Hematochezia is commonly the reason behind red or maroon colored poop when it is a result of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract or the rectum. The darker the color is, the more serious the matter becomes, because stool gets darker mainly because of heavier internal bleeding. However, red poop does not always necessarily mean that the person is suffering from the symptoms of hematochezia as there are less dangerous causes as well. Contents of certain food items and medications can also cause red poop, and they are mostly harmless.
What causes poop to turn red?
1. Food and medication — Ingestion of certain food items like tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, beets, beet soup, borscht, blueberries, liquorice, red gelatine, kool aid, popsicle, red pepper, red wine, red energy drinks and any other food or drink with red dye might cause red poop. The reason behind the color of the poop in these cases is mostly artificial coloring and although it does not indicate any disease, the consumption of such dyes should be restricted. Medications like iron supplements, Pepto Bismol, Maalox, and painkillers may also cause the same.
2. Hematochezia — As mentioned earlier, red poop might also be the result of a certain malign condition known as hematochezia. The passage of bright red, bloody stool generally indicates bleeding in the larger intestine or in the gastrointestinal tract and it is this bleeding that is known as hematochezia. The most common causes of hematochezia include diseases such as diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, colon polyps or colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. The location of the bleeding must at first be determined before a proper diagnosis is made and any treatment can be prescribed. The patient’s medical history should be considered, including changes in bowel habits and previous complains of pain. Diagnosis of hematochezia could therefore include x-ray, stool culture, blood tests, gastroscopy, colonoscopy and barium studies, depending on what the supervising physician deems fit.
3. Hemorrhoids — Hemorrhoids are actually a form of varicose vein, which is a condition where the veins in and around the rectum swell up painfully. The symptoms of hemorrhoids are usually all very uncomfortable for the patient; pain, protrusion, anal itching, bleeding during bowel movements and the formation of painful and sensitive lumps around the rectum. It is the fresh blood from these tender lumps that usually gives poop the bright red color.
4. Tumors — Tumors may sometimes bleed, although it’s rare and not a continuous process. However, when they do, some of that blood may appear in the patient’s stool, giving the excreta a reddish color. If the tumor is in the upper part of the colon, then the blood will most likely be dry and virtually invisible. On the other hand, if the location of the bleeding tumor is towards the end of the colon or in the rectum, the blood may still be fresh, and therefore bright red poop would most likely be visible.
5. Anal fissures — A fissure is a tear or an ulcer in the lining of the anus canal. Although anal fissures can happen to anyone, they are more common in young adults or middle aged men and women. A fissure can be quite difficult to heal as it causes spasms in the anal sphincter and worsens itself. The symptoms of a fissure are not that different from the symptoms of hemorrhoids and they include anal lumps, red poop, swollen skin tag, painful bowel movements or sharp pain right after the bowel movement. Fissures are often a result of constipation. Other causes include childbirth and ulceration of preformed hemorrhoids.
6. Diverticular bleeding — The condition of having diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis. A diverticula is an outgrowth of a structure inside the digestive system. The structure usually forms like a pouch and can be either filled with liquids or be totally hollow. The west is more affected by diverticulosis as it has been found that about ten percent of US citizens over the age of 40 years are affected by this disorder. Diverticula may cause bleeding and that blood may appear in the stool of the person, giving it a reddish color. However, this is not always dangerous and may not even require treatment unless it continues or bleeds heavily.
7. Inflammatory bowel disease — Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic diseases of the intestinal tract which together give rise to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Unfortunately, no definite cure for this condition is yet discovered or devised. Although it is not common, IBD may cause bleeding in the digestive tract that could show up in the excreta of the patient in the form of red poop. Even determining whether or not a person is suffering from inflammatory bowel disease requires a lot of testing as its symptoms are shared by a host of other diseases.
8. Cancers of the digestive system — One of the most perilous cause of hematochezia is cancer and there are different types of cancer that can cause one to bleed from the anus. These cancers can form and cause bleeding in any part of the digestive system. Most of these cancers can be treated when they are at their early stages, but when the malignant tumors have grown large enough to cause bloody poop, it might become a lot harder to cure.
How to prevent red poop?
Certain rules should be followed and a healthy lifestyle should be chosen in order to prevent the occurrence red poop and make the passage of stool easier overall.
1. Eat a diet rich in fiber and low in fat. The most crucial thing to remember while trying to prevent the occurrence of bloody red poop is to eat a healthy diet which is rich in fiber and low in saturated fat. Fiber adds water to poop, making it softer and thus the passage becomes easier. Straining during constipation, which is often associated with hard stool, increases the risk of causing anal fissures or tears around the anus, making the area bleed. Fiber rich food items advised by medical experts include apples, strawberries, potatoes, wheat bran, cereal, and dried beans to name a few. A lot of the aforementioned foods, when consumed regularly, should help one in keeping constipation and bloody poop away.
2. Water is absolutely essential for the body to stay healthy and therefore, along with a high fiber diet, eight to nine glasses of water must be consumed daily to keep the body well-hydrated.
3. Quit smoking and drinking. Smoking is directly related to peptic ulcers and cancer in the gastrointestinal tract which leads to internal bleeding. If it is not treated, it may cause red or black stool as the condition becomes worse over time.
Alcohol is also another major cause of bloody red feces as it irritates the stomach lining making the digestive system susceptible to internal bleeding. In order to prevent internal bleeding one should quit/restrict smoking as well as control the intake of alcohol. Depending on the severity of the person’s condition, alcohol and smoking might need to be stopped totally.
4. Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs. Excessive use of anti-inflammatory drugs may be a cause for bleeding and stomach irritation. If the red feces persists for a week or more it is usually an indication that the situation is very serious and possibly even life threatening. Considering the red stool as a sign of alarm and acting early to receive proper treatment is the best way to prevent the chances of permanent damage.