If you had beets several days ago and are now wondering if the red in your stools is blood, there are some signs to look for that distinguish beet red from blood red in your poop.
Men are at a disadvantage here, because they don’t have the experience that women have at seeing a lot of blood in the toilet bowl (from menstruation).
But even a woman can have difficulty telling the difference between beet red from blood red in her bowel movements.
How to tell the difference between red poop from beets and from actual blood
Fresh blood on toilet paper in pure form (as would be from rectal/anal bleeding) is solid bright red. Think of how Kleenex looks when you hold it to a bloody nose.
From my experience with beeturia (undigested beet juice in stools, though this term usually applies to urine), the juice that appears on the tissue paper is very diffuse, creating a very light reddish-magenta or very light reddish-fuchsia.
It’s a color that menstruation just does not produce.
Again, a man can’t make the comparison unless he has a history of hemorrhoid bleeding.
In all my years of menstruating, I’ve never seen even the slightest fuchsia or magenta tinge to any amount of blood on the tissue paper.
When it’s mixed with cervical mucus, however, it’s dark pink, but a dull pink, with no hint of magenta or fuchsia, and usually, the pink has a tinge of tan.
Blood in a toilet bowl will not diffuse as much into the water as will beet juice because it’s heavier and tends to aggregate.
Have you ever had a drop from your nose or a cut fall into some water?
It does not stain the entire contents, but stays rather localized, suspended in a glob.
I’ve had rectal bleeding after a colonoscopy, and trust me, pure fresh blood dripping into a toilet bowl does not disperse and dye the water; it remains suspended, aggregated, in clumps.
Beet juice is too thin to do this and will stain the water bowl pinkish if there’s enough of it.
However, in smaller amounts, it will remain concentrated around your stools—at least in my case it does.
Sometimes beet juice will form ribbons or rings that hover or float around poop. Actual blood in poop will be literally mixed in with it.
Beet juice tends to hover around stools like a halo, and in the water, it is crimson when it does this.
If you flush poop that’s red from beets, the juice will easily billow out into the water bowl, coloring it pink, red or reddish brown (if the poop is soft enough to mix with it).
Another test to tell the difference between beet red and blood in your stools
Place several chunks of the colored stool on several layers of tissue paper or napkins, then roll them over to see what kind of stain they leave. If it’s beets, the stain will be markedly magenta or fuchsia.
I hope this provides reassurance about beet poop vs. bloody poop.
This color will match the color the beets left behind on your cutting board or paper plates.
If it’s blood (from the lower intestinal/rectal/anal region) it will be pure red or red with a tinge of dark orange. It will retain this color when it dries.
Beet juice will quickly change to a light brown or dark gold or golden-brown.
“All stool that is black, maroon or red does not necessarily represent a gastrointestinal bleed,” says G. Shelton McMullan, MD, board certified gastroenterologist at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.
“What we have recently eaten or ingested is often the culprit, and this needs to be considered before becoming alarmed.
“There are a host of foods that can make our stool red as well, including red Jell-O and beets.
“To err on the side of caution, it is recommended that you let your healthcare provider know if your stool remains discolored, however.”
Dr. McMullan has published numerous medical abstracts and presented posters related to the management and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and other gastroenterological conditions.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.