Mucus in the body is natural and a very important part of how the body works. Tissues produce mucus to line and protect the mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and gut. Most of the time, mucus is clear and thin. However, illness, diet, or environmental factors can sometimes increase mucus consistency. People most commonly experience increased mucus when a sinus infection is present. They may notice when the mucus in a tissue after blowing their nose is a greenish color. Men and women at any age can spot signs that something is wrong based on the content of their stool as well.
Many types of digestive problems can make more mucus show up in your poop. Some are serious and long-lasting. Others, like food poisoning, can clear up quickly. Here are a few examples:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The main symptoms may be constipation (IBS-C), diarrhea (IBS-D), or alternating diarrhea and constipation (IBS-A). It’s typical to see mucus in your poop if you have this condition.
- Ulcerative colitis. This type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes sores in the intestines. They can bleed and make pus and mucus, which you might see when you go to the bathroom.
- Proctitis. This is inflammation of the lower part of the large intestine, called the rectum. Sexually transmitted infections, foodborne illnesses, and IBD can cause it.
- C. difficile. Infection with this type of bacteria can cause severe, even life-threatening diarrhea. It smells very bad and often has mucus.
- Food poisoning. If you get flu-like symptoms and your poop has blood or mucus in it, you may have food poisoning.
- Rectal cancer. One of the main signs of rectal cancer is bleeding, but you may also have mucus.
- Crohn's Disease. Passing mucus in the stool is a less frequent occurrence in people who have Crohn's disease. If mucus is seen in the stool of a person who has Crohn's disease, it could be associated with developing an anal fissure.
Making a diagnosis will start with a careful medical history. A doctor will ask what bowel movements have been like in the past and if they've changed recently. Depending on what is suspected of causing the mucus, different types of tests might be ordered. The tests that are used could be a stool culture and blood tests, or potentially imaging studies like a CT scan, MRI, or plain x-ray. In some cases, a doctor may need to do other testing, such as an endoscopy procedure, to figure out what is happening. But, in many cases, it's not necessary to do invasive testing to determine the cause of the mucus.
- Diet: Eating healthy and balancing the food groups can help promote positive digestion and minimize mucus in stools. Drinking a lot of water, avoiding fatty foods, and limiting dairy may all be necessary.
- Over-the-Counter Medications: Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil may help reduce symptoms. Fiber supplements or laxatives may also help promote healthy bowel movements.
- Prescription Medications: Your medical professional may prescribe a range of medications designed to treat the specific cause of mucus in stools. These medications might be taken orally or rectally.
- Surgery: In extreme cases, and when mucus in stools are linked to larger disorders, surgical procedures may be required to relieve mucus in stools and other symptoms of this disorder.
Passing mucus in the stool, especially if it is a new symptom, should be mentioned to a physician at the next office visit. Mucus without an underlying cause, such as one of the pre-existing conditions mentioned above, is a change in bowel habits and should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible.