Mucus in Stool

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 02, 2020

You may think of mucus as the slimy stuff you cough up when you're sick. But it can also show up at the other end: in your poop.

Many parts of your body make mucus, including your intestines. It lines your digestive tract, creating a protective layer against bacteria. It also helps waste pass smoothly through your colon. Some of it can stick to poop as it leaves your body.

Mucus in Stool Signs and Symptoms

If you feel fine and there's only a little mucus, you probably don't need to worry. But it may be a sign of a problem when:

  • There's a lot of mucus.
  • You notice it often.
  • You also see blood.
  • You have diarrhea.
  • You have belly pain.

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor.

Causes of Mucus in Stool

Different digestive problems can make more mucus show up in your stool. Some are serious and long-lasting. Others can clear up quickly. Problems that can cause mucus include:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The main symptoms may be constipation (IBS-C), diarrhea (IBS-D), or alternating diarrhea and constipation (IBS-M). It’s typical to see mucus in your poop if you have this condition.

Crohn’s disease is another type of IBD that can cause mucus in your poop.

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. It also often causes diarrhea, belly pain, and cramping.

Proctitis. This is inflammation of the lower part of your large intestine, called the rectum. Sexually transmitted infections, foodborne illnesses, and IBD can cause it.

C. difficile (c. diff ). 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. It usually clears up within days.

Other infections. An infection with other bacteria or parasites can also cause the problem. Dysentery is one example.

Rectal cancer. One of the main signs of rectal cancer is bleeding, but you may also have mucus.

Anal fistulas or rectal ulcers. Anal fistuals are infected tunnels between the skin and the anus. They can form after an abscess. They can sometimes cause bad-smelling mucus to drain from the anal area. Rectal ulcers are open sores inside your rectum that can also cause mucus.

Allergic colitis. This reaction babies can have to cow’s milk can cause mucus in their poop.

Mucus in Stool Diagnosis

If your doctor thinks the mucus is related to a health problem, you may get a stool test. It's also called a stool culture or stool sample, and it can show whether you have an infection.

You don't need any special prep for this test. You simply put a small sample of your poop in a container that your doctor gives you.

Your doctor may also order a few other tests, too. The ones you get will depend on other symptoms you’re having. Some additional tests include:

  • Blood tests and stool tests
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Your doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera to look inside your colon.
  • Upper endoscopy to check your esophagus, stomach, and the upper part of your small intestine  
  • Capsule endoscopy (a camera in a capsule you swallow) can check for signs of Crohn’s disease
  • X-rays to look at internal organs
  • CT scans of your bowels and tissues
  • MRIs take detailed pictures of your organs and tissues

Treatment and Home Care for Mucus in Stool

The treatment you get for mucus in your poop depends on the problem that’s causing it. Some conditions will need medicine and others won't. For example, changes in diet that help you avoid certain foods may help you manage symptoms of IBS.

With mild food poisoning, you may only need to drink more fluids. On the other hand, you need antibiotics to treat infection with C. diff.

Once you have a diagnosis, you and your doctor should talk about the best treatment for that condition.

Show Sources

Current Opinion in Microbiology: “Role of mucus layers in gut infection and inflammation.” 

Mayo Clinic: “Mucus in stool: A concern?” “Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” “C. Difficile Infection,” “Food Poisoning,” “Crohn’s Disease,” “Solitary Rectal Ulcer Syndrome.”

American Family Physician: “Diagnosing the Patient with Abdominal Pain and Altered Bowel Habits: Is It Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Definition & Facts for Proctitis.”

Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education: “Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea and Clostridium Difficile.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Stool Culture.”

NHS Choices: “Dysentery.” 

Medscape: “Rectal Cancer Clinical Presentation.” 

Boston Children’s Hospital: “Allergic Colitis.”

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