Mucus is a sticky, slimy, jelly-like fluid that is normally produced by our bodies.
If you notice a small amount of mucus in your poop, it usually isn’t something to be worried about. However, if you begin to notice a significant amount of mucus in your stool, it could signify a possible problem.
What Causes Mucus in Stool?
Sometimes, mucus is present in formed stool. Other times, it may be noticed as a stringy substance when wiping after a bowel movement or less frequently, as plain clear mucus only or even after a fart. Here are some possible causes:
Bacterial, viral or parasitic infections can cause this condition. These infections can be contracted from eating contaminated food. Other symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, stringy poop or abdominal pain can also be observed in intestinal infections.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that affects the Gastrointestinal tract. Its effect on the large intestine can sometimes result in mucus in stools. It can also cause bloating, flatulence and abdominal cramping. It is usually life-long and its exact cause is not known. However, its symptoms can be properly managed.
3. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. It causes patches of inflammation especially around a part of the small intestine called the ileum. It can also cause diarrhea, a reduced appetite, weight loss, and bloody mucus in stool.
4. Ulcerative Colitis
Just like Crohn’s disease, it can be caused by ulcerative colitis- a type of inflammatory disease that affects the digestive system. However, unlike Crohn’s disease, it mainly affects the large intestine. It may also cause diarrhea and abdominal pain.
5. Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects mucus production in the body. It causes a thick mucus build up in the lungs and digestive system.
6. Lactose Intolerance
People that are lactose intolerant experience loose, slimy and liquid stools when they take dairy products like milk. Their bodies do not produce enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose (the sugar found in milk).
7. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a serious disease where there is an adverse reaction to eating foods that contain gluten (a protein). Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. It can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and can lead to this condition.
Proctitis is the inflammation of the rectum (the lower part of your digestive system just before your anus). It can be caused by infections, anal trauma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
9. Anal Abscess and Fistula
Abscesses are areas filled with pus. Sometimes the pus can push through and exit the body around the anus (fistulas). Abscesses and fistulae can cause slimy poop.
10. Intestinal Obstruction
Intestinal obstruction (as the name implies) is when digested food can not pass normally through the intestines. Other related symptoms are bloating, constipation and vomiting.
11. Colon or Rectal Cancer
Although one of the main symptoms of colon or rectal cancer is a bloody stool, there also can be mucus.
When To See A Doctor
Generally, you should see a doctor if:
- there is a significant increase in mucus in your stool
- you are pooping mucus only
- it is a regular occurrence
- there is a change in the texture of your poop
- there is a change in the color of your poop (like yellow, white or red)
- there is a change in how often you poop
- there are other symptoms like abdominal pain, bloody stools, diarrhea, and vomiting.
During a visit to the doctor, questions would be asked about your stool and other symptoms you might have noticed
To aid in the diagnosis of what the cause is, these investigations may be requested:
- Blood tests: These might be done to look for signs of an infection. If there’s an ongoing infection, the white blood cell count might be increased. The blood cells are then examined to see any clues as to what type of infection might be affecting the gut.
- Stool microscopy and culture: This is too check the stool directly for signs of any parasitic infection. Many times, the ova of these parasites can be when stool is examined under a microscope. A culture is a little different, here’s the laboratory staff take a poop sample and try to see if any microorganism grows, if any bacteria grows, they then test different antibiotics on the sample to see what drugs are best for that particular infection.
- Radiological tests like X-Rays, CT Scans, and MRI
- Endoscopy can be used to directly visualize the gut. It is essentially a flexible tube with a camera. It gives doctors direct access to check if anything is unusual in the gut.
The treatment of this condition is largely dependent on what exactly its cause is. Once the cause is taken care of, the mucus should stop.
For example, antibiotics may be prescribed for infections whereas for someone with lactose intolerance, avoiding dairy products may help to stop the symptom from happening again.
Generally, a good diet usually helps to prevent many gastrointestinal conditions. You should try to take a balanced diet that contains all the classes of food (carbohydrate, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals) in their right proportions.
Fruits and vegetables are very essential too, they help to add fiber to your meals, making them easy to pass through the digestive tract.
If you aren’t sure if you’re eating healthily, please discuss with a qualified dietitian, they are well-trained to help you choose a nice meal plan that will suit your health status and nutritional requirements.
The presence of mucus in your stool should not frighten you, however, you should monitor it closely and see a doctor if it increases, becomes regular or is associated with other symptoms.
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