that is squeezed through the narrowed opening is thin.  

Consistently thin stools, however, could signal a medical problem. Any condition that obstructs the bowels, such as benign rectal polyps, hemorrhoids, prostate enlargement, or cancer of the colon, rectum, or prostate could cause pencil-thin stool.

Loose Stool

Loose stool (diarrhea) lasting a couple of days or less is common and usually isn't serious. It can be triggered by a number of different foods, supplements, and medications. For example, consuming too much fructose—a sugar found in honey and many soft drinks and processed foods—can cause loose stool.

Another common cause of loose stool is a gastrointestinal infection, otherwise known as the stomach flu.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

While it's normal for bowel movements to vary from day to day depending on what you eat and drink, your poop color should generally be some shade of brown.

Stools should leave the body with little straining or discomfort, have a toothpaste-like consistency, and look more like a banana than a pencil.

Be sure to see your healthcare provider right away if your poop color is bright red, black, pale, or accompanied by mucus or pus, or if you have any new or unusual symptoms like pain.


A number of factors could be causing variations in the appearance of your stool. Some factors, such as your daily eating and drinking habits, are less concerning than others.

However, keep in mind that seemingly harmless changes in your poop's color, shape, or consistency, like stool that is pencil-thin, can actually be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Consult your healthcare provider if you're concerned about your stool, or if you notice any changes in your bowel habits or additional symptoms.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • Ip S, Sokoro AA, Buchel A, et al. Use of fecal occult blood test in hospitalized patients: survey of physicians practicing in a large central Canadian health region and Canadian gastroenterologists. Can J Gastroenterol. 2013 Dec;27(12):711-6.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.