• Masarat Jilani

10 reasons you have mucus in your stool

Paying attention to your poop is important to make sure that your gut is healthy. When you have gut-related symptoms it’s something you’re probably already doing. You may have seen a thick clear jelly-like substance in your stool. This is mucus and you may notice it when you wipe following a bowel movement. It is made in different parts of the body to coat and lubricate your organs. It can also offer protection from infections.

Clear mucus is very common and actually shows that your gut is working healthily. You may not notice healthy mucus because it’s so clear. However, some people may experience white or yellow mucus. And sometimes they may notice that they are getting a lot more mucus than usual. If you notice this it is important to monitor your symptoms (you can monitor a range of gut-related symptoms in the Zemedy app) and to speak to your doctor about whether you have any of the following conditions which can cause an increased amount of mucus in the stool or changes to the colour of your mucus.

10 causes of increased mucus in your poop

Cystic fibrosis

This is a condition that affects mucus production around the body including in the lungs and in your stool. Cystic fibrosis occurs due to a person’s genes and it is screened for at birth in the UK. However, if you weren’t born in the UK or if you were born before the screening program - it is possible to have undiagnosed cystic fibrosis. Typically lung mucus can cause many symptoms for people with cystic fibrosis including coughing.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. This means it can present with a lot of different possible symptoms. Gut symptoms like increased mucus in the stool, fatigue and diarrhoea can all be possible symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis

This another inflammatory condition that affects the bowel predominately. It can cause symptoms of weight loss, blood in the stools and increased mucus.

Bacterial infection

Since mucus is part of the body’s defence against infections - there can be increased production when you have a gut infection. Gut infections can occur as a result of food poisoning and the most common include Salmonella and Shigella. They will normally occur with other symptoms of food poisoning including diarrhoea and vomiting.

Anal fissures

Small tears to the opening of the anus can occur in conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease but they can also occur due to constipation. Fissures can make opening your bowels painful which can exacerbate constipation as people try to avoid opening their bowel to prevent pain. But this can cause a vicious cycle. Fissures can be identified following an examination by your doctor and treatment can include creams that relieve pain and encourage healing.

Anal fistulas

Fistulas are abnormal connections that can develop in your digestive tract. Again they can occur in people with inflammatory bowel disease. Anal fistulas develop between the bowel and skin around the opening of the back passage. They can occur as a result of infection- once the infection clears up -they can be left behind. This abnormal connection can then leak mucus.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. Although it can be associated with increased mucus in the stool - this is not the most common symptom associated. Other symptoms typically include weight loss, night sweats, blood in the stool, anaemia. There is an NHS colorectal cancer screening program that aims to identify early cases and thus increase people’s chance of diagnosis and effective treatment. This screening programme is available to everyone aged 60 or over but it will be expanding to include 56-year-olds in 2021.

Malabsorption problems

When your bowel doesn’t absorb nutrients properly this is termed malabsorption. There are a number of different conditions which can cause malabsorption including coeliac disease. Coeliac disease can be diagnosed through a blood test but other investigations may also be needed.

Parasite infection

Aside from bacterial infections, your gut can also get infected by parasites. These can range from those related to tropical climates such as malaria or trichomoniasis which a sexually transmitted infection. These parasites typically cause additional symptoms for example malaria is associated with a fever and trichomoniasis can cause abnormal vaginal discharge.

Irritable bowel syndrome

People with IBS can have a number of different symptoms including tummy cramps, bloating and excessive gas. They also typically suffer from diarrhoea, constipation or both. But increased mucus in the stool is also a very common symptom of IBS.

Can some foods cause increase mucus in your stool?

In general, a healthy diet full of fibre and colourful fruit and vegetables is key to keeping your gut healthy. And an unhealthy gut can have more issues which may be linked to increased mucus. Also, if you have a condition that causes malabsorption such as coeliac disease or lactose intolerance then eating foods that trigger that intolerance can cause an increase in mucus. That’s why those with coeliac disease should avoid gluten and if you have a food intolerance it’s important to eliminate the food or take medication that can help you to digest it.

Can mucus in the stool be caused by stress?

There is a link between the gut and the brain called the gut-brain axis. This is a rich connection that allows constant communication between the gut and the brain. This means that stress can exert effects on the gut IBS flare-ups in particular have been linked to stress. Therefore increased stress could definitely play a role in increased mucus production. Tackling stress isn’t easy but by using an evidence-based approach like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) you can tackle stress and gut symptoms - the Zemedy program uses the principles of CBT to help people take control of their IBS symptoms. Download it today to start tackling stress and other gut triggers.

The bottom line

As you can see mucus in the stool can be caused by a wide range of different conditions, that’s why it is important to get professional help. If you’ve noticed an increase or a change in the amount of mucus - make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible.

The doctor will identify other symptoms and examine you. They will also do a range of tests to help identify why you may have increased mucus. Remember, most of the time increased mucus in your stool is not a medical emergency. However, if you have black stools, blood in your stools or you are feeling faint - then it is important to seek urgent medical advice as soon as possible.

Identifying symptoms and monitoring symptoms such as mucus in your stool or other symptoms like tummy cramps and whether you have loose stool can be a great way of looking after your health. If you have IBS, in particular, tracking can be a great way to help you manage your symptoms. Find out more in our 4 reasons you should track IBS symptoms.

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