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Your poo can tell you a lot about your health and diet, so it can be alarming to look down at the loo and see mucus in your faeces. Don’t panic just yet, there could be a perfectly harmless reason for it. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out what mucus in your poo means.
Mucus is a jelly-like substance produced by your body as a type of natural lubricant and sometimes it can make its way into your poo.
It’s normal to have mucus at the orifices and in the gut to help protect the mouth and airways and lubricate the passage of food and intestinal contents through the gut.
Don’t be alarmed if there’s mucus in your poo, but don’t self diagnose either.
On average, we all produce one litre of mucus per day – that’s a lot of mucus!
Mucus is 95 percent water, but also contains glycoproteins, proteoglycans, lipids and DNA.
Dead epithelial cells, and mucin, a natural gel are also present in the mucus.
Mucus is important for the functioning of the gut, according to Dr Lee.
She said: “In the gut, mucus serves as a barrier to protect the gut wall from acid in the stomach, and the digestive process that takes place in the intestines.
“The microbiome – your own gut flora – plays a vital role in the health of your gut mucus and maintaining this barrier.”
What does mucus in poo mean?
Everyone has a small amount of clear or whitish mucus in the bowels and this is present when they have a poo, Dr Lee said.
She added: “However if something has changed and this is different to normal, you must go and see your GP.
“Try not to be embarrassed – these are just bodily functions.
“We all have them and your doctor will have seen it all before. Even the Queen sits on the toilet!”
Usually, healthy mucus is clear or may appear white or slightly yellow.
To tell if your mucus is healthy, you need to look at how much there is and what colour it is.
Dr Lee said: “Mucus is abnormal if there is an increase in the quantity, a marked change in the colour, or it becomes blood-stained.
“If it is copious, your stools may be full of mucus, and it may be present on the toilet paper when you wipe yourself.”
Sometimes your gut can produce too much mucus, which is why you might see too much in your poo.
Dr Lee explained: “Chronic stress can affect the integrity of the gut and disrupt the barrier function. When we feel stressed, we can literally feel our stomach’s churning!
“Allergic reactions, infections and items in the diet such as spicy foods, can trigger an increase in the amount of mucus.
“Diseases such as Crohn’s disease result from gut wall inflammation which results in an increase in mucus production.
“Some types of bowel cancer are also known to increase mucus production.
“Some gastrointestinal conditions result in pus mixed in with the stools – pus is a type of mucus but resulting from an infection and is full of white cells and dead bacteria.
“Pus can be all different colours and has an unpleasant smell.”
If you’ve spotted changes in your poo, you need to go and see your GP.
Dr Lee said: “The doctor will ask you lots of questions about your bowel habit, and diet.
“They will need to examine you and they may want to do a rectal examination if necessary.
“You will be asked to give a poo specimen, to test it for infection, and the presence of blood.
“You may need to be referred to see a specialist – a Gastroenterologist – who will do more tests including looking up your back passage with a telescope – called a sigmoidoscopy.
“You may need a colonoscopy. When all the test results are back, this will help make the diagnosis.”
Several medical conditions can result in excess mucus in the stools. For example:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Anal fistulas
- Colon cancer
How can it be treated?
The treatment of mucus in your poo depends on the cause.
However, in principle, Dr Lee said it’s important to start by increasing your daily fluid intake to at least two litres per day.
She added: “Eat more probiotics – foods that contain live bacteria such as yoghurt, kefir, pickles, sourdough bread and sauerkraut.
“Eat an anti-inflammatory diet – mainly bland foods and avoiding spicy foods.
“Your doctor may prescribe treatment for mucus in your stools, for example, this is sometimes treated with antibiotics.”
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