Blood in Stool -- Causes and Cures
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May 23, 2011, last updated May 24, 2014


By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist







Spotting blood in the stool is one of the symptoms most likely
to scare you into thinking you have a serious disease.  Should
you be worried? Does blood in the stool signify a dangerous
condition? When does blood in your stool mean an annoying,
benign condition and when could it be something worse, like
cancer? Is there any way to prevent blood in the stool?

How common is rectal bleeding? A 1997 study from doctors at
the University of Sidney Department of Medicine found that
about 14% of us experience bloody stools. As the study found:
"In otherwise healthy young and middle-aged persons,
approximately one in seven have a history of rectal bleeding".

Blood can appear when you wipe, in the stools themselves or
dark blood mixed with stools.


The color of the blood in your stool may vary from bright red
to maroon or dark red/ black. Rectal bleeding, also known as
hematochezia, produces bright red blood. Black or deep red
blood in the stool, which is also sticky or “tarry” in consistency,
is called "melena" (also spelled "melaena").

In general, dark blood is more serious than bright red blood.
Dark blood in your stool can indicate acute bleeding in your
upper gastrointestinal tract. If you see dark blood in your
stool, call emergency services and get to a hospital. More than
10% of patients with this type of melena die, according to a
2004 report led by Dr. K. Palmer of the Department of
Gastroenterology, Western General Hospital, in Edinburgh.

Sometimes you won’t see any blood because the bleeding is
too slow, but it will show up in medical tests. (
Learn what
other bowel colors mean.)

We’ve hunted down the reasons why you may have blood in
your stool. Some are more common than others. If you spot
blood in your stool you should consult a healthcare
professional to rule out the more serious, less common
conditions that cause this worrying symptom.

What Causes Blood in Stools?




























1. Hemorrhoids Are One Of The Most Common Causes Of
Blood In Your Stool

If you suffer from spotting or bleeding from the anus you are
more than likely to suffer from hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are
clumps of tissue within the anus that can either protrude or
affect the internal lining of the anus. Hemorrhoids are common
– according to 1990 research from the Department of Medicine,
Veterans Administration Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
10 million people in the United States complain of hemorrhoids.
That’s 4.4 percent of the population. Actually, hemorrhoids are
in everyone. But it’s only when the masses of tissue grow
bigger that they cause the typical itchy and painful problem.
Why are some people unlucky enough to suffer? Theories
include a lack of fiber, prolonged straining on the toilet, and
constipation.

How can you prevent or treat this common cause of blood in
the stool? Spend more time on your feet, get regular exercise,
eat enough fiber and try bioflavonoids. Colorful bioflavonoids
are found in fruits and vegetables and there is some evidence
that the citrus bioflavonoids diosmin and hesperidin can help
treat hemorrhoids. A 1994 study from Hôpital Rothschild, Paris,
France found a combination of diosmin and hesperidin
significantly reduced the frequency and severity of
hemorrhoids in the 120 individuals trialed. The bioflavonoids
were also reported to ease the pain of hemorrhoids. (
Read
more about how to effectively treat hemorrhoids.)

2.
An Anal Fissure Can Cause Blood in the Stool

An anal fissure is a tear or a cut in the anus – the part of the
body the stool passes through when you go to the bathroom.
As you would expect, a tear or cut in the anus causes bleeding
and this is one reason why you see blood in your stool.
Fissures also cause pain when you try for a bowel movement,
which figures because it’s usually a bowel movement that
causes the trauma. An anal fissure can happen during a bout of
diarrhea, or when a hard stool passes. Anal fissures are also
common during childbirth. To treat an anal fissure doctors
recommend adding bulk to the stool and softening it with a
high fiber diet. You can also take stool-softening medications.
In addition, the gotu kola plant (a creeping plant that grows in
subtropical areas) is thought to strengthen the connecting
tissues in the body and thus may be useful for treating blood in
the stool from an anal fissure. A 1999 study from the Central
Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, India showed that extracts
from the plant increased collagen content and connective tissue
strength in a guinea pig wound trial. Psyllium – a fiber from the
Plantago ovata plant – dissolved in water is used to help
constipation and make it easier for people with an anal fissure
to pass stools easily.

3.
Bowel or Colon Cancer Causes Blood in the Stool

Many people are worried about the possibility of bowel cancer
when they spot blood in their stool. According to the American
Cancer Society, 143,000 new Americans suffer from bowel or
colon cancer each year and according to the National Cancer
Institute, 51,370 people die from the disease annually. Bowel
or colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-
related death in the United States. Is it likely that blood is a
symptom of bowel cancer? While blood in the stool is not likely
to be a sign of cancer, you should get it checked out because it
is one of the symptoms of this form of the disease. If caught
early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in 90 percent of
cases. If left untreated, the cancer can travel and cause fatal
damage to other parts of the body.

