Q: My 20-month-old daughter had a green bowel movement this morning. She has not had any green vegetables or any other green food lately. Why would this happen?
A: Nancy Snyderman, M.D., F.A.C.S: As long as the green stools are not diarrhea and have not changed in any regard but color, you have nothing to worry about. Diarrhea can indicate a variety of problems, such as a virus or food poisoning.
Children that age often have variations in the color of the stool and it is perfectly normal. What causes the stool to turn green is not always as obvious as eating green foods. You might be surprised at some of the things that can colorize a child’s bowel movements.
Iron supplements, for example, or even iron-rich foods can lend a green hue to stool. So can foods that are bulky and hard to digest. Foods that have certain kinds of additives, such as artificial flavors or colors, may have a greening effect and it is not only the green food colors that will do it.
The other thing to consider is whether your daughter has been getting into her crayons, paint or clay — or rather, whether they have been getting into her. She is still at an age where she might be sampling ! ! a variety of non-food items, some of which could conceivably cause green stool.
Besides diarrhea, blood in the stool is another cause for concern. Blood may make the stool look black or it may contain red streaks. (But do not forget that eating beets can make the stool look bloody.) Very pale looking stools, especially if accompanied by yellowish skin, should also warrant a call to the pediatrician.