Has this happened to you? All of a sudden, you notice that there is a great deal of mucus being passed along with your stool. This seems quite alarming -- it can't be normal, can it? However, you bring it up to your doctor, but to your dismay, they don't think it is a big deal at all. You walk away feeling uncertain. Is it possible that your doctor is missing something?
Mucus in the stool is a very common symptom in IBS. Surprisingly, scant research has been done in terms of finding out what causes the mucus to be there and what the mucus means regarding the way that your digestive system is functioning, or for that matter, not functioning as it should. This overview will help to improve your knowledge about the mucus that you see and perhaps put some of your fears to rest.
What Is Mucus?
Mucus is a fluid that is produced by mucous membranes found throughout your body. Mucus serves the purpose of moistening and protecting the lining of many of the body's systems, including the digestive, reproductive, respiratory, and urinary tracts. Mucus can be thin or thick, and may be clear, green, yellow or white. Mucus found on stool is usually white.
Health Conditions that Cause Mucus in Stool
There are several digestive disorders that have been associated with the appearance of mucus in the stool:
Sudden onset of mucus in the stool, accompanied by urgent diarrhea, cramping, fever and blood in the stool may be indicative of a bacterial infection. If you are having any of these symptoms, contact your physician immediately.
IBS and Mucus
Considering that mucus is a common symptom of IBS, there is a glaring lack of research on the subject. Although mucus is generally associated with inflammation, research studies on the role of inflammation in IBS do not even mention mucus. Mucus was discussed in just a couple of small studies. In one study, just over half of the IBS patients surveyed reported mucus in their stools. In another small study, it was found that men with IBS were more likely to report mucus in their stools than females. Clearly, more work needs to be done. It seems to this writer that the investigation of mucus might lead to a better understanding of the role of inflammation in IBS.
Should You Be Concerned?
Fortunately, the mucus in the stool associated with IBS is considered to be a "benign" symptom, in other words, a symptom that does not indicate any serious health issue. However, as with any unusual symptom, be sure to tell your doctor. Your doctor is in the best position to evaluate whether or not the mucus you see in your stool is indicative of a more serious health condition. If your doctor has ruled out other digestive health problems, you can take the presence of mucus in your stool off of your internal "worry list."
Camacho, S., et.al. "Endoscopic and symptoms analysis in Mexican patients with irritable Bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, and gastroesophageal reflux disease" Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 2010 82:953-962.
Ghoshal, U., et.al. "Epidemiological and clinical profile of irritable bowel syndrome in India: report of the Indian Society of Gastroenterology Task Force" Indian Journal of Gastroenterology 2008 27:22-28.
"Irritable Bowel Syndrome" National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) web site Accessed April 24, 2012.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.