What Is Mucus?

Mucus in the stool may be due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), proctitis, food poisoning, ulcerative colitis, anal fistula, allergic colitis, rectal cancer and other infections.
Mucus in the stool may be due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), proctitis, food poisoning, ulcerative colitis, anal fistula, allergic colitis, rectal cancer and other infections.

Mucus is present in different parts of your body. These parts include the following:

Sometimes, mucus might find a way into your stool. This is not normal and can only be caused by a complication in your digestive system. In the right places, mucus plays a protective role that contributes to your overall health. The mucus in the digestive system protects it from enzymes, bacteria, and food related toxins.

Being able to recognize any mucus in your stool is an important step in establishing the cause and treatment. This information will also help you know the preventive measures you need to take in future.

Signs and symptoms of mucus in stool

There is one way for you to identify any sign of mucus in your stool. Just take a look. If the amount of mucus is not big and you feel fine, you probably don't have to worry much. However, these signs might point to something more serious:

Presence of a large noticeable amount of mucus in your stool could be an indication of an underlying problem in your digestive system. 

This could come with symptoms like:                          

Any of these signs may suggest an underlying condition. If you have any of them, you should see a doctor immediately. That way, you can stop the condition from getting worse.

Causes of mucus in stool

Your digestive system creates mucus and mixes it with food from the stomach. Here, it lubricates the intestinal walls to make the movement of food easy. Some of the mucus can make it through with the stool, but it is usually too little to spot with your eyes. 

This means that, any time you identify mucus in your stools, there is probably too much. This could point to a problem in your gastrointestinal tract. 

Some of the problems that might be causing mucus in your stool include:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

This condition is quite common. It affects the large intestine. Research shows that one in 10 people have signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Some of the signs and  symptoms to help you identify this condition include:

  • Abnormal digestive system contractions (motility)
  • Abdominal (belly) pain and discomfort 
  • Excess gas 
  • Bloating (stomach swelling)
  • Diarrhea and constipation (may occur in bouts)
  • Mucus in stool

Proctitis

This disorder affects the rectum. It is quite a common disease that may also involve inflammation of the large intestine or colon. Its cause is unknown. This inflammatory bowel disease has some similarities with another related disorder, Crohn's disease. 

Some of the signs and symptoms are:

Crohn's disease attacks the digestive system but can cause a lot of complications like weight loss and delayed growth in children. Serious complications of Crohn’s disease will require you to seek fast medical attention.

Food poisoning

You can know whether the mucus in your stool is due to food poisoning if you experience any flu-like symptoms accompanied by some blood in the stool. The good news is the condition should clear up in 1 or 2 days.

Ulcerative colitis

This is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that causes sores on the large intestine. These sores may produce blood, pus, or mucus, which will appear in your stool.

Anal fistula

Also known as rectal ulcers, an anal fistula is an infected opening around the skin of the anus that connects with the rectal canal through a tunnel. The fistula may cause bad-smelling mucus to drain through the rectal canal finding its way onto the stool.

Allergic colitis

Allergic colitis mainly happens when children or babies have a reaction to cow milk. This allergic reaction causes mucus to appear in the child’s stool.

Rectal cancer

This type of cancer is mostly characterized by blood on stool but in some cases you will find mucus present.

Other infections

Other different types of bacterial gastrointestinal tract infections and parasites may be causing you to have mucus on your stool. The most common infection that might be causing this is dysentery.

Diagnosis for mucus in stool

After noticing the presence of mucus in your stool, it is advisable to see your doctor for a clear diagnosis of what is happening. Although some gut conditions will not need you to do lab testing, people with a history of traveling are more likely to need to take stool samples for screening. 30% to 70% of travelers get travelers’ diarrhea, which is the most common travel-related illness.

Your doctor will order a stool culture to determine if the mucus in your stool is as a result of an infection. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also order other tests, including:

  • Colonoscopy (a procedure for examining the inside of the large intestine)
  • Blood tests
  • Upper endoscopy (a procedure to examine the swallowing tube, stomach and upper parts of the small intestine)
  • Capsule endoscopy (a procedure that involves swallowing a video capsule that takes pictures of the stomach , large intestine and small intestine)
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI

Treatments for mucus in stool

Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor may advise medical treatment or simple home-based care. If it is an infection, your doctor will prescribe the necessary antibiotics and medicine to manage the symptoms. 

Some conditions like mild food poisoning will only need you to drink more fluids and a diet change.

A clear diagnosis will help you and your doctor to find the best cure for your condition.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/8/2021
References
SOURCES:

Boston Children's Hospital: "Allergic Colitis."

CARA CARE: "Mucus in Stool: Possible Causes."

CDC Yellow Book: "Travelers' Diarrhea."

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: "Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease."

Fransiscan Health: "5 Signs You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)."

Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology: “The Role of the Gastrointestinal Mucus System in Intestinal Homeostasis: Implications for Neurological Disorders."

gutCARE: "Mucus In Stool: Why It Happens And What Does It Mean."

IBD Clinic: "Ulcerative colitis."

National Health Service: "Dysentery."

Poison Control: "Food Poisoning: Your Questions Answered."

Science in the News: "All About That Mucus: How it keeps us Healthy."

The Royal Marsden: "Colorectal cancer."

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: "Anal Fistulas."