Blood in Stool: Causes, Risk Factors, Colors, Treatments - Dr. Axe

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What Causes Blood in Stool? (+ 5 Natural Remedies)


Blood in stool - Dr. Axe

Seeing bright red blood in stool is no laughing matter, especially when it’s your own poop.

Sometimes it can mean something serious is going on. Other times it may be minor and nothing to lose sleep over.

Either way, bloody stool can be quite alarming, and most experts agree it’s not something to just ignore.

Are you wondering, “Why is my poop black?” Many people don’t realize that black stool is also a form of bloody stool.

It’s true, blood in stool can result in black poop or bright red blood in poop. The color is actually very important to note, since different colors can point toward various internal sources of bleeding.

Bloody stools can also be a symptom of bleeding from the anus or rectal bleeding.

Of course, if you are having an excessive amount of blood loss, head straight for emergency medical care. If you are not having life-threatening blood loss or other symptoms in addition to blood in stool, then there are some natural ways to help yourself.

You want to first address root causes of your bloody stools. Read on to find out some of those possible causes, as well as natural remedies to address each one.

What Causes Blood in Stool?

Blood in stool is also referred to medically as hematochezia. This indicates there is bleeding somewhere in the digestive tract.

When you go to the bathroom, your feces should normally be a shade of brown, so a red or block color is considered abnormal.

Can bloody stools be harmless? What does blood in stool indicate?

Blood in stool is typically caused by bleeding coming from the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract. The blood can range from being bright red to black.

Small amounts of blood may not be something to necessarily worry much about, especially if it goes away quickly, however large amounts can be problematic.

The color of blood stool can actually be indicative of the location of internal bleeding, if that is the cause. Sometimes pooping blood is not from internal bleeding but actually a sign of bleeding in the rectum.

The presence of blood in stool can also range from being not noticeable to the naked eye to being alarmingly obvious.

One thing most experts tell you is that it’s never quite normal to see blood in your stool. It may not be an extremely serious situation, but it’s certainly not a good sign either.

Blood in the stool can come from any place in your digestive system, from your mouth all the way to your anus.

If the bleeding is coming from the upper digestive region (such as the esophagus or stomach), then this typically results in tarry or black poop, which is also medically referred to as melena. Maroon-colored stools or bright red blood often mean that the blood is coming from the small or large intestine, rectum or anus.

The blood in black or tarry stools usually comes from upper GI bleeding and can be caused by:

  • Abnormal blood vessels
  • A tear in the esophagus from violent vomiting (called Mallory-Weiss tears)
  • Bleeding stomach ulcer
  • Blood supply being cut off to part of the intestines
  • Gastritis
  • Trauma
  • The presence of a foreign body
  • Widened, overgrown veins in the esophagus and stomach

Wondering, “When should I be concerned about blood in my stool?”

Bright red blood in stools or maroon-colored stools usually equate to blood coming from the small intestine, large intestine, rectum or anus. These are symptoms to discuss with your doctor.

Underlying causes can include:

  • Abnormal blood vessels
  • Anal fissures (a small tear in the lining of the anus)
  • Bowel ischemia
  • Diverticulosis
  • Foreign body or trauma
  • Food poisoning
  • Hemorrhoids (often the cause of bright red blood)
  • Infection in the intestines
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Polyps in the colon or small intestine, or possibly colon cancer

As mentioned earlier, the color of the blood in your stools is highly important. How so?

A black, tarry stool (also called melena) typically indicates that the bleeding is coming from somewhere in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. For example, an ulcer may be a possible cause of tarry black stools.

On the other hand, if your stools appear bright red or maroon in color, then this often means there is an issue in the lower region of the digestive tract, such as the colon. Examples of possible lower GI problems that cause red or maroon stools include inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.

Blood in stool - Dr. Axe


The main sign or symptom of blood in stool is exactly that: You have bloody poop.

It’s important to note that when you see stool color changes, such as the addition of blood to your stool, this is actually a health concern that points toward underlying causes.

