What Can Cause Diarrhea and Bloody Stool?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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Many different conditions can cause a person to have diarrhea and bloody stool, including food poisoning, E. coli infection, colon cancer, colon polyps, and Crohn’s disease. Determining the exact cause of these symptoms can be difficult, particularly for those with no medical training, so contacting a doctor is the best option for patients with the issue. Food poisoning is amongst the most likely causes of the problem, along with E. coli infection. Although these are common causes, they can still be very severe, so treatment options should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible.

Salmonella food poisoning is one of the leading causes of diarrhea and bloody stool; it is characterized by abdominal pain, nausea, and fever. The blood in the stool is a result of the irritation that the condition causes to the digestive system. Generally, food poisoning will result from undercooked eggs or poultry, but it can also be spread through the feces of anybody infected with the condition. Even food not susceptible to salmonella can become infected if prepared by somebody with the condition with particles of feces on his or her hands.


E. coli is another condition which can cause diarrhea with bloody stool, and it is also usually transmitted through improperly prepared food. Cattle carry the E. coli germs within their intestines, and this can be passed into ground beef and raw milk. The pasteurization process that commercial milk goes through removes these bacteria, and fully cooking ground beef will kill the E. coli and make the meat safe to eat. Symptoms of E. coli infection will begin around seven days after the infected substance has been ingested. Most cases will start with ordinary, watery diarrhea and then develop into bloody diarrhea shortly afterwards.

Crohn’s disease is another possible cause of diarrhea and bloody stool, and can be a dangerous and debilitating condition. The disease occurs when the bowel becomes inflamed, and can often cause severe diarrhea. It also doesn’t have a cure, but can generally be managed through medication and symptom management. Other signs of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain and malnutrition, and the condition can have serious complications if left unchecked. With treatment, however, many sufferers of Crohn’s disease are able to live relatively ordinary lives.

Other conditions can also lead to diarrhea and bloody stool, including colon cancer and colon polyps. Colon cancer is a particularly serious condition, and can be specifically identified by narrow stools, caused by a blockage in the colon. Polyps within the colon can also cause narrow stools, however, and most conditions cause some degree of abdominal discomfort. The similarity between the conditions associated with diarrhea and bloody stools makes a professional evaluation necessary.


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