Found Blood In Your Stool? Here's What To Do Next
Suddenly noticing blood in your stool can set off alarm bells in your mind, but take comfort in knowing that this unpleasant surprise is a rather common phenomenon and is oftentimes nothing serious. While it's always important to get a proper diagnosis from your health care practitioner when you find blood in school, educating yourself on the following causes and treatment options can help you be informed.
First off, know that color matters.
Blood in your stool can indicate an issue anywhere in your digestive system, and the color of the blood may help determine exactly where the bleeding is coming from. Black-colored poop can indicate an issue in your upper digestive system, like the stomach or esophagus. If the blood appears to be bright red or maroon, it's likely to be caused by an issue in the lower digestive tract, including the intestines, rectum, or anus.
A few causes of bloody stool:
One of the most common causes of rectal bleeding, hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels caused by pressure in the lower abdominal area. While hemorrhoids can be annoying, uncomfortable, and sometimes itchy, they're usually no cause for alarm. Hemorrhoids can stem from straining during difficult bowel movements, pregnancy, obesity, and prolonged sitting. Hemorrhoids can be external or internal and cause bright-red bleeding.
If you do have hemorrhoids, soaking in a warm bath can help to reduce swelling and discomfort. Also try increasing your fiber and water intake. This will help you strain less while pooping, making stool easier to pass. Incorporate fiber-rich fruit like apples, peaches, and pears into your diet—and make sure you eat the skins! If you often find yourself constipated, try eating prunes for a gentle and natural laxative effect.
Your entire digestive tract, mouth to anus, is lined with a thin, moist tissue layer called mucosa. Small tears in mucosa lining the anus are called anal fissures and could be the cause of bright-red blood in your stool. Like hemorrhoids, anal fissures occur due to difficult bowel movements, when stool is too bulky or hard to pass through the colon easily. Anal fissures are sometimes compared to cracks that occur with chapped lips or a paper cut.
To avoid getting anal fissures in the first place, or to avoid exacerbating those that already exist, drink lots and lots of water. Also try to eat between 20 and 35 grams of fiber daily. If the fissures are causing you pain, try taking a sitz bath (sitting in a shallow pool of water) to soothe and clean the area.
This common intestinal condition occurs when small pouches form in the wall of the colon. If a pouch becomes infected or inflamed, the diagnosis is diverticulitis. Symptoms include bright red bleeding from the rectum, bloating, fever, nausea, tenderness, or intense abdominal pain. Diverticulitis can be acute or chronic. Chronic issues can lead to serious complications that may require surgery, which makes it crucial to get a diagnosis from your doctor.
Again, it's important to add more fiber to your daily diet and increase your water intake here. (Are you starting to sense a theme?) Fiber is especially crucial for those dealing with diverticulitis because it reduces the time it takes food to travel through the colon, therefore reducing the possibility of infection. There is also research suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation for people concerned with diverticular disease.
Colitis or Crohn's disease
Colitis and Crohn's disease are forms of inflammatory bowel disease, and both can cause inflammation and/or ulcers in your digestive tract. Ulcers are like open sores in the lining of the stomach or small intestine, often caused by a bacterial infection. You can also develop ulcers from long-term use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen or naproxen. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can cause bloody diarrhea, as well as stools that contain mucus or pus.
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Research shows that boswellia can treat many conditions, including intestinal and bowel diseases. In one study, participants with Crohn's disease were treated with either boswellia or the prescription drug mesalazine (a medication commonly used to treat Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and IBS). Boswellia performed as well as the drug, without some of the dangerous side effects. There are also essential oils that can help soothe the discomfort common with intestinal bowel diseases, including coriander, fennel, caraway, and peppermint oil.
Polyps or Cancer
Polyps are small masses of cells that can form in your colon (large intestine). Anyone can develop colon polyps, though they become more prevalent in people over the age of 50. They’re extremely common and usually harmless, though some may grow, bleed, and sometimes even become cancerous. Polyps are often found during a routine colonoscopy, but are sometimes suspected if a person experiences a change in stool color (it may be streaked with red or appear black). Bleeding associated with colon cancer is often called occult bleeding, which means it’s not seen with the naked eye and can only be detected during cancer screening.