8 Possible Reasons You’re Pooping Blood—and When to See a Doctor

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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The good news: Healthy adults usually recover from E. coli–related issues in about a week. In general, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration is the main thing to do. The bad news: E. coli that causes bloody diarrhea can sometimes make people sick enough to wind up in the hospital. At the hospital, you can receive supportive care, like IV fluids, blood transfusions, and kidney dialysis, if necessary.

Even if you have a mild case and a doctor says you can recover at home, don’t take anti-diarrheal medication, which slows down your digestive system and can make it take longer to feel better.

6. Peptic ulcer

A peptic ulcer is an open sore that develops either on the inside lining of your stomach (gastric ulcer) or the upper portion of your small intestine (duodenal ulcer). These ulcers can happen due to bacterial infections and the use of NSAID painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium, according to the NIDDK.

While the majority of people with peptic ulcers have no symptoms, the most common symptom you might experience is abdominal pain. However, in less common and more severe cases, you can also end up with dark blood in your poop. “It can look like driveway tar—it’s shiny and sticky and has a peculiar odor to it,” Gail Bongiovanni, MD, a gastroenterologist and adjunct professor in the division of digestive diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF. This dark stool is also known as melena and can have a consistency like peanut butter. If you notice it, it suggests that you need an evaluation of your upper intestinal tract to locate the source of the bleeding.

Doctors may prescribe drugs to neutralize irritating stomach acid or medications to help protect the tissues that line your stomach and small intestine. If your peptic ulcer is bleeding, you will need a procedure known as an upper endoscopy so a gastroenterologist can treat the bleed and stop it from bleeding again.

7. Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

Though these are two different forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can cause chronic inflammation in your digestive tract that leads to bleeding ulcers—hence you pooping blood.

In case you’re not familiar with it, Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract, usually in your small intestine and the beginning of your large intestine, per the NIDDK. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes irritation or swelling and sores called ulcers on the inner lining of your large intestine.

IBD treatment courses vary from person to person, but they can involve taking anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids to tame inflammation, immunosuppressants to stop your immune system from attacking your digestive tract, and medicine to combat symptoms like diarrhea and constipation. A doctor may also recommend surgery if other treatments haven’t helped as much as they should. Keep in mind that your treatment options may change over time based on new research and newly available therapies. Make sure you have ongoing conversations with your doctor about which treatment options might be best for you.

8. Colorectal cancer

Bright red rectal bleeding can sometimes be due to colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Colorectal cancer is tough to pin down—it may not cause symptoms right away, the American Cancer Society says, and when it does, rectal bleeding can show up alone or with other issues. You might also experience things like diarrhea, constipation, a persistent urge to poop, a change in your stool shape or size (e.g., they become pencil-thin), abdominal pain, weakness and fatigue, and unintended weight loss. 

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include a personal or family history of colorectal polyps, a personal or family history of irritable bowel disease like Crohn’s colitis or ulcerative colitis, being Black, and being above 45, per the ACS. (However, colorectal cancer rates are significantly rising in younger people, too.)

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