What is Mucus in Stool?
Mucus in stool is generally an indication there may be a health issue affecting the intestinal mucosal barrier. This substance resembles thick jelly and helps lubricate and protect the inside of the digestive organs. (1)
This barrier of mucus lines the inside of the intestines and helps protect against infections while allowing essential nutrients through. When the mucus layer is damaged, an excess might be seen in stool.
This could be due to infection, inflammation or a sign of an illness or disease. (2)
A small amount of mucus in stool is normal, however when this increases it could be a cause for concern. Contributing factors include:
There are occasions when viruses or bacteria pass through the protective mucus layer of the digestive system and cause infection. Included are types like salmonella, staphylococcus, bacillus cereus and e coli.
When infected, people will experience sickness and diarrhea along with an increase of mucus in stool. (3)
Hookworm, roundworm, pinworm and whipworm can infect the digestive system of humans. When the body tries to clear the infection, excess mucus is produced which can be seen in the stool. (4)
There are many parasites that can invade the human body and cause infection. The most prevalent are single celled (protozoan) and include giardia and entamoeba.
Transmitted usually via a fecal-oral route, for example, from contaminated food or contact with an infected person, they cause diarrhea. This will usually also include an increase of mucus in stool. (5)
Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive system which affects about half a million people in the US. Whilst it can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal system, it is commonly found in the small intestine.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the mucus lining of the colon. It often originates in the rectum and spreads progressively to the colon.
The symptoms of colitis can include, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, bloody or mucosal stools and an anal passage of mucus. (8)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) describes a group of symptoms which happen together affecting the gastrointestinal tract. They include, abdominal pain and changes in your bowel movements, either diarrhea, constipation or both.
It‘s classed as a functional gastrointestinal disorder which relates to issues with how your gut and brain work together. It makes your stomach more sensitive and affects how the muscles in your bowel work.
As well as bloating, abdominal pain and either diarrhea, constipation or both, you can experience mucus in your stool. (9)
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, causing a buildup of excess mucus in organs of the body including the lungs and pancreas. More than 70 thousand people worldwide live with cystic fibrosis. Majority are diagnosed by two years old, but it can be identified in adults.
Excess mucus in the pancreas stops production of digestive enzymes which break down food and nutrients that the body needs. As well as issues with breathing and persistent coughing, mucus in the stools is a symptom of this condition. (10)
Some gastrointestinal disorders prevent the body from absorbing the nutrients and goodness it needs from food. These include celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth and chronic pancreatitis.
This can result in chronic diarrhea and mucus in stool. (11)
These growths of cells within the bowel present in about one in four people at some time during their lives. Found in the colon or rectum, they tend to affect men and the elderly more than women.
Often there are no symptoms and you will not know you have them. When symptoms are noticed they include abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea and blood or mucus in stool. (12)
Cancer affecting the colon or rectum can produce many symptoms. The most common of these are rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, anemia and weight loss. One of the other symptoms accompanying them can be mucus in stool. (13)
Mucus in stool is a symptom in itself and can indicate many different conditions, infections or illnesses.
Other symptoms that can be experienced indicating an underlying issue include: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, blood in the stool, rectal bleeding, weight loss and anemia.
If you notice mucus in stool which is persistent or you are concerned about it, then you should see your doctor.
They will take a full medical history, including that of your family, and will want to know about any medication you are taking. Changes to your diet and bowel movements are also points they will want to note.
Let your doctor know if you have traveled abroad, often infections and parasites are contracted whilst in a foreign country.
The frequency, duration and severity of the mucus in stool are important factors that will be taken into account.
A physical examination, which will include your anus and abdomen, will be carried out. It is likely that blood tests and stool samples will be taken.
If unable to establish the reason why you have mucus in stool, further tests for the cause will be done. These include:
A medical instrument called an endoscope will be used to examine your digestive system internally. It is a flexible tube which has a camera and light attached so the doctor can see what is going on inside. It is also able to accommodate brushes or forceps to take cell and tissue samples via a hollow central cavity.
If there is a growth that needs to be removed this can be done at the same time as an endoscopy.
There are different names which are given to this test depending where in the digestive system needs to be examined.
A sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or proctoscopy refers to endoscopic examination of the lower digestive system. This is done inserting the instrument through the anus.
A esophagoscopy or gastroscopy refers to endoscopic examination of the upper digestive system. To achieve this the endoscope is inserted via the mouth.
Sedation is administered for your comfort when these examinations are made. A full explanation of the test and what it involves will be given prior to the procedure. (14)
This detailed imaging test provides a picture gained via an x-ray scanner. (15)
Swallowing a small capsule which contains a camera gives a detailed picture of the inside of your digestive system. Called a virtual endoscopy, the capsule passes images to an external sensor worn on the body for about eight hours. (16)
What is mucus in stool? Mucus in stool is generally an indication there may be a health issue affecting the intestinal mucosal barrier. This substance resembles thick jelly and helps lubricate and protect the inside of the digestive organs
What causes mucus in stool? It is normal to experience a small amount of mucus in stool however an increase might indicate an underlying issue. These include parasitic, bacterial and viral infections and also digestive conditions and diseases.
How do doctors test for mucus in stool? Following medical history and a physical examination your doctor may want to do more tests. These include blood and stool samples and various imaging tests.
When should you go to the doctors with mucus in stool? When you experience an increase in mucus in stool or if it concerns you then seek medical advice.
Can you prevent mucus in stool? Many of the causes of mucus in stool are unavoidable. However practice good hygiene methods by washing hands regularly and thoroughly and avoid putting them near your mouth. This could help prevent bacterial, viral or parasitic infections.
What can relieve mucus in stool? Diagnosis of the cause of mucus in stool means that your doctor can treat and relieve this symptom of other conditions.
What can treat mucus in stool? Treatment will depend on diagnosis, however for most causes, treatment is effective and will help manage mucus in stool. It could be medication or dietary changes or on occasion surgical procedures.
Can what you eat affect mucus in stool? Certain foods can affect people in different ways, depending on their tolerance. These include things like chocolate, vegetables and meat. It is possible that what you eat could cause mucus in stool and therefore adjusting your diet could help. (17)
Mucus resembles a thick jelly like substance which helps lubricate and protect the digestive system. When an excess in stools becomes apparent it could indicate a health issue affecting the intestinal mucosal barrier.
There are many reasons why you might see mucus in stool and small amounts is quite normal. However, when there is an increase it could be a cause for concern and medical advice should be obtained.
While diagnosis may not be straightforward there are numerous tests that can be done to ascertain the reason for mucus in stool.
Fortunately, once diagnosed, there are treatment options available which can remedy and relieve this symptom.