Ulcerative Colitis Poop: A Complete Guide to Stool Symptoms

Medically Reviewed By Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
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People with ulcerative colitis may experience changes in their stools. These changes can involve consistency, color, smell, frequency, and more. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers on the inner lining of the large intestine. Experts believe that this is due to an overactive immune response. The condition can cause a variety of symptoms that affect the digestive tract and other parts of the body.

This article goes into detail about the changes a person with ulcerative colitis might notice in their stools. It details what stools might look like, what they might smell like, and how frequently they might come, among other factors. It also explains how a person with ulcerative colitis can reduce or manage their stool-related symptoms.

Consistency

Doctors may use the Bristol Stool Chart to categorize stools according to their appearance
Infographic by Diego Sabogal

Doctors may use the Bristol Stool Chart to categorize stools according to their appearance. In the Bristol Stool Chart, there are seven types of stool, ranging from separate hard lumps to entirely liquid. Overly firm, irregular bowel movements may indicate constipation, and liquid stools tend to indicate diarrhea.

People with ulcerative colitis may experience constipation, diarrhea, or healthy, typical bowel movements. This can depend on what type of ulcerative colitis a person has.

Color

People with ulcerative colitis may notice that their stools can appear a different color than usual. This can be due to a number of different reasons, depending on what color the stools seem to be.

The following causes may result in certain stool colors:

  • Yellow: If the stools appear yellow, a person may have mucus or pus in their stool that is coating it and making it appear lighter.
  • Pink: Pink or reddish stools can indicate the presence of blood. If the color is brighter, appearing pink or light red, it often means that the blood is coming from ulcers in the rectum or large intestine. This could also be due to anal fissures, tears, or hemorrhoids.
  • Black: If the stool appears black or darker than usual, it can indicate older, drier blood that is passing through the stools. This blood is more likely than lighter blood to have come from higher up in the digestive system.

Seek emergency medical attention if you:

  • are bleeding and feel faint
  • have bleeding that becomes severe
  • vomit blood

Smell

People with ulcerative colitis may sometimes notice that they have foul smelling stools. This is when stools smell noticeably different from how they normally do. Foul smelling stools in ulcerative colitis can be due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Malabsorption: Some people with ulcerative colitis do not absorb nutrients from food as well as they should. This can make their stools smell more strongly.
  • Bleeding in the digestive system: Blood in the stools from ulcers in the digestive tract or other places in the body can make the stools smell foul.
  • Diarrhea: Some people with ulcerative colitis experience diarrhea, which can have a stronger smell than firmer stools.

Frequency

One common symptom of ulcerative colitis is a frequent, urgent need to pass stool.

This can also involve tenesmus, which is when you feel that you need to pass a bowel movement, but when you attempt to do so, your bowel is empty.

The frequency of passing stools in people with ulcerative colitis varies according to the severity of the condition. For example, a person with mild ulcerative colitis may pass fewer than four bowel movements per day. A more severe condition can involve more than six bowel movements per day. Some people with especially severe ulcerative colitis find that they pass more than 10 bowel movements per day.

Some people with ulcerative colitis experience incontinence. This is when they need to pass a stool and do not reach a toilet in time. It can also mean that they pass a stool without realizing it.

When to contact a doctor

You should seek immediate medical care if you notice:

  • bleeding and a feeling of faintness
  • severe bleeding
  • blood in your vomit

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have ulcerative colitis. You should reach out to your physician to discuss diagnosis and treatment options:

Can stool be ‘normal’ in a person with ulcerative colitis?

It is important to remember that everyone experiences conditions differently. Ulcerative colitis can be more severe in some people than in others. However, the symptoms generally involve disturbances in the digestive system and can be noticeable in the stool.

You should speak with your doctor if you think that you may have ulcerative colitis.

Common stool-related symptoms of ulcerative colitis, as opposed to Crohn’s disease, include:

  • fecal urgency
  • increased bowel movements
  • mucus in the stool
  • bowel movements at night

Learn seven things doctors want you to know about ulcerative colitis here.

How to reduce stool-related symptoms in ulcerative colitis

There are several ways a person with ulcerative colitis can manage their symptoms to improve their comfort and quality of life. However, the best way to find the most effective treatment plan for your needs is to work closely with your doctor.

Learn more about finding the right medical treatment for ulcerative colitis here.

Managing diarrhea

To manage diarrhea, you can try:

  • eating thoroughly cooked fruits and vegetables
  • eating smaller, more regular meals
  • avoiding the following items:
    • beans
    • cabbage
    • broccoli
    • caffeine
    • fizzy drinks

Keeping a food diary can also help you identify what foods are triggering certain symptoms.

You can also speak with a doctor about medical treatments for diarrhea.

It is important to ensure that you are staying hydrated if you are experiencing diarrhea.

Reducing blood in your stools

Some steps for reducing blood in your stools include:

  • taking anti-inflammatory medications at a doctor’s recommendation
  • supplementing as appropriate, such as by taking:
    • iron
    • folic acid
    • vitamin B12

If a person has been bleeding severely, or hemorrhaging, they may require surgery. Surgery can involve removing the colon and diverting the waste through the abdomen through a hole called a stoma. It can also involve a surgeon attaching a J-shaped pouch to the small intestine and the rectum.

Treating constipation

At-home methods for managing constipation include:

  • drinking more water
  • getting more exercise
  • eating more fiber
  • avoiding straining or holding in bowel movements

You can also talk with your doctor about medical options for managing constipation.

Managing incontinence

Some tips for managing bowel incontinence include:

  • Trying bowel retraining: Try practicing holding and waiting if you feel the need to pass stool. This can seem hard at first, but it may get easier as your muscles and confidence build.
  • Doing pelvic floor exercises: These exercises can strengthen the muscles around the anus. Practice holding and squeezing these muscles in even when you do not need to pass stool.
  • Making dietary changes: You can work with a doctor and keep a food diary to identify what foods and beverages trigger your symptoms the most.
  • Working with a professional: Incontinence usually requires an evaluation by a doctor. They may suggest working with a physical therapist to maximize the gains from bowel retraining and pelvic floor exercises.

Summary

People with ulcerative colitis most often notice diarrhea and blood or mucus in the stool. However, the condition can affect people in different ways according to its type and severity.

Ulcerative colitis can also cause people to experience fecal urgency, which causes them to need to pass stools urgently. This can even be the case if their bowels are empty.

There are several medical treatment options and at-home management tips that can reduce stool-related symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis.

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Medical Reviewer: Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Apr 25
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.