Sometimes someone may have blood in stool and not think much of it because that person doesn’t have any other symptoms. Other times, blood in stool can be accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as:

  • changes in bowel movements
  • abdominal pain
  • weakness
  • breathing trouble
  • vomiting
  • heart palpitations
  • bloody diarrhea
  • weight loss

The types of symptoms in addition to blood in stool depend upon on the true root cause of the blood stools, how long the bleeding has taken place, as well as how much blood has been lost.

What about mucus in stool? It’s totally normal for your stool to contain a small amount of mucus.

However, if you start to see more mucus in your stool, your bowel movements change or you also see blood in stool, then you should find a doctor to discuss these issues with, since it could be something more serious.


Significant stool changes typically warrant testing to get to the root cause of the changes. It’s also important to identify the source/location of bleeding.

To make a diagnosis, doctors may recommend some conventional tests for patients experiencing abnormal color stools. Tests that can help determine the cause of the problem can include:

  • Angiography
  • Barium studies
  • Bleeding scan
  • Blood work, including a complete blood count and more
  • Colonoscopy
  • Double balloon enteroscopy
  • Stool test
  • Testing to determine if an H. pylori infection is present
  • Upper endoscopy or capsule endoscopy

Wondering how often polyps or cancer contribute to red stools? Polyps in the colon can start off as benign growths with no symptoms, but then they can get bigger, bleed or even become cancerous.

In the United States, colorectal cancer is currently the third most common cancer, and it can cause bleeding that usually goes unnoticed/isn’t visible to the naked eye. It’s important to keep up with doctors’ appointments if you’re at risk for colorectal cancer.


The conventional medical treatment for bloody stools usually means treating the underlying cause. Managing discomfort can also be important.

Some recommendations that your doctor may have include:

  • Eating a high-fiber diet
  • Avoiding triggering foods
  • Stopping use or high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Taking a sitz bath, which means sitting in warm water to relieve anal fissures and hemorrhoids
  • Medications, such as antibiotics, to treat H. pylori
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to treat colitis
  • Surgery to remove polyps or the parts of the rectum/colon that may be damaged
  • Injecting chemicals into the site of bleeding using an electric current or laser, or applying a band or clip to close the bleeding vessel

There are also many natural ways to improve overall digestive health and maintain normal bowel movements.

Here’s what you can do if your blood in stool is caused by the following conditions:

1. Bleeding Stomach Ulcer

Bleeding stomach ulcers, or peptic ulcers, are painful sores that develop in the lining of your digestive system. Seeing blood when you vomit or the go to the bathroom is a common sign of a bleeding ulcer.

Thankfully, there are some things in your control that can help to naturally reduce ulcer symptoms and the likelihood of them bleeding. First, you’ll want to avoid certain foods known to make ulcers worse, including:

  • spicy foods
  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • refined sugars
  • any food allergens

Simultaneously, you’ll want to increase your intake of foods high in fiber, green leafy vegetables and fermented foods, such as coconut kefir and kimchi.

Research has also shown that consumption of cabbage juice can have an impressive healing effect on peptic ulcers. Try this GI Healing Juice Recipe, which includes cabbage juice, cucumber, aloe and ginger.

Another helpful idea when dealing with ulcers is to try eating several smaller meals throughout the day to reduce taxation of the digestive system.

2. Gastritis

Gastritis is digestive health issue resulting from damage and inflammation of the gastric mucosa (the lining of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract). Symptoms of gastritis can actually be similar to ulcer symptoms.

As usual, a healthy diet can really help improve gastritis. Overall, a healing gastritis diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, high-quality proteins and healthy fats.

Foods that are especially helpful are ones rich in probiotics, fiber, antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin B12, electrolytes and omega-3 fatty acids. Again, you want to avoid common triggers like spicy or very hot foods as well as naturally acidic foods like tomatoes and oranges.

