What Does Mucus in Stool Mean?

Medically Reviewed By Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
Was this helpful?
608

Small amounts of mucus in your stool is likely nothing to worry about. However, large amounts of mucus, along with other symptoms, could be a sign of a medical condition like IBS, Crohn’s disease, or bacterial infections. This article gives an overview of what it means to have mucus in stool, as well as the causes and treatments for excessive mucus in stool.

What is mucus in stool?

Mucus has many purposes in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. One is lubrication: It helps materials pass through your GI tract smoothly. This coating of mucus also protects your digestive tract against bacteria, digestive acids, and food-related toxins, and it promotes a healthy microbiome in your gut.

Sometimes you might see a small amount of clear, white, or yellow jelly-looking mucus in your stool. A small amount is completely normal and not a cause for concern.

However, significant amounts of mucus, especially mucus accompanied by pain, diarrhea, or blood, may indicate an infection, inflammation, or other condition of the intestinal tract.

What other symptoms might occur with mucus in stool?

Mucus in stool may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition that is causing excessive mucus to show up in your stool.

Digestive tract symptoms that may occur along with mucus in stool

Mucus in the stool may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive tract, such as:

Other symptoms that may occur along with mucus in stool

Mucus in the stool may accompany other symptoms beyond the GI tract, including:

When to call a doctor

While a small amount of mucus in the stool is not a cause for concern, there are times you may need medical care. If you have a lot of mucus in your stool, or if you have mucus along with other symptoms, contact your doctor.

Seek prompt medical care if mucus in your stool is persistent, especially if it is accompanied by a fever or changes in your bowel movements, or if it worsens

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life threatening condition

In some cases, mucus in stool may be a symptom of a life threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for any of these life threatening symptoms:

What causes mucus in stool?

Abnormal amounts of mucus in stool may be caused by a variety of conditions, including inflammation or an infection. When severe symptoms are also present, it could be a sign of something more serious.

Many of these conditions are related to the GI system. Depending on the specific cause of mucus in the stool, symptoms may vary.

Mucus in stool may be caused by digestive tract conditions including:

How doctors diagnose mucus in stool

Excessive mucus in the stool is often a symptom of another health condition. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will start with a physical exam and ask about your medical history.

Depending on your other symptoms, your doctor may want to do some tests to get to the source of the problem.

Tests for diagnosing mucus in stool

Some tests may include:

Questions for diagnosing the cause of mucus in stool

To diagnose your condition, your doctor will ask you several questions related to mucus in your stool, including:

  • When did you first notice mucus in your stool?
  • Have you noticed any other changes in your stool or bowel habits?
  • Are you having pain or discomfort anywhere?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you noticed anything that makes it better or worse?
  • Have you recently eaten or drunk anything that is unusual for you?
  • Is there any possibility you may have eaten spoiled food?
  • Do you have symptoms more frequently when you eat certain types of foods?
  • What medications are you taking?

Treatments for mucus in stool

Treatment for mucus in the stool will focus on treating the underlying cause. Causes and treatment options include:

  • If you have a chronic condition causing mucus in your stool, such as IBS or Crohn’s disease, you may need long-term prescription medication.
  • If you have an infection, you may need short-term medication such as antibiotics.
  • If you have food poisoning, you will typically recover on your own with extra fluids and rest.
  • If your doctor diagnoses cancer, you will need appropriate treatment. Your doctor will refer you to an oncologist.

Lifestyle changes to treat mucus in stool

If you have IBS, IBD, or lactose intolerance, you may be able to manage your symptoms by changing some of your dietary habits. Keeping a food diary can help pinpoint foods that trigger your symptoms.

Changes to your diet that may reduce your symptoms include:

  • Increase fiber in your diet.
  • Cut out gluten.
  • Avoid dairy products.
  • Try a low-FODMAP diet.
  • Eat several smaller meals per day, rather than three big meals.
  • Drink plenty of water, and consider avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Talk with your doctor about whether taking a probiotic supplement is right for you.

