Last Easter, one popular candy surprised people by turning their poop from brown to a vibrant pink. Fun! While color variance in your stool might normally be the sign of life-threatening internal bleeding, it can also be something much more benign — you just ate the wrong thing. Or better put, you ate the wrong color food. We decided to break down the foods that affect the hue of your poo in a more entertaining way — and also so you don’t freak out the first time you poop gold flakes.
The Halloween Burger: Before pink poop took the nation’s toilets by storm, a national poo color scare came courtesy of one burger chain’s Halloween offering. The burger’s bun combined a hefty combination of multiple color dyes to turn it black, and while everything else was digested, the yellow and blue dyes weren’t so easily absorbed into the intestines. The result? They combined to give unwitting toilet-goers some terrifying bright green poop.
Red #40: Many of the banned-in-other-countries industrial dyes that the U.S. loves to pour into foods will turn your poop funky colors, but Red #40 is so abundant that we had to include it on this list. It’s present in pretty much any and all red-colored food that doesn’t come straight from the ground — from sodas to candy to chips — and eating a bunch of red #40 will turn your poop red since it doesn’t break down in your digestive tract. So always take a moment to think about out how many red candies you’ve eaten lately before calling your doctor about the blood in your stool.
Kale: Green poop doesn’t have to be the result of artificial additives — it can also come from eating an excess of chlorophyll-rich greens like kale and spinach. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that allows them to absorb sunlight, and pairing it with the high levels of insoluble fiber present in most leafy greens can make for some big, healthy green poops. It takes a lot of kale to make this happen, though, so if you want green poop but can’t stomach the salad, maybe try chlorophyll tablets. Bonus: They’ll make your poop less stinky than kale.
Beets: Just as chlorophyll turns both plants and your poop green, the pigment found in beets — betacyanin — can turn your stool red, pink or purple. Interestingly, however, this is a little like the effects of asparagus on the smell of pee in that it isn’t the case for everyone. “In some individuals, the stomach’s digestive enzymes don’t split the chemical into smaller molecules,” says Jennifer Bowers, a nutritionist in Arizona. “So the betacyanin emerges whole, coloring the stool.”
Red wine: Many a drinker of red wine will admit to dark (fecal) matter the next morning. This effect hasn’t been studied in a lab yet, so we reached out to dietitian Sarah Greenfield, purveyor of the diet and exercise website The Fearless Fig. “My guess for wine is that it’s related to high tannin or anthocyanin content,” she says. “I did see that higher tannin wines may turn your stool a darker color. It seems like it would be a similar mechanism to beets, although I can’t say for sure. It usually happens in cases where there’s a large consumption.”
Glitter pills: An emerging market for people who want to literally pour their money down the toilet, capsules filled with different colored non-toxic glitter are now widely available on the internet. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t flush in order to establish dominance, double down by eating pills filled with glitter to make your poop sparkle with glory in the sunshine. Since the flakes don’t break down in your digestive tract, they’ll be artfully scattered throughout your poop in a way that will put that regular old corn to shame.