Ever heard something plop in the toilet bowl but see only a glob of mucus but no poops?

If you have IBS you may have previously seen a lot of mucus coming out with your stools.

“The colon (large intestine) is lined by cells collectively called the colonic epithelium,” says Dr. Brian Lacy, MD, of Dartmouth Hitchcock Med Center, who specializes in functional disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and is author of the book “Making Sense of IBS.”

“Just like the skin covers the outside of the body (a lining), the inside of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) is also covered by a lining,” continues Dr. Lacy.

Mucus with Poops Is Normal in IBS but what About Without Poops?

“The colon epithelial cells (called colonocytes) perform a number of different functions,” says Dr. Lacy.

“One of their functions includes producing a viscous substance called mucus.

“This is similar to mucus produced in the mouth by salivary glands (saliva). The purpose of the mucus in the colon is to help lubricate stool to make it easier to evacuate. Everybody produces mucus. This is not abnormal.

“In some patients, however, they may make more mucus than usual. This can be seen in patients who have spasms and cramps in the colon (i.e., patients with IBS). This would be the most common example.

“Occasionally it can occur in patients with other conditions that cause cramps or spasms, and occasionally it is seen in patients with irritation in the colon (these two groups would include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – both of these disorders are in the larger category of inflammatory bowel disease – IBD).

“In a young patient with spasms and cramps and some mucus (and sometimes just mucus alone; no stool) without any warning signs (i.e., they are not anemic, are not losing weight and don’t have blood in the stool), I would just reassure the patient and treat the underlying spastic disorder of the colon. Overall, this rarely means anything dangerous or worrisome.”

So if you’re seeing gobs of mucus in the toilet bowl but no poops, do not be alarmed, especially if you have IBS or an inflammatory bowel disease—which also includes microscopic colitis, which causes diarrhea and is often misdiagnosed as IBS.

The proper diagnosis is crucial because even though the symptoms overlap, the treatment protocols are different.

Now, if you see what appears to be blood in the mucus, this needs to be brought to the attention of your doctor.

If you’re menstruating or about to begin flowing any day, the blood could be normal spotting of the monthly cycle. IBS does not cause blood to be passed in your mucus or stools.

For sufferers of IBS-C/CIC, Dr. Lacy recommends the medication LINZESS®, and for IBS-D, he suggests Viberzi®.

Dr. Lacy combines his love of science, medicine and people to uncover the causes of symptoms like stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and regurgitation. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.