What are the potential complications of mucus in stool?

Because mucus in the stool can be a symptom of a serious condition, you could experience complications if you do not get treatment for the underlying cause.

Once the cause is diagnosed, it is important to follow the treatment plan that you and your doctor design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications, which could include:

Summary

Mucus in the digestive tract has many purposes. A small amount of clear, white, or yellow jelly-looking mucus in your stool is completely normal and not a cause for concern. 

If other symptoms occur along with mucus in stool, if there is a large amount of mucus, or if symptoms continue, check in with your doctor.

Your doctor may do a physical exam and order stool sample tests, blood tests, or imaging to determine whether an underlying condition is the cause of your symptoms.

Was this helpful?
608
Medical Reviewer: Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Mar 30
View All Digestive Health Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Anal fissure. (n.d.). https://fascrs.org/patients/diseases-and-conditions/a-z/anal-fissure
  2. Anemia. (n.d.). https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/anemia
  3. Colonic volvulus. (2019). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/anatomic-problems-lower-gi-tract/colonic-volvulus
  4. Colonoscopy. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/colonoscopy
  5. CT scans. (2016). https://medlineplus.gov/ctscans.html
  6. Definition and facts for Crohn’s disease. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/crohns-disease/definition-facts
  7. Definition and facts for proctitis. (2021). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/proctitis/definition-facts
  8. Dehydration. (2016). https://medlineplus.gov/dehydration.html
  9. Diverticular disease. (n.d.). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis
  10. Diverticular disease and diverticulitis. (2020). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diverticular-disease-and-diverticulitis/
  11. Eating, diet, and nutrition for irritable bowel syndrome. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/eating-diet-nutrition
  12. Farrell, D., et al. (2016). Self-reported symptom burden in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4957479/
  13. Fecal incontinence. (n.d.). https://fascrs.org/patients/diseases-and-conditions/a-z/fecal-incontinence
  14. Fecal occult blood test (FOBT). (2020). https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/fecal-occult-blood-test-fobt/
  15. Fluid and electrolyte balance. (2016). https://medlineplus.gov/fluidandelectrolytebalance.html
  16. Forootan, M., et al. (2018). Solitary rectal ulcer syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis study protocol. https://journals.lww.com/md-journal/fulltext/2018/05040/solitary_rectal_ulcer_syndrome__a_systematic.18.aspx
  17. Herath, M., et al. (2020). The role of the gastrointestinal mucus system in intestinal homeostasis: Implications for neurological disorders. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00248/full 
  18. Intestinal obstruction. (2017). https://medlineplus.gov/intestinalobstruction.html
  19. Intussusception. (2019). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/anatomic-problems-lower-gi-tract/intussusception
  20. Kasırga, E. (2019). The importance of stool tests in diagnosis and follow-up of gastrointestinal disorders in children. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6776453/ 
  21. Lactose intolerance. (n.d.). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/lactose-intolerance
  22. Low-FODMAP diet. (n.d.). https://gi.org/topics/low-fodmap-diet/
  23. MRI scans. (2016). https://medlineplus.gov/mriscans.html
  24. Okumura, R., et al. (2018). Maintenance of intestinal homeostasis by mucosal barriers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879757/
  25. Paone, P., et al. (2020). Mucus barrier, mucins and gut microbiota: The expected slimy partners? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7677487/
  26. Symptoms and causes of irritable bowel syndrome. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes 
  27. Tachycardia: Fast heart rate. (2016). https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/about-arrhythmia/tachycardia--fast-heart-rate
  28. Travelers' diarrhea. (2019). https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travelers-diarrhea
  29. Ulcerative colitis. (n.d.). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/ulcerative-colitis
  30. Upper GI endoscopy. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/upper-gi-endoscopy
  31. What is celiac disease? (n.d.). https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/
  32. What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? (2018). https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-IBD.htm
  33. White blood cell (WBC) in stool. (2021). https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/white-blood-cell-wbc-in-stool/