IBS and Mucus in the Stool

A sudden appearance of mucus in your stool can be alarming for those dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you report it to your healthcare provider you may find she doesn't think it is a major concern. But you may still feel uneasy about it and wonder whether others also experience it.

Mucus in the stool is a very common symptom of IBS. It makes it onto the short list of IBS symptoms from the National Institutes of Health.

Surprisingly, scant research has been done in terms of finding out what causes the mucus to be there and what the mucus means about how your digestive system is functioning, or for that matter, not functioning as it should. This overview will help you understand 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. This includes the digestive, reproductive, respiratory, and urinary tracts

Mucus can be thin or thick and may be clear, green, yellow, or white. Mucus found in the stool is usually white.

Causes of Mucus in Stool

Health conditions that may cause mucus in stool
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

There are several digestive disorders that have been associated with the appearance of mucus in the stool:

A 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 healthcare provider immediately.

Occurrence in IBS

Considering that mucus in the stool 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 women.

Clearly, more work needs to be done. It is possible 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 healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider has ruled out other digestive health problems, you can take the presence of mucus in your stool off of your internal worry list.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is mucus with diarrhea common?

    It's common with certain gastrointestinal disorders. Bacterial infections from E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridium are common causes of diarrhea with mucus. Also, about 50% of people with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome report having mucus in their stool.

  • What does bloody mucus in your stool mean?

    Bloody mucus in stool is often a sign of colorectal cancer, but it may also be caused by Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have blood in your stool or other unusual symptoms.

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