Mucus is a jelly-like substance produced by the body to serve as a lubricant and protect delicate organs and tissues from bacteria, viruses, fungi, stomach acids and other irritants.
Healthy individuals can have trace amounts of mucus in stool, as the gastrointestinal tract, which consists of the small and large intestines through which stool passes, is covered with a mucosal layer.
In normal circumstances, it’s hard to notice mucus in stool as it is typically clear in colour. The substance may sometimes appear yellow or white.
While passing mucus with stool is a common and healthy occurrence, visible amounts of white or yellow mucus should be monitored, as it can be a symptom of other conditions.
In most cases, the increase in mucus is caused by dehydration or the common cold, but on rare occasions, it might be caused by more severe gastrointestinal conditions. In such circumstances, excessive quantities of mucus might be accompanied by symptoms such as blood or pus in the stool, abdominal cramping, excessive bloating and abdominal pain.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation may affect different parts of the digestive tract but may spread into the deeper layers of the bowel as well.
As the inflammation spreads, it can penetrate the mucosal layer covering the lining of the organs, which can produce yellow mucus in stool.
Other symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- Abdominal pain
- Severe diarrhoea
- Weight loss
- Mouth sores
Ulcerative colitis is also an inflammatory condition that affects the large intestine or rectum. This gastrointestinal condition produces sores in the rectum in the early stages. As the inflammation gets severe, the sores may spread to the entire colon.
With time, these sores may become ulcers, which can cause bleeding and a discharge of pus along with white or yellow mucus in stool.
While the condition affects people of all ages and ethnicities, males between the ages of 15-50 are more likely to develop ulcerative colitis.
Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Rectal pain
- Blood in stool
- Joint pain
- Decreased appetite
- Skin problems
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that affects the large intestine. IBS is usually mistaken for irritable bowel disorder (IBD), but unlike IBD, irritable bowel syndrome does not cause inflammation in the lining of the colon.
In most patients, IBS does not cause severe symptoms and can be managed by regulating diet, lifestyle, and stress. More severe cases, however, may need medical intervention.
Only a small percentage of IBS patients experience excessive mucus discharge during bowel movements.
Other symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Changes in the frequency of bowel movements
- Changes in the appearance of stool
An anal fistula refers to a tunnel-like formation that connects the anus to the parts surrounding it. This connection is abnormal and may form as a result of an infection in the glands surrounding the anus.
In most cases, the infection that causes the fistula forms a pocket of pus and drains via the fistula. The infection may also cause increased mucus production in your body, which you may notice as yellow mucus in stool.
Other symptoms of anal fistula include:
- Pain around the anus
- Painful bowel movements
Anal fistulas may be removed via surgery.
Bowel cancer refers to malignant growth in the colon or the rectum; both organs form the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract. Colorectal cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers among the Australian population and has only a five-year survival rate.
During the early stages of cancer, benign tumours may penetrate the lining of the colon, which may break the mucosal layer and cause mucus discharge during bowel movements.
Consult your gastrointestinal specialist if you notice the following symptoms along with excessive mucus in stool:
- Excessive fatigue and weakness
- Unintentional weight loss
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Chronic headaches
- Breathing difficulties
Seek treatment if you notice mucus in your stool
Excessive mucus discharge during bowel movements might be a sign of certain serious health issues. Consult a specialist if you notice any of the symptoms highlighted in this post along with mucus in stool.