Skip to Content

What does poop look like with diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a common digestive condition that affects the large intestine. It occurs when small pouches called diverticula become inflamed or infected. This can lead to abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, fever, nausea, and other symptoms. One of the most common signs of diverticulitis is changes in the appearance and consistency of stool.

What are Diverticula?

Diverticula are small bulges or pockets that can form in the wall of the large intestine. These pouches develop when weak spots in the intestinal wall push outward. This often happens due to increased pressure in the colon from straining during bowel movements. Diverticula are very common, especially in older adults. Over half of people over age 60 have diverticula in their colons.

Diverticula themselves usually don’t cause problems. However, they can become inflamed or infected, leading to diverticulitis. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula bleed or become blocked with stool or bacteria. This leads to infection and inflammation of the diverticula and surrounding intestinal tissue.

Typical Stool Changes

When diverticula become inflamed, it affects the function of the large intestine. This can lead to a number of changes in bowel habits and stool:

  • Increased mucus – Inflammation causes excess mucus production, which can coat stools.
  • Blood in stool – Bleeding from inflamed pouches may cause blood to appear in stool.
  • Diarrhea or constipation – Motility and contractions are impaired, leading to diarrhea or constipation.
  • Narrower stools – Inflamed intestine causes stools to be thinner than normal.
  • Dark stools – Products of bleeding may appear black and tarry.

So in general, stool with diverticulitis often contains blood and mucus. It may also be darker,narrower, and either loose or difficult to pass compared to normal. Consistency can vary between diarrhea and constipation.

Other Stool Changes

In some cases of diverticulitis, stools may contain pus, have a foul odor, or contain undigested food:

  • Pus – May indicate an abscess has formed in a diverticulum and ruptured.
  • Foul smell – Caused by inflammation, infection, and changes in bacteria.
  • Undigested food – Result of food moving too quickly through colon to be digested.

These symptoms indicate a more severe case of diverticulitis that requires prompt medical attention. The appearance of pus, foul odor, and undigested food in stool can help identify complications like perforations, abscesses, fistulas, or blockages.

What Does Normal Poop Look Like?

To understand abnormal stool with diverticulitis, it helps to know what normal poop looks like. Normal stool is soft, moist, and easy to pass. It has a mild odor and brown color from bile pigment. Here are some characteristics of healthy stool:

  • Soft to loose texture
  • S-shaped, smooth, or segmented form
  • Tan to dark brown color
  • Little odor
  • Easily passed 1-3 times per day
  • No blood, mucus, pus

Stool that significantly deviates from these norms may indicate an underlying problem like diverticulitis. Monitoring changes in stool consistency, color, and contents can help identify digestive issues.

When to See a Doctor

It’s important to contact a doctor if you notice blood, mucus, foul odor, or other abnormal changes in stool. This is especially true if accompanied by abdominal pain, tenderness, fever, nausea, vomiting, or other symptoms. Diverticulitis can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Seek prompt medical attention for:

  • Blood in stool
  • Intense or persistent abdominal pain
  • Fever over 101°F (38°C)
  • Inability to pass stool
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pus or foul odor in stool

Early evaluation and treatment can help prevent diverticulitis from worsening. Your doctor can order tests like a CT scan or colonoscopy to diagnose diverticulitis and rule out other conditions like IBD, infection, or colon cancer.

Treatments for Diverticulitis

Treatment for diverticulitis focuses on clearing up infection and inflammation to allow the colon to heal. Options may include:

  • Antibiotics – To treat bacterial infection. Oral or IV antibiotics target harmful gut bacteria.
  • Pain medication – To relieve abdominal tenderness and allow bowel rest.
  • Liquid diet – Clears colon and prevents further irritation of diverticula.
  • Surgery – For severe recurrent cases, surgery removes damaged sections of colon.

With proper treatment, most cases of acute diverticulitis can resolve within 2-3 days. Making dietary changes like increasing fiber, exercising, staying hydrated, and avoiding foods that irritate the colon may help prevent future diverticulitis flare-ups.

How Diverticulitis Affects Poop – Summary

In summary, diverticulitis can significantly affect the appearance, consistency, color, and contents of stool. Typical changes include:

  • Increased mucus
  • Visible blood
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Thinner stools
  • Dark or black color

Severe cases may also involve pus, foul smell, or undigested food in stool. These abnormal changes result from inflammation, infection, and impaired motility of the colon. Noticing differences in your stool is key to identifying a potential case of diverticulitis and seeking proper medical treatment. With prompt diagnosis and care, most people can recover fully and take steps to prevent future flare-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can diverticulitis cause yellow stool?

Yes, diverticulitis can sometimes cause stool to appear yellow. Yellow stool is typically a sign of excess fat in the stool from malabsorption. Inflammation from diverticulitis can damage the colon’s ability to absorb nutrients properly, allowing excess fat to be excreted.

Does diverticulitis cause narrow stools?

Yes, diverticulitis often causes stools to be narrower than normal. This is because inflammation and swelling narrows the diameter of the colon. The inflamed intestines cannot distend as much, resulting in narrower stools.

Can diverticulitis cause greasy and foul-smelling stool?

Yes, the inflammation of diverticulitis can result in greasy, foul-smelling stools. This is due to impaired nutrient absorption leading to excess fat in the stool. The inflammation also changes gut bacteria balances, resulting in a more foul odor.

Is blood in stool always a sign of diverticulitis?

No, blood in stool has several potential causes besides diverticulitis. Blood can also result from hemorrhoids, anal fissures, IBD, colon polyps, or colon cancer. However, blood in stool in someone with known diverticula has a higher chance of indicating diverticulitis.

Can stress cause a diverticulitis flare up?

Yes, stress may contribute to diverticulitis flares. Stress can increase inflammation in the body and may cause intestinal spasms. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, social support, therapy, or medication can help prevent diverticulitis episodes.

The Takeaway

Changes in stool are one of the hallmark signs of diverticulitis. Inflammation and infection of diverticula can alter the consistency, color, odor, and contents of stool. Noticing blood, mucus, narrower stools, diarrhea or constipation, or other abnormalities may indicate diverticulitis. Prompt medical attention for these symptoms is important to treat infection and prevent complications. With proper diagnosis and care, most cases of diverticulitis can resolve quickly.