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Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

April 2020

Mucus is a substance that can help the stools move through your intestines, but is usually produced in low quantities, just enough to lubricate the intestines and to be mixed in the stools, not easily visible to the naked eye.

So, when excess stools mucus can be observed, it usually indicates the presence of an infection or other changes in your bowel, such as bowel ulcer or irritable bowel syndrome, for example, and it is important to see a gastroenterologist for a thorough evaluation and to identify if there are any problems that need to be addressed.

1. Food intolerance

Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

Food intolerances and allergies, such as sensitivity to lactose, fructose, sucrose or gluten, can cause inflammation of the bowel walls when food comes into contact with the mucosa, leading to increased mucus production that can be observed in the stools.

In these cases, other symptoms may also arise such as belly swelling, diarrhea, red spots on the skin, excess gas or constipation, for example.

What to do: If food intolerance is suspected, it is important to see a gastroenterologist for an intolerance test and confirm the diagnosis before eliminating any food from your diet. 

2. Gastroenteritis

Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

Gastroenteritis arises when some kind of microorganism, such as a bacterium or a virus, infects the stomach and intestines, causing excess mucus in your stools, severe nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and stomach pain.

Usually this type of problem arises due to the consumption of contaminated water or food, but it can also happen after prolonged use of antibiotics, as good bacteria are eliminated from the intestinal mucosa, facilitating the development of more harmful ones.

What to do: In case of suspicion, it is important to see a gastroenterologist or general practitioner to confirm the diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment, which may only include fluid replacement, but may also be done with antibiotics if a bacterial infection.

3. Irritable bowel

Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

The irritable bowel causes inflammation of the intestinal mucosa that increases the amount of mucus in the stool. Although it can happen in all cases of irritable bowel syndrome, mucus is more common in people who have long periods of diarrhea.

Other common symptoms of irritable bowel sufferers include excessive gas, bloating, and periods of diarrhea that alternate with obstipation, especially during periods of stress or anxiety.

What to do: If there is already a diagnosis of irritable bowel, try to avoid excess stress by taking part in leisure activities, but also to eat more carefully, avoiding the consumption of coffee and spicy or high in fat foods, for example. If only irritable bowel is suspected, you should go to the gastroenterologist to see if this is really the problem, starting the treatment directed by your doctor.

4. Crohn's disease

Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

Crohn's disease is a chronic bowel disease that can cause constant inflammation of the bowel walls, resulting in signs such as mucus stools, but also severe abdominal pain, fever, bloody diarrhea and weakness.

Although there is no specific cause for Crohn's disease yet, it can occur at any stage of life, especially if there is a decrease in the immune system.

What to do: Treatment for Crohn's disease usually includes changes in eating habits, such as controlling the amount of fiber ingested and reducing the amount of fat and dairy products.

5. Bowel obstruction

Intestinal obstruction happens when something prevents stools from passing through your intestines. Therefore, the most common causes include hernias, bowel twisting, ingestion of some kind of object or even a tumor in the intestine.

In these cases, the mucus is overproduced to try to push the stools, which end up not passing and generating other symptoms such as belly swelling, severe abdominal pain, excess gas and decreased amount of stools.

What to do: Bowel obstruction is an emergency that needs to be addressed to prevent serious complications such as dilation or rupture of the bowel. Therefore, if this problem is suspected, you should go to the hospital immediately.

6. Anal fissure

Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

Anal fissure is a relatively common problem consisting of the presence of a small wound in the rectum, which usually arises from excessive bowel movements, which can happen in cases of frequent diarrhea, for example. However, cracking can also occur in cases of constipation, as the act of defecating very hard stools can end up injuring the sphincter.

When it appears, the cleft gives rise to symptoms such as bright red blood in the stools, pain when defecating, mucus in the stools and itching in the region.

What to do: The most important thing in these cases is to maintain proper intimate hygiene, but sitz baths can also be done to relieve pain and ointments to heal the cleft faster. In addition, alcoholic beverages, spicy foods and many spices should be avoided, giving preference to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and cereals.

7. Ulcerative Colitis

Mucus in stools: 7 Possible causes and what can it indicate

This is an intestinal disorder that can cause the presence of ulcers in the intestine and constant inflammation of the mucosa. So, in people with ulcerative colitis, the stools are often accompanied by blood, pus or mucus.

Other symptoms that may help identify cases of ulcerative colitis include diarrhea, very severe abdominal pain, skin lesions and weight loss.

What to do: It is generally recommended to increase fiber intake through foods such as papaya, lettuce or chickpeas, for example, to make the stools bulkier and less hard. In addition, medication may be needed to relieve abdominal cramps or even diarrhea.

When can mucus in stools be dangerous

In most cases, fecal mucus is not a dangerous situation, it is almost always an easy situation to treat. However, if excess mucus arises associated with other symptoms such as:

  • Bloody stools or pus;
  • Very severe abdominal pain
  • Exaggerated abdominal bloating
  • Constant diarrhea.

It is recommended you go to the hospital or make an appointment with the gastroenterologist as it may be a sign of a more serious cause such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or even cancer.

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