Finding mucus in stool isn’t necessarily a major problem, or a problem at all! In fact, it’s normal to have a small amount of mucus in your bowel movement. But, if there’s an excessive amount, there could be an underlying problem affecting your colon.
There’s no need to panic. If you notice mucus in your stool, talk to your doctor about it during your next visit. Let’s look at why this happens, and, if the mucus is excessive, what can be done about it.
What Causes Mucus in Stool?
Your body produces mucus on a regular basis, and it’s naturally excreted through your stool. As a result, there’s usually a small amount of mucus in a bowel movement.1
Mucus plays an important role in helping to protect your intestines and in helping stool pass normally through your colon. If there is too much in a bowel movement, that could be a sign of illness. It could also make your colon more susceptible to a bacterial infection.2
Many things could cause excessive mucus in your stool. Here are a few of the more common ones:
· Ulcerative colitis
This condition often causes inflammation of the mucous membrane that protects the colon. When this occurs, small sores, or ulcers, develop. Not only do these ulcers bleed, they may also produce mucus that is visible in the stool.3
· Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS can lead to severe symptoms, including diarrhea containing a substantial amount of mucus. Other symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, constipation, and excess gas.
A bacterial infection in your colon could lead to diarrhea, cramps, and excessive mucus in the stool. While this type of infection will often subside on its own, there are instances where you may need medication. Talk to your doctor if you think you have this problem – especially if you have recently returned from a trip to a foreign country. It could be what’s known as traveler’s diarrhea – a condition that occurs when you consume contaminated water or food, usually in a developing country.5
· An obstruction of the bowel
Symptoms of a bowel obstruction not only include visible mucus in stool, but also cramps, constipation, and vomiting. An obstruction can be the result of a tumor, impacted stool, gallstones, or swallowing a foreign object.6 This can be a very serious issue, so you’ll need to get to your doctor as soon as you can if you have any reason to suspect that you’re suffering from a bowel obstruction. Surgery will sometimes be needed to remove the obstruction.
If you notice mucus in your infant or child’s stool, they may have some sort of infection.7 Take the child to the doctor for a thorough examination.
What Exactly is Mucus?
You’re likely familiar with mucus because of its presence in your nose. It’s also known as snot, phlegm, or even boogers. Mucus is actually vital to your well-being; it keeps your internal organs protected and moisturized. It also protects against irritants like dust and smoke from entering your nose, mouth, and throat.
Mucus is produced and contained in a number of places in your body, including your nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, lungs, and GI tract.
Healthy mucus is a slimy, stringy, fluid substance that is clear, white, or light yellow. The darker the color and thicker the mucus, the more likely you are to notice it, and the more likely it is that you’re sick (or getting sick).
Signs You Need Medical Help
If you haven’t been previously diagnosed with a condition that you know can increase the amount of mucus in your stool, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor. If the mucus is accompanied by diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, vomiting, or blood, then you need to seek medical help immediately.
Your doctor may perform a battery of tests to determine the cause. Common tests include:
- CT scans
- Blood tests
- Stool cultures
In some instances, a doctor may want to perform an endoscopic procedure.
But even if you know you have a condition that leads to mucus in stool, you need to monitor the situation. Keep track of when this tends to happen during the day, and take note if the mucus seems to be more prevalent now than it was during past bowel movements. This information will help your doctor determine the best plan of action to address the problem.
Abnormalities in the Color of Stools
In addition to mucus in stool, there are other types of bowel movement irregularities that could signal a problem. If your stool is green, for example, that could be due to diarrhea. A stool that is moving too fast through the intestine means that chemicals and bacteria in your colon don’t have enough time to properly break down solid waste. Instead of the normal brown color, your stool will be green. If you eat a lot of leafy vegetables or food with green coloring, that could change the color as well.
While green stool is usually not that serious, black or red stool can mean something entirely different. There are many cases where certain foods or medications can cause black stools. Beets can cause stool to be red. However, this could also be the result of some sort of bleeding in the stomach or esophagus. This should never be ignored. Seek medical help.9
Wrapping it Up
If you notice mucus in your stool, and it’s an excessive amount, you might have some sort of intestinal issue going on. While you shouldn’t panic, you should definitely see your doctor. And if you are experiencing other symptoms, such as pain, vomiting, or bleeding, get to a medical facility as fast as you can.