Reducing stress is helpful to gastritis, and so is not eating too close to your bedtime. Try leaving yourself about three to four hours between eating dinner and going to sleep — this way you can fully digest.

Licorice root contains an anti-inflammatory compound called glycyrrhizic acid, which is known for its soothing effects on the stomach, making it very helpful to gastritis as well as ulcers. Not only is glycyrrhizic acid anti-inflammatory, but it also has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-tumor and antimicrobial abilities.

You can take licorice extract in supplement form, including chewables. Eating fennel may also be helpful at reducing symptoms.

3. Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when one or more small pouches (called diverticula) in the wall of the colon become inflamed.

Homemade bone broth and protein powder made from bone broth are two great ways to improve the integrity of your gut. Bone broth can help you easily digest essential nutrients that your body needs to heal and repair itself.

Getting enough high-fiber foods in the diet on a regular basis is also key to improving diverticulitis. A diet that is too low in overall dietary fiber appears to up the chances of having active diverticulitis flare-ups.

Avoiding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) is extremely important when you’re dealing with internal bleeding from diverticulitis or any other gastrointestinal tract bleeding for that matter. A study published in the Archives of Family Medicine finds that chronic use of NSAIDs is linked to the worst symptoms of diverticulitis, especially bleeding.

4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease/Crohn’s Disease

Abnormal and bloody stools are common symptoms of IBD.

How can you improve Crohn’s disease? You’ll definitely want to look into trying a Crohn’s disease diet.

When it comes to herbs that can help, slippery elm is a demulcent, which is a substance that protects irritated tissues and promotes their healing.

Slippery elm is an herb that contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. This mucilage coats and soothes the various areas of the digestive tract, making it a top herbal remedy for calming inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s.

5. Ulcerative Colitis

There are many natural ways to help treat ulcerative colitis. One of the first steps in improving ulcerative colitis is evaluating and making necessary changes to your diet.

I highly recommend following a healing diet and avoiding common trigger foods like overly processed dairy products, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages and spicy foods.

What kinds of foods do you want to get more of? Some of the best foods for fighting inflammation and calming ulcerative colitis symptoms are high in omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics.

Turmeric is another smart addition to the diet if you’re looking to calm ulcerative colitis. Turmeric is available in fresh root form, as a spice or as a supplement.

Studies have shown taking curcumin, an active component of turmeric, may even help some ulcerative colitis patients stay in remission once they improve their symptoms.

Reducing stress and increasing intentional moments of relaxation are other key aspects of what you can personally do to improve your ulcerative colitis symptoms. Stress is known to cause ulcerative colitis flare-ups so make sure you practice natural stress-reducing techniques on a regular basis.

Risks and Side Effects

Find a doctor right away or visit the emergency room if you also have any of these additional symptoms:

  • You’ve passed large amounts of blood
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness

Remember that beets and tomatoes can also temporary cause a reddening of the stool, so don’t be alarmed if you see red stools shortly after enjoying some beets. Consuming black licorice or blueberries can temporarily cause changes in poop color. So can taking iron pills or bismuth medicines, such as Pepto Bismol.

See your doctor if you are experiencing bloody mucus in stool or mucus along with abdominal pain because these symptoms can point toward more serious problems, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and even cancer.

Always check with your doctor before starting any new supplements or making any changes to your diet if you are currently taking medication or have any ongoing health concerns. For example, licorice extract may not be right for you if you are struggling with high blood pressure.


  • Unexplained bleeding in the body is never something to ignore. If you see blood in your stools, make sure you note the color and frequency because these are very helpful details for a health professional.
  • Is bright red blood in stool serious? It can be, depending on what’s causing it. Possible conditions that can cause bloody stools include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, inflammatory bowel disease or possibly something serious, such as colon cancer.
  • In order to treat this issue, some natural/conventional treatment options include eating an anti-inflammatory/high-fiber diet, avoiding trigger foods such as alcohol and spicy foods, eating smaller meals more frequently, drinking bone broth, stopping use of NSAIDs, and managing stress.

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