Is mucus in stool a serious health risk, and what causes it?

Mucus is found in the gastrointestinal system and aids in the defense against microorganisms. It’s normal to have a small bit of mucus in your stool. Larger levels of mucus in the stool, on the other hand, might indicate irritable bowel disorder (IBD) or another medical problem.

According to research from the year 2020, mucus and mucus barriers in the stomach are essential for gut health. To keep the gut environment steady, mucus can protect against bacteria, digestive enzymes and acids, and other toxins.

It also works as a natural lubricant and aids in the passage of stool.

Problems with the mucus barrier, on the other hand, can cause intestinal inflammation and contribute to the onset of IBD. Mucus in the stool is a common sign of IBD.

This article examines if mucus in the stool is normal and what causes it. It also looks at when to see a doctor and what treatment choices are available.

Is it normal?

bowel movement

The big intestine’s mucous membrane aids in stool passage. According to studies published in 2019, a small amount of mucus in the stool is normal.

A regular bowel movement produces very little mucous. It might be tawny or clear in color, and most people don’t realize of it.

When there is visible mucus in the stool, it might be an indication of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis (UC), or Crohn’s disease.

Other indications to keep an eye out for include:

  • increased amounts of mucus
  • blood or pus in the stool
  • stomach pain, cramping, or bloating
  • sudden changes in stool frequency, consistency, or color

If a person notices mucus in their stool, they should see a doctor.

Causes

Mucus in stool can be caused by a variety of factors.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory illness that affects the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. It’s a kind of inflammatory bowel disease.

Because the mucus layer in the digestive tract is thicker in people with Crohn’s disease, the body secretes extra mucus in the stool. However, the body creates less mucus during acute flare-ups, which may result in less mucus in the stool.

Other Crohn’s symptoms include:

  • the feeling of an incomplete bowel evacuation
  • rectal bleeding
  • abdominal cramps
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain
  • persistent diarrhea
  • urgent need to have a bowel movement

Ulcerative colitis (UC)

Another kind of IBD is UC. It happens as a result of the immune system’s overreaction. It can flare up or be active at times, then be dormant at other times.

The mucous membrane of the large intestine gets irritated and ulcers form during a flare-up. These ulcers are prone to bleeding, pus, and mucus production. It’s more probable that you’ll have mucus in your stool. During a flare-up, rely on a reliable source.

Other UC symptoms include:

  • urgent and loose bowel movements
  • blood in the stool
  • abdominal cramps and pain
  • persistent diarrhea

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS patients may see yellowish mucous in their stools.

Abdominal discomfort and changes in bowel motions, such as constipation and diarrhea, are other frequent IBS symptoms.

Mucus in the stool is more common in people with diarrhea-predominant IBS than in people with constipation-predominant IBS.

Bloating and the feeling of not having completed a bowel movement are also symptoms of IBS.

Proctitis

Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectum’s lining that can be short-term or long-term. The most prevalent symptom is a constant and urgent desire to go to the bathroom.

Another sign of proctitis is the release of mucus or pus from the rectum, which should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • a feeling of fullness in the rectum
  • rectal pain
  • abdominal cramping
  • pain during bowel movements
  • rectal bleeding
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • swollen lymph nodes in the groin

Intestinal infection

Mucus in the stool can be caused by an infection in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Bloody diarrhea with mucus is a symptom of several parasite diseases.

Other signs and symptoms include:

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is a kind of cancer that affects the colon and rectum, both of which are located in the digestive tract.

The mucosa, the inner layer of the intestinal wall, includes mucus-producing cells called goblet cells, where colon cancer develops. Colon cancer people may see blood-streaked mucus in their feces.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • change in bowel habits that lasts for more than a few days
  • a feeling that a bowel movement is needed but the person is not relieved after having one
  • dark brown or black stool as a result of blood
  • bright red blood in the stool
  • cramping in the abdomen
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

Other causes

Other factors might be causing mucus in the stool.

These are some of them:

  • celiac disease, otherwise known as gluten intolerance
  • other food intolerance, including lactose, sucrose, and fructose intolerance
  • lack of dietary fiber, which is needed to bulk out stool and help move waste smoothly out of the body
  • intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, hookworms, and pinworms
  • cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes an excess of mucus in the intestines and other organs

Diagnosis

Testing a stool sample is usually the first step in determining what is generating mucus in the stool.

Instructions on how to take a sample will be given by a healthcare expert. It typically entails collecting a sample of stool in a clean container and preserving it in the freezer to prevent bacteria from growing if the individual is unable to give it in right away.

A healthcare practitioner can examine the sample for germs and other chemicals from the digestive system once it has been obtained.

Depending on the results of the stool sample, a person may require further testing to determine the reason of the extra mucus in the stool. The following tests are performed:

  • blood tests
  • endoscopy, which involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light on the end, through the mouth or into the rectum
  • colonoscopy, which is a type of endoscopy that examines the lower part of the digestive tract
  • imaging tests, such as CT scanultrasound, and MRI scan

When should you see a doctor?

It is normal to have a small amount of mucus in your stool. If a person detects extra mucus or other changes in bowel motions with it on a frequent basis, they should consult a doctor.

If you have mucus in your stool along with other symptoms, it might be an indication of an illness that needs to be investigated and treated.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor.

  • persistent diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • blood in the stool
  • vomiting
  • unexplained fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss

A person should keep track of their bowel movements and any other symptoms to assist a doctor determine the problem. Keeping a food journal can also aid in the detection of food-related illnesses.

Treatment

The course of treatment will be determined by the results of diagnostic tests.

If mucus in the stool is caused by a lack of water, fiber, or probiotics, a doctor may advise you to drink more water, increase your fiber intake, or take probiotics.

For long-term illnesses including Crohn’s, UC, and IBS, treatment may involve prescription medication and lifestyle adjustments.

If a person has cancer, physicians will recommend them to an oncologist, a cancer expert who will create a treatment plan tailored to their needs.

Conclusion

It’s normal to have a small bit of mucus in your stool.

IBS, Crohn’s disease, UC, and proctitis can all cause excessive mucus. It might potentially be a sign of colon cancer.

If a person is worried about the quantity of mucus in their stool or has other symptoms, they should consult a physician.

Sources

  • https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html
  • https://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/your-care/cancer-types/gastrointestinal/lower-gastrointestinal/colorectal-cancer
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4957479/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310101
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442724/
  • https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00248/full
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6776453/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4755466/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879757/
  • https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-crohns-disease/symptoms
  • https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-ulcerative-colitis/symptoms
  • https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/1/44/htm
  • https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes
  • https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/proctitis/symptoms-causes
  • https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/what-is-colorectal-cancer.html