Brown Mucus in Stool – Sign of IBS or Something Else?
Bowel mucus is incredibly common, but most people never see it. It hangs about in the intestines, quietly helping to move along stool in a graceful and gentle manner, serving its primary purpose as a helpful lubricant. When clear or white mucus in stool become apparent, it’s typically just a sign of a relatively well functioning digestive tract (so long as it’s not accompanied by other symptoms or in an alarming abundance). However, when normal mucus color gives way to those that can be considered unusual such as green, black, yellow or brown mucus, it’s not uncommon for panic and alarm to follow. But, rest assured that in most cases, brown mucus in stool is a fairly easily explainable symptom.
One of the most common causes for dark brown mucus for instance is internal hemorrhoids. According to WebMD, when internal hemorrhoids become large and inflamed, they can become industrial strength mucus secretors. And, of course one of the tell tale symptoms of hemorrhoids is rectal bleeding. When combined, these two separate components can lead to dark brown mucus, particularly if the blood in the rectal region is old, where bright red color has faded and given way to dull or brownish hues. If hemorrhoids are present and known, then it can be very likely that they are the source of persistent dark brown mucus, particularly during bouts of excessive inflammation.
But, brown mucus in stool can be caused by yet another very common culprit. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most prolific causes of varying shades of bowel mucus, according to WebMD. This can be for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common likely has to do with the way in which irritable bowel syndrome can affect bowel movements in general. It’s not uncommon for instance, for those suffering from IBS to frequently encounter constipation. And, when constipation occurs, not only can a backup of stool result, but also a buildup of mucus. Therefore, when the problematic poo finally evacuates, it can do so with varying shades of mucus that has hung about in the colon waiting for its exit moment. Brown mucus in stool can also potentially be a result of diarrhea from IBS as well, as both forms of excrement issues can occur with the disorder.
In some cases, mucus in the stool that is brown can be associated with blood in the stool as it can appear tarry and almost black in color. This can have many different causes, but one of the most ominous causes of blood in the stool is cancer. New York Times points out that a very large list of conditions can have been associated with bloody stools ranging from benign and mild causes such as ulcers to serious health hazards like colon cancer and tumors of the small intestine. Sometimes, when brown or black mucus in stool is apparent, it can signal bleeding from somewhere within the digestive tract, and this bleeding can occur anywhere from the mouth opening to the actual anal point of exit. And, color here can provide some clues as to where the action is happening. The darker the color, the higher up the likely source. This is because of the digestive processing including exposure to fluids and juices that can change the hue of stool and its surrounding mucus.
Most of the time, brown mucus in stool is a very simply explained phenomenon that is caused by either a common condition like irritable bowel syndrome or simply the result of hemorrhoids. However, there are some cases where brown mucus in stool can serve as a signal to other, more serious underlying health conditions. It’s important therefore to pay close attention to the stool when changes are occurring. For instance, a single occurrence of brown mucus in stool may not be anything at all to worry about. But, when mucus is increasing exponentially, the stool itself or its color is changing, or there are other symptoms that are happening, it may be time to consider a visit to a health care provider. It’s possible that diagnostic testing will include things like a colonoscopy and a stool sample test. These tests are important when symptoms are present and can help identify whether or not the brown mucus is anything to be concerned about. In general, a visit with a health care provider is advisable whenever sudden, unusual or alarming symptoms are present.