It is important to discuss any changes in bowel movements with a healthcare professional. While dietary factors can explain some unusual stools, other types of stool may be a sign of a serious health condition.
Here we talk about sticky poop; its possible causes, treatment, and when to see a doctor.
- Stool with a greasy or oily texture may indicate a problem with fat digestion.
- Some causes of sticky poop, such as those related to certain medical conditions, cannot be avoided.
- Sticky poop that is caused by an underlying medical condition could lead to complications if the medical condition is left untreated.
What causes sticky poop?
Sticky poop may be caused by improper digestion, or by certain medicines.
According to Dr. Octavio A. Vega, a physician at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, the ideal stool "...is like a banana." Stools should have a soft consistency, round shape, smooth surface, and tapered ends.
Variations in a person's diet may be one reason for alterations in stool consistency.
Experts at Johns Hopkins report that black, tarry stools can be caused by iron supplements or medicines that include bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol.
However, black stools could also signify something more serious, such as an upper gastrointestinal bleed coming from the stomach or small intestine.
Improper digestion due to celiac disease, a condition involving the pancreas, or an infection can also cause thick and sticky, abnormal looking stools. This type of poop may be hard to flush.
What foods cause it?
For people who have a problem digesting fats, eating high-fat foods may cause greasy stools. Some examples of high-fat foods include fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, whole milk dairy products, oils, butter, and pastries.
For people with celiac disease, eating gluten can damage the intestines. When this happens, the body has difficulty in absorbing fat. A gluten-free diet is medically necessary for people with this condition.
How do you avoid it?
A healthful diet that includes adequate amounts of fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, which can all promote gut health. Limiting processed foods, having a regular schedule, exercising, and getting adequate sleep can also help promote healthy bowel movements.
Probiotics or "good" bacteria may be helpful for diarrhea that is due to certain causes, but more research is needed.
How does gut health relate to overall health?
In recent years, scientists have expanded their knowledge of how gut health relates to overall health. According to the National Institutes of Health, "The health of your gut plays a key role in your overall health and well-being."
Stress, genetics, and diet can all affect gut health. Gut bacteria may even have an impact on certain medical conditions, such as allergies, asthma, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
When to see a doctor?
Changes in bowel movements that last for over a week may need to be assessed by a doctor.
Experts at Rush recommend seeing a doctor if changes in bowel movements persist for more than 1 to 2 weeks, especially in people more than 50 years old. They also advise seeing a doctor if constipation or diarrhea lasts longer than a week, as those issues could be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), IBS, a thyroid problem, or cancer.
People that experience changes in stool consistency along with other symptoms, such as pain, weight loss, or fevers, should also see a doctor.
Also, anyone who notices blood in their stool should see a doctor, as it could be a sign of a serious medical condition.
When is it normal?
Sticky poop that is not accompanied by other symptoms will probably last for about 1 week.
Unusual poop that might be caused by an underlying condition could last longer than 1 week, be accompanied by other symptoms, contain blood, or have a major change in color.
Complications and outlook
Complications will vary based on the nature of the medical condition.
When greasy stools are due to fat malabsorption, two primary concerns include weight loss and difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. For people who have conditions that impact their pancreas, pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) can help with nutrient digestion.
When tarry stools are related to a gastrointestinal bleed, serious complications could include anemia and shock. The treatment for a gastrointestinal bleed depends on where the bleed is in the digestive tract, as well as the reason for the bleeding.
In these cases, people should seek medical care right away.