Why Is There Mucus in My Stool?
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Why Is There Mucus in My Stool?

Is this common?

Key points

  1. Your body uses mucus to protect and lubricate your tissues and organs.
  2. On average, a healthy body produces more than 1 liter of mucus each day.
  3. If your body is producing more mucus than normal, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Mucus is a thick, jelly-like substance. The presence of mucus in stool is common.

When you’re healthy, the mucus is typically clear, which makes it difficult to notice. It may also appear white or yellow.

Having a noticeable increase in the mucus in your stool may be the symptom of an underlying health issue, such as:

  • Crohn's disease
  • cystic fibrosis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • an intestinal or parasitic infection
  • malabsorption issues, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease
  • anal fissures

Although viruses like the common cold or flu often result in increased mucus production, this typically only affects the respiratory system. It rarely results in increased mucus in the stool. Keep reading to learn what symptoms you should watch out for and when you should see your doctor.

When is mucus not normal?

Symptoms

A large amount of visible mucus in your stool is not normal and might be a sign of a problem. If you begin seeing mucus in your stool, the levels are probably already elevated. That doesn’t necessarily indicate you have a problem, but it’s something you should monitor.

What does mucus do?
Your body primarily uses mucus to protect and lubricate your delicate tissues and organs. Mucus is also used to reduce damage that may be caused by:
  • stomach acid
  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • fungi
  • other potentially harmful fluids or irritants

Excess mucus in the stool is sometimes accompanied by other symptoms, which may be a sign of a bigger problem. These symptoms include:

  • blood or pus in the stool
  • abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating
  • changes in bowel movements or habits

Check out: A guide to your newborn’s poop »

What causes abnormal mucus in the stool?

Causes

Excess mucus in the stool might be a sign of a gastrointestinal problem. An intestinal mucus layer protects the rest of the body from food residue and potential pathogens in the intestines.

According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, if an inflammatory process breaks down this mucosal layer, mucus may be excreted in the stool. This gives pathogens within the colon easier access to the body. This can increase your chances of becoming ill.

Dehydration and constipation may also produce excess mucus, or at least give the appearance of increased mucus. These changes may happen suddenly. Symptoms may resolve on their own or with medication.

Changes in mucus levels may also be the result of an inflammatory gastrointestinal condition that requires medical treatment. These conditions as well as other possible causes include:

  • Crohn's disease
  • cystic fibrosis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • intestinal infection
  • parasitic infection
  • malabsorption issues, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease
  • anal fissures
  • anal fistulas
  • rectal ulcers
  • colon or rectal cancer

How is a diagnosis made?

Diagnosis

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for abnormal mucus in the stool. To treat the excess mucus, your doctor will need to diagnose and treat any underlying problems, which may be related to inflammation in the colon.

Most doctors will begin with a physical exam and a blood test. The results of these tests will give your doctor an understanding of your basic physical health. If additional information is needed, your doctor may request more tests. These may include:

  • blood test
  • stool test
  • urine test
  • colonoscopy
  • endoscopy
  • an imaging test, such as an X-ray, an MRI scan, or a CT scan
  • sweat test

For some people, a diagnosis may be quickly reached. For others, finding the underlying cause may take several rounds of testing and examination.

How is mucus in the stool treated?

Treatment

Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will prescribe a treatment. Lifestyle changes may resolve the issue for some. They may include:

  • increasing your fluid intake
  • eating foods rich in probiotics or supplements that contain probiotics, such as Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus
  • consuming anti-inflammatory foods, such as low acid and non spicy foods
  • getting a healthy balance of fiber, carbohydrates, and fat in your diet

Prescription medications and ongoing treatment may be necessary for people with chronic conditions, such as:

  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • cystic fibrosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis

A combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and possible surgical procedures may help relieve conditions such as anal fissures and fistulas.

If your doctor discovers cancer, you may be referred to a cancer treatment specialist called an oncologist. This doctor will help treat your cancer. This treatment may reduce and ease the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Keep reading: Why is my stool yellow? »

Outlook

Outlook

Mucus levels in your stool may change from time to time. Maintaining normal mucus production and healthy mucosal barriers throughout your body partly depends on the bacteria in your intestine. If you have recently taken antibiotics or been sick, you may have noticed your stool mucus levels change. If it doesn’t return to normal within a few weeks, you should seek medical attention. 

You should see a gastroenterologist if you notice excess mucus and experience other symptoms of a gastrointestinal problem. Make sure to keep track of your symptoms, how long you’ve been experiencing them, and what, if anything, makes them better or worse. It’s also important to make an effort to improve the health of your colon by eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics, eating colorful fruits and vegetables, and staying hydrated.

You asked, we answered

  • When would abnormal stool be an emergency — the kind where I would need to talk to my doctor immediately or call 911?
  • First, how much stool is being produced? If you’re producing too much mucus in your stool and experience symptoms like dizziness or feeling faint, call your doctor immediately. It’s highly likely you’re significantly dehydrated, which means you may need IV fluids. If your stool is bloody or becoming black, this could indicate bleeding from your intestine or colon. If this type of bleeding happens, you may need a blood transfusion.

    - Mark LaFlamme, MD

Read next

Diagnosing Crohn's Disease
IBS: Causes and Risk Factors
Why is My Stool Yellow?
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