Dear Ask The Doctor: For about one week now my bowel movements have been few and far between. The colour of the condensed and hard to pass stools have been leafy-green in colour. Prior to this incident, I believe I suffered from food poisoning from a bad chicken salad. It took me 4 days to get over that. But now I am concerned that my constipation and green stools might be the symptom of something else. Please advise.
Dear Patient: Green stools are often caused by something you have ingested, such as large amounts of green, leafy vegetables, green or purple artificial colouring, or iron supplements. They can also be due to a variation in the gut transit time, such as fast transit time with diarrhoea or decreased transit time in constipation. Your symptoms may just be a reaction to your previous gastrointestinal infection and resolve over time. Ways to improve constipation include: increased exercise, including walking; increased fluid intake in the form of water; and increased fibre in the diet and fibre supplementation. Sources of dietary fibre include fruits and dried fruits especially prunes, root vegetables, especially in the skin, and legumes, cereals high in fibre, wheat and corn bran, oats, nuts and seeds and whole grain bread. Soluble fibre supplements and prebiotics are available in most pharmacies, which may improve symptoms in addition to diet. I would advise trial of lifestyle modification initially and a visit to your family doctor for a clinical examination, if symptoms are not improving.