Your stool can have a different consistency depending on your diet, your health, and even the medications you take. You may notice occasionally that some of your stool may stick to the side of the bowl after you flush. Sticky poop can be a symptom of a temporary or chronic digestive disorder or the result of a diet that contains too much fat. Sticky poop can appear greasy and pale or dark and tarry. If you also have other symptoms, such as gas or abdominal cramps, you should talk to a doctor to determine the cause.
Your stool quality is usually a result of how your body responds to your food choices. A high-fat diet, for example, can lead to stool that is stickier than normal. That’s because excess fat — beyond what would normally be absorbed by the body — can end up in your stool, making it thicker and stickier.
Fatty stool may be a temporary side effect of too much fat in your diet. It may also signal a condition such as Crohn’s disease, which makes it harder for the body to absorb dietary fat. Crohn’s disease is one of several conditions under the umbrella term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Other disorders in that group include ulcerative colitis and microscopic colitis. All of these can cause sticky stool.
Your stool may be sticky if you have a stomach ulcer or irritation of the esophagus. With these conditions, you may experience some internal bleeding. Blood can mix with digestive fluids and make your stool tarry and sticky.
Other medical conditions can also cause sticky stool after you eat certain foods. If you have celiac disease, for example, you can’t properly digest gluten, a protein found in wheat and certain other grains. Eating gluten can result in sticky stool and other symptoms for people with celiac disease.
Sometimes lactose intolerance can also cause sticky stool. People with lactose intolerance lack the enzyme lactase. This enzyme is needed to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk products.
Sticky stool can often be treated easily at home with simple lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medications and supplements.
One of the best things you can do for sticky poop is increase your water intake. A healthy digestive system with healthy stool depends on you staying hydrated. Drinking 8 glasses (or 64 ounces) of water per day is recommended for most people. If you have kidney, heart, or liver problems or other reasons why you should drink less water, talk with your doctor about a safe, adequate amount of fluids for you.
Daily exercise is also associated with a healthier digestive system. Even a half-hour walk can improve your overall health.
Certain supplements may also help return your stool to normal. Probiotics are good bacteria that promote a healthy gut. You can find probiotics in foods, such as yogurt and kefir, as well as in supplement form.
You can also try digestive enzyme supplements. These enzymes are designed to help your body break down starches, fats, and proteins for better digestion and normal stool.
You should talk with your doctor first before trying probiotics or enzymes. This is especially true if you have a digestive disorder, such as IBD.
If your stool is sticky and you’re also having problems with diarrhea, you may want to try over-the-counter medications such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate. These are generally well-tolerated treatments for diarrhea. However, if you notice blood or mucus in your stool, you should not take an antidiarrheal medication without first talking to your doctor. You should also avoid laxatives if you have sticky stool.
Foods to eat and foods to avoid
One of the most effective ways to treat sticky stool is to make smart food choices for your system. In general, eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is a prescription for better digestive health. These foods contain soluble fiber, which is important for proper bowel function. They also contain a range of nutrients for optimal overall health.
Some of the best foods to help keep your stool healthy are:
- baked potato
- sweet potato
- green beans
- garbanzo beans
Because most causes of sticky stool are related to the foods you consume, the best treatment is to avoid the foods that give you problems. People with celiac disease, for instance, often have no other digestive issues. If these people avoid foods containing gluten, they should have no symptoms such as sticky stool.
Foods that contain gluten include:
- malt, including malt extract, malt vinegar, etc.
If lactose intolerance is your issue, avoid cow’s milk and milk products, such as cheese, ice cream, butter, and cream sauces and soups. You should also reduce the high-fat foods in your diet, such as potato chips, cookies, red meat, and pizza.
When to see your doctor
Sticky stool may occur in one bowel movement, and the next day your stool can be back to normal. If a day of eating a particularly high-fat diet has led to sticky stool, wait a day to see if anything changes. If there is no change, pay attention to your stool and any other symptoms that may signal a more serious cause. If there are no urgent symptoms, such as abdominal cramps or blood in your stool, try modifying your diet. If a low-fat, low-protein diet that is rich in soluble fiber doesn’t improve the quality of your stool, then see a doctor.
Sticky stool is usually a sign that your diet needs some adjustment — maybe a little less fat or some more water. But sticky stool can also be a sign of a more serious health concern, such as Crohn’s disease. It may not be the most pleasant job you do all day, but paying attention to your stool quality and seeking medical attention if it doesn’t improve is important for being proactive about your health. The encouraging news is that conditions such as Crohn’s, celiac disease, or lactose intolerance can usually be well managed by following a diet that eliminates the triggers for toilet trouble.