Crohn's Disease Poop: What You Need to Know

Crohn’s disease can cause many symptoms, both in the digestive tract and in other parts of the body. Abnormal stools (poop) tend to be common, especially when Crohn’s disease is active. Digestive symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, pain, and blood or mucus in the stools.

This article will discuss Crohn's disease, what your stool and bowel movements may be like with the condition, when to see your healthcare provider, and what treatments may be recommended.

Man holding toilet tissue roll in a bathroom with a toilet in the background.

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What Is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is primarily considered a digestive condition. It causes inflammation in any part of the small or large intestine of the digestive system but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, and joints. It is one form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with ulcerative colitis and indeterminate colitis.

Inflammation and symptoms of the disease can come and go throughout a person’s lifetime. There are currently no cures for Crohn’s disease, but there are effective treatments. 

Symptoms of Crohn’s Poop

What is considered normal for stool runs on a spectrum. Most people pass stool (defecate) somewhere between a few times a day to once every few days. What might be outside the normal range is having a bowel movement several times a day or less than once every three days.

Crohn’s disease can cause changes in the stool. The inflammation (swelling and redness) and ulcers caused by Crohn’s disease in the small and/or large intestine can lead to stool frequency, consistency, and appearance outside the normal range.

Crohn’s disease could cause:

What Does Your Poop Look Like With Crohn’s?

Crohn’s disease can cause stool to look different. It could be looser, more difficult to pass, and it could be in various shapes or colors. 

Color

Crohn's disease doesn't cause stool to appear in any specific color. However, stool in people with Crohn's disease may be various colors based on how the disease affects them.

People with Crohn's disease may have malabsorption, which means that food isn't completely digested and the nutrients aren't absorbed. If food has a strong color (think green for spinach or black for Oreo cookies) and isn't digested well, it can cause the stool to turn that color.

Crohn's disease may also cause some people to pass blood or mucus in their stools if their disease is active. Blood can appear anywhere from bright red to nearly black. The brighter the color, the further down in the intestines the blood is coming from. Mucus is white or yellowish, looks stringy or like gel, and may be slippery.

In Children

Diarrhea or changes in stool alone aren't enough to diagnose Crohn’s disease in kids. Diarrhea from infections or changes in diet is common in little kids, so other reasons for stool changes will be ruled out first.

However, Crohn’s disease is increasingly being diagnosed in children. Diarrhea is a common symptom of Crohn’s disease in kids, along with abdominal pain. Crohn’s disease in kids also might cause weight loss, growth problems, lack of appetite, joint pains, and skin problems.

Do You Poop a Lot With Crohn’s?

Some people who have Crohn’s disease will go to the bathroom more often than people who don’t live with a digestive disease. In severe Crohn’s disease, diarrhea could occur many times a day.

For some people with Crohn’s disease, stools are infrequent. This can sometimes be caused by a narrowing of the intestines, making stool more difficult to pass.

The key is to know what is typical for inactive Crohn’s disease (called remission) and then know what happens to your stool during a Crohn’s disease flare-up. This varies from person to person. People with Crohn’s disease may find that they’re having more stools, possibly with diarrhea, when their disease is more active.

How to Treat Crohn’s Poop

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease may come and go. One of the ways people treat active disease is with medications. This includes oral drugs (pills), enemas (foams or suppositories), injections, and infusions (medications given through a line in a vein). Dietary changes, vitamins, and supplements are also sometimes tried.

Antidiarrheal medications might sometimes be used for Crohn’s disease but only after talking to a healthcare provider about them. They might not be helpful for some people.

The medications for Crohn’s disease will help treat the inflammation that’s leading to diarrhea, constipation, or other changes with your stool. Most people work with their healthcare providers to find the treatment that helps get symptoms under control.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

People with already diagnosed Crohn’s disease usually see their healthcare provider regularly (every six months or yearly is common). The healthcare provider will usually give instructions on what symptoms should mean seeing them sooner. These could include diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, and abdominal pain.

For people who don’t have a diagnosis, seeing a healthcare provider when there are changes to bowel movements is also important.

Diarrhea or constipation that goes on for more than a few days or comes and goes for weeks or months is one reason. Abdominal pain, which either comes on suddenly and is severe or is more nagging and goes on for a long time, is another reason to seek care.

Finally, blood in the stool is never normal. Blood can appear bright red to darker, almost black, making it more difficult to identify as blood. The odor also might be different and smell like pennies. Blood in the stool is always a reason to see a healthcare provider.

Summary

Crohn’s disease can cause changes to stool. This can include changes in color and frequency or the presence of blood or mucus. When stool appears different, it’s important for people already diagnosed with Crohn's disease to talk to a healthcare provider to check if the condition is becoming active again.

A Word From Verywell

Crohn’s disease can cause diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and blood or mucus in the stool. The symptoms can come on slowly and people tend to normalize them, meaning they become part of life. But these changes are not normal, and they can mean that inflammation is occurring in the intestines.

Seeing a healthcare provider on a regular basis is important to keeping Crohn’s disease symptoms under control. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it OK to take a stool softener if I have Crohn's disease?

    When having constipation with Crohn’s disease, taking an over-the-counter medication like a stool softener might be tempting. It’s important to understand why constipation is happening. People who have Crohn’s disease can become constipated like anyone else.

    But it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider before taking stool softeners or laxatives when you have Crohn’s disease. If constipation is related to Crohn’s, more treatment might be needed to manage Crohn’s disease. 

  • Why does Crohn’s poop smell so bad?

    Bowel movements do have an odor, and diarrhea may have an even stronger odor. However, if stool smells really bad, it’s a reason to get checked out by a doctor, especially if there’s also diarrhea or other symptoms like pain.

    Foul-smelling stool can also be a symptom of an infection that might need treatment with antibiotics.

  • Can a stool sample detect Crohn’s disease?

    Stool tests are done to monitor Crohn’s disease. However, a stool test alone can’t diagnose Crohn’s disease.

    Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed after taking into account all of the symptoms, as well as the results of blood tests, imaging studies, and usually a colonoscopy and/or a video pill capsule endoscopy.

    The biopsies (tissue samples) taken during an endoscopy test such as a colonoscopy are often used to confirm the diagnosis.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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