A certain amount of phlegm in the stool is normal, because mucus is naturally used to lubricate the intestines. An excess amount is typically an indicator of inflammation or infection. Hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bowel obstructions and bacterial infections are among the more common causes, but it also might be an indicator of more serious gastrointestinal disorders, including ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Although internal hemorrhoids are unlikely to lead to any discomfort other than bleeding, external hemorrhoids can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, including pain, itchiness, bleeding and swelling. Phlegm in the stool will often be one of the first indicators of the condition. Most hemorrhoids are usually benign, and the majority of cases can be cured with increased hydration and fiber in the diet. More serious cases of hemorrhoids might require surgery.
Mucus in the stool is a normal consequence of irritable bowel syndrome, because the intestines will naturally produce more mucus as part of the inflammation. In some less serious cases, IBS is cured with bowel movement, but there typically is no known cause. IBS might be associated with an infection or might begin with no visible catalyst. For chronic cases, patients generally must resort to long-term therapies and treatments to relieve the symptoms of the disorder.
Bacterial infections might lead to increased mucus production in the intestines. These infections are typically accompanied by other symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever and cramping. Although some infections might be benign enough to pass on their own, other serious cases usually can be treated with antibiotics.
Bowel obstructions can have a variety of causes. Phlegm in the stool is one among the many generally more severe symptoms, which also include constipation, vomiting, abdominal distention and severe cramping. Most cases of bowel obstruction must be treated in the hospital, and surgery might be necessary in more serious cases.
Colitis refers to an inflammation of the colon and sometimes of the entire large intestine. Ulcerative colitis is most associated with phlegm in the stool, because ulcers in the intestines form excess mucus and pus that must pass through the body. Drugs are the standard treatment for colitis, but surgical removal of the entire large intestine can be necessary in severe cases. Alternative therapies, such as dietary changes involving herbs, antioxidants and certain fats and oils, have also been attempted.
Crohn's disease can affect the tissues directly surrounding the digestive tract. This can lead to a large range of symptoms, the most common being abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea and bloody or phlegmy stool. Crohn's disease has the potential to become extremely serious, but there is no definite pharmaceutical or surgical treatment. A variety of medications, surgeries and alternative therapies are available to help control the symptoms.