Crohn’s disease Can cause many symptoms in the digestive tract and other parts of the body. Abnormal stools (poop) tend to be common, especially when Crohn’s disease is active. Digestive symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, pain, and blood or mucus in the stool.
This article will discuss Crohn’s disease, your bowel movements and bowel movements, when to see your healthcare provider, and possible recommended treatments.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is primarily considered a digestive disorder. It can cause inflammation anywhere in the small or large intestine of the digestive system, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, and joints. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as ulcerative colitis and indeterminate colitis.
Inflammation and disease symptoms can come and go throughout a person’s life. There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease, but there are effective treatments.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Stool
What is considered normal stool runs on the spectrum. Most people have bowel movements (stools) between several times a day to once a few days. What may be outside the normal range is having several bowel movements per day or less than one bowel movement every three days.
Crohn’s disease can cause stool changes. Inflammation (swelling and redness) and ulcers in the small and/or large intestine caused by Crohn’s disease can cause stool frequency, consistency, and appearance that are outside the normal range.
Crohn’s disease can cause:
- stomach ache
- Constipation (hard, infrequent bowel movements)
- diarrhea (loose stools)
- feeling that bowel movements are incomplete
- mucus in stool
- pain or cramping before bowel movements
What does poop look like in people with Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease can cause stool to look different. It may be looser, more difficult to pass, and may come in various shapes or colors.
Crohn’s disease does not cause stool to appear in any particular color. However, stools from people with Crohn’s disease may come in a variety of colors, depending on how the disease affects them.
People with Crohn’s disease may have malabsorption, which means that food is not fully digested and nutrients are not absorbed. If the food is dark in color (think spinach is green, Oreo cookies are black) and isn’t digested well, it can cause stool to turn that color.
Crohn’s disease can also cause some people to pass blood or mucus in their stools if their disease is active. Blood can appear anywhere from bright red to nearly black. The brighter the color, the further down the blood is coming from the gut. The mucus is white or yellowish, sticky or gel-like, and may be slippery.
Diarrhea or stool changes alone are not enough to diagnose Crohn’s disease in children. Diarrhea caused by infection or dietary changes is common in young children, so other causes of stool changes should be ruled out first.
However, more and more children are being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Diarrhea is a common symptom of Crohn’s disease in children, along with abdominal pain. Crohn’s disease in children can also cause weight loss, growth problems, loss of appetite, joint pain, and skin problems.
Do you often poop with Crohn’s?
Some people with Crohn’s disease go to the bathroom more often than people without digestive problems. In severe Crohn’s disease, diarrhea may occur several times a day.
For some people with Crohn’s disease, bowel movements are uncommon. This can sometimes be caused by narrowing of the intestines, making it harder for stool to pass.
The key is to understand the typical features of inactive Crohn’s disease (called remission), and then to understand what happens to your stool during a Crohn’s attack. This varies from person to person. People with Crohn’s disease may find that when their disease is more active, they have more stools, possibly with diarrhea.
How to Treat Crohn’s Poop
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can come and go. One of the ways people treat active disease is with medication. This includes oral medications (pills), enemas (foams or suppositories), injections, and infusions (administered through an IV catheter). Changes to diet, vitamins, and supplements are also sometimes tried.
Antidiarrheal medicines may sometimes be used for Crohn’s disease, but only after discussion with a healthcare provider. They may not help some people.
Crohn’s medication will help treat inflammation that causes diarrhea, constipation, or other stool changes. Most people work with their healthcare provider to find treatments to help manage their symptoms.
When to see a healthcare provider
People who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease usually see their healthcare provider regularly (every six months or yearly is common). Health care providers often give directions on which symptoms should mean seeing them sooner. These may include diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, and abdominal pain.
For people without a diagnosis, it’s also important to see a healthcare provider when bowel movements change.
Diarrhea or constipation that lasts more than a few days or comes and goes for weeks or months is one cause. Abdominal pain, either sudden and severe, or more nagging and persistent, is another reason to seek care.
Finally, blood in the stool is never normal. Blood can appear bright red to darker, almost black, making it harder to identify as blood. The smell can also be different, smelling like pennies. Blood in the stool is always a reason to see a healthcare provider.
Crohn’s disease can cause stool changes. This may include changes in color and frequency or the presence of blood or mucus. When stools look different, it is important for someone who has already been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease to speak with a healthcare provider to check to see if the condition has become active again.
Crohn’s disease can cause diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and blood or mucus in the stool. Symptoms may come on slowly, and people tend to normalize them, which means they become a part of life. But these changes are abnormal, and they can mean inflammation in the gut.
Regular visits to a healthcare provider are important for managing Crohn’s disease symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take stool softeners if I have Crohn’s disease?
When you have Crohn’s disease constipation, it can be tempting to take over-the-counter medications like stool softeners. It is important to understand why constipation occurs. People with Crohn’s disease may experience constipation just like everyone else.
However, when you have Crohn’s disease, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider before taking stool softeners or laxatives. If constipation is associated with Crohn’s disease, more treatment may be needed to control Crohn’s disease.
Why does Crohn’s poop smell so bad?
Defecation does smell, and diarrhea may have a stronger smell. However, if the stool smells bad, you need to see your doctor, especially if you also have diarrhea or other symptoms such as pain.
Foul-smelling stool can also be a symptom of an infection that may require treatment with antibiotics.
Can a stool sample detect Crohn’s disease?
Stool tests to monitor for Crohn’s disease. However, a stool test alone cannot diagnose Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed after considering all symptoms as well as the results of blood tests, imaging studies, and usually colonoscopy and/or video pill capsule endoscopy.
Biopsies (tissue samples) taken during endoscopy such as colonoscopy are often used to confirm the diagnosis.