Sticking to a healthy diet can help prevent colon or bowel
cancer. According to the UK’s 2011 Scientific Advisory
Committee on Nutrition, we should limit our daily consumption
of red meat to the equivalent of three slices of ham, one lamb
chop or two slices of beef a day – around 70g – and cut out all
processed meats to cut our risk of bowel cancer. Once you’ve
cut down on red meat, increase your fiber intake through
regular consumption of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and
cereals. A report initiated by the European Prospective
Investigation of Cancer in 1992 concludes that people who eat
the most fiber have a 40 percent lower risk of bowel cancer
than those that eat the least fiber. (
List of fiber rich foods. )

4.
Bloody Diarrhea Means Blood In Your Stool

You’ll know when you’ve got diarrhea – loose, watery, and
frequent stools that cause you discomfort, embarrassment and
pain. The most common cause of diarrhea is a viral infection
also called the stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis. You’ll also
experience diarrhea, if you’re unlucky, when you’re travelling.
In this case, contaminated water or food causes the condition.
Diarrhea usually passes without serious complications, in a few
days. But if you have bloody diarrhea, consult your doctor. E.
coli infection is a leading cause of bloody diarrhea. E. coli
infections occur when you’ve eaten undercooked beef or drank
contaminated water or unpasteurized milk. The infection can be
passed from person to person – it is
very contagious.

5.
Colon Polyps Can Cause Bloody Stools

Juts what are the strangely named colon polyps? Colon polyps
are common and you’re more likely to suffer from one or more
above the age of 60. Colon polyps are growths of flesh that
take root in the lining of the colon (the large intestine). They
can cause blood to appear in your stool. Colon polyps are
benign but they need monitoring as certain types become
cancerous as they grow. Calcium is said to reduce the
occurrence of colon polyps. A 1999 study by the Dartmouth-
Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon showed 3g daily of calcium
carbonate cut the incidence of colon polyps by 24 percent, in
the 832 individuals studied.

6.
Crohn's Disease Can Also Cause Blood in Stools

If you notice blood in your stool, it could be a sign of Crohn's
disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that affects
the intestines and can affect the anus. Crohn's disease and
another inflammatory condition called ulcerative colitis are
often referred to together as inflammatory bowel disease. With
Crohn’s disease, your immune system acts in an abnormal way
without being triggered by a true “invader”. This abnormal
behavior results in inflammation. While the exact causes of
Crohn’s disease are largely unknown, it is thought that
infection may be responsible. Other symptoms include fever,
abdominal pain and tiredness.

7.
Is Diverticulitis A Cause Of The Blood In Your Stool?

Diverticulitis (diverticulosis or diverticuli disease) is a condition
characterized by inflamed or infected pouches in the colon.

The condition causes bloody stools when the pouches are
ruptured, as well as laying you low with abdominal pain,
nausea and fever.

Diverticulitis is common in developed countries like the U.S. and
the U.K and it is believed that the relatively low levels of fiber
we eat is the main reason for its prevalence.

According to studies such as a 2002 review of the impact of
high-fiber diets on diverticular disease, undertaken by
Nutritionals at Whitehall-Robins Inc, Mississauga, evidence
indicated that fiber is strongly associated with a lower risk of
diverticular disease and a diet high in fiber and low in fat could
help prevent diverticular disease. (Read more about
foods rich
in fiber and fiber's surprising effect on your life expectancy).

8.
A Peptic Ulcer Causes Blood In The Stool

Peptic ulcers, holes in the lining of the stomach or esophagus,
are caused by acid digestive juices eroding this lining.
Aninfection of the stomach by the helicobacter pylori bacteria is
also considered to be a key cause. A 2005 study from Peking
University, Beijing Institute for Cancer Research, China found
daily consumption of cranberry juice by people who were
infected with this virus significantly reduced their levels of the
bacteria, which may lessen the chances of getting an ulcer.
Taking anti-inflammatory medications, otherwise known as
NSAIDs, including aspirin, in high doses over long periods can
cause an ulcer to develop. Smoking is also a key risk factor in
the development of the condition, so stop the habit now to cut
your risk. When an ulcer causes blood to appear in the stool,
the condition has reached a complicated phase where
perforation has occurred.

9.
Blood In The Stool May Be Caused By Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is a rare but serious cause of blood in the
stool. Early stomach cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms but as
the cancer grows you may suffer blood in the stool, nausea,
discomfort in the stomach, weight loss and bloating. Experts
suggest that if your diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables
you have a lower risk of stomach cancer.

Are there any especially fruits or vegetables? Well, a 1994
study from the Aviano Cancer Center, Italy suggested that
Americans who ate a diet high in tomatoes showed a 50
percent reduced incidence of cancer. This is perhaps due to
lycopene, a beta-carotene-like substance, found in high levels
in tomatoes.

Those who ate at least seven servings of tomatoes a week
developed fewer stomach cancers compared to those who ate
only two servings weekly. Quit smoking and raise your exercise
level to help ward off stomach cancer.

10.
An Uncommon Cause of Blood In The Stool Is Yellow Fever

It is unlikely that the cause of blood in your stool is yellow
fever, unless you have travelled to risk areas within tropical
Africa and South America.

However, there are around 200,000 cases of yellow fever
worldwide each year. Blood in the stool is one symptom, along
with fever, muscle aches, back pain, headache and weakness.
Yellow fever is spread by infected mosquitoes. A vaccine for
yellow fever is available for people travelling to high-risk areas.






Related Links:

Why Americans Read In Bathrooms-The Hidden Epidemic of
Constipation

The Color of Your Bowels-- What It Means

Bowels -3 Keys to Normal Bowels

Exercises That Increase Bowel Movements

Diarrhea -10 Essesntial Tips


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Reducing the amount of red meat you
eat can
lower your risk for bloody
stools.