Change In Bowel Habits

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Change In Bowel Habits

Digestive
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Symptoms Guide
Change In Bowel Habits
Change In Bowel Habits
htmGIZoneBowellHabits
Read about the disorders that can cause a change in bowel habits.
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InteliHealth
2009-01-07
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2011-01-07

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Change In Bowel Habits

Any change in your bowel habits that is of concern to you is one you should report to your doctor. Changes may include having more frequent or less frequent bowel movements than usual for you, changes in the appearance or consistency of your stool, pain that you have when you are having a bowel movement, constipation or diarrhea. A change may be caused by something as simple as a new diet or a mild infection, but there is always the chance that it may be the first symptom of an important disease. Here are some of the most common bowel habit complaints and a list of some possible causes:

Constipation

Constipation can come from slowing of the intestine, inadequate fiber and water to soften the stool, or a blockage in the colon or rectum. Some conditions that can cause constipation include:

Low-fiber diet

Side effect of medications

Thyroid disease

Colon cancer

Irritable bowel syndrome

Fecal impaction

Diabetic neuropathy (autonomic neuropathy)

Neurologic disease such as spinal cord injury

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Diarrhea

Diarrhea is among the most common ways the body responds to irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. Disorders that can cause diarrhea include:

Viral gastroenteritis

Food poisoning

Parasite infection

Traveler's diarrhea (usually Escherichia coli infection)

Antibiotic-related diarrhea (Clostridium difficile colitis)

Bacterial overgrowth

Hyperthyroidism

Diabetic neuropathy (autonomic neuropathy)

Side effect of medications

Lactose intolerance

Gluten sensitivity (celiac sprue)

Crohn's disease

Diverticulitis (infection of a diverticulum)

Food intolerance

Irritable bowel syndrome

Ulcerative colitis

Whipple's disease

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Flatulence Or Gassiness

Flatulence, or excess gas in the intestinal tract, is almost always caused by foods in your diet. People with excess gas may experience abdominal bloating, passing more gas than usual, belching or gas pains in the intestines. Some medical disorders that can cause flatulence include:

Gallstones

Gluten sensitivity (celiac sprue)

Food intolerance (especially lactose intolerance)

Irritable bowel syndrome

Giardiasis

Traveler's diarrhea

Bacterial overgrowth

Achalasia

Whipple's disease

Amyloidosis

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Blood In Or On Stool

Blood in the stool may be visible, or it may be "occult," which means that it can only be detected by laboratory analysis. Visible blood may be bright red, maroon or (if it has passed through a large portion of your digestive tract) black. It is important to see your doctor if you see definite or suspected blood in your stool. Some conditions that can cause blood in or on the stool include:

Hemorrhoids

Anal fissures

Colon cancer

Diverticulosis

Peptic ulcer disease

Erosive gastritis

Esophagitis

Crohn's disease

Ulcerative colitis

Stomach cancer

Meckel's diverticulum

Bleeding varices

Nosebleed

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Black, Tar-Like Stool

Stools that appear dark and thick like tar are caused when blood has been in the digestive tract for several hours. Because this type of stool indicates internal bleeding, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Disorders that can cause black, tarry stools are generally from upper gastrointestinal sources and include:

Peptic ulcer disease

Esophagitis

Gastritis

Stomach cancer

Bleeding varices

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Unusually Light Stool

Pale, greasy, usually foul-smelling stool is often indicative of digestive and absorption problems. The appearance is due to undigested fats that remain in the stool, or in some cases due to a lack of bilirubin in the intestines. Disorders that may cause pale or yellowed stool include:

Acute viral hepatitis

Alcohol and drug-induced hepatitis

Bile-duct disease

Cancer of gallbladder and bile ducts

Gluten sensitivity (celiac sprue)

Giardiasis

Bacterial overgrowth

Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic hepatitis

Cirrhosis

Crohn's disease

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Mucus Or Pus In Stool

Pus in the stool is evidence of inflammation with or without infection of the lower GI tract. Pus may be present in the stool of people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, infectious colitis or diverticulitis.

Mucus can be caused by inflammation or by any other irritation in the colon. It is common in people with irritable bowel syndrome. It is also a possible symptom of colon cancer.

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Dry, Hard Or Rough Stool

These are common symptoms of constipation. The changes may simply be related to lack of fiber or water in the diet. See above for the medical conditions that can cause constipation.

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constipation,diarrhea,flatulence,crohn's disease,diet,irritable bowel syndrome,bacterial,bowel,celiac sprue,colon cancer,digestive,gluten,ulcerative colitis,colon,diabetic neuropathy,diverticulitis,esophagitis,gastritis,gastrointestinal,giardiasis
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Last updated January 07, 2009


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