Sticky Poop: Common Causes and Treatment Options

A roll of tissue paper

Discussing changes in your bowel habits — such as developing sticky poop — can leave you feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious.

But did you know that understanding these changes is essential for taking care of your digestive health?

Knowing how these changes affect your digestive system can help you determine if you can treat your condition at home or if you require professional care.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why sticky poop develops, how you can treat it, and the best strategies for keeping your digestive system healthy.

What is Sticky Poop?

Sticky poop refers to a stool with a glue-like consistency that causes it to stick to the toilet bowl.

This type of stool can also appear greasy and may leave a shiny film on the surface of the toilet water.

Unlike normal bowel movements — which have a soft to firm consistency and maintain their shape — sticky poop can be mushy and lacks uniform texture.

What Causes Sticky Poop?

Dietary factors

One of the most common causes of a sticky stool is related to dietary choices, particularly consuming fatty foods.

This includes products like certain cuts of meat, bacon, pork sausages, and some dairy products.

The digestive system cannot process large amounts of dietary fat at once, so the consistency of your stool will change.

A diet rich in high-fat foods also often lacks fiber — a nutrient that bulks up the stool and gives it a smooth consistency — which could be the cause of sticky poop.

Malabsorption syndromes

Malabsorption syndromes develop when the small intestine can’t effectively absorb nutrients from food. This may lead to excess fat in stool, which gives it a sticky consistency.

The following three common malabsorption disorders can affect your stool:

  • Celiac disease, where ingesting gluten damages the small intestine’s lining

  • Chronic pancreatitis, which impairs enzyme production necessary for digesting fat

  • Food intolerances — such as gluten or lactose intolerance — where the body is unable to digest and absorb certain nutrients

If you’ve been diagnosed with any of these disorders or suspect that you may have developed them, consult your doctor about the most effective management strategies.

Properly treating these conditions can reduce digestive discomfort that may be contributing to sticky poop.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel diseases — such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) — can also contribute to sticky poop.

These conditions cause chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can affect the body’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients properly.

This can lead to excess fat in the digestive system, which may cause sticky stools.

The inflammation associated with IBD can also increase mucus production in the intestines, worsening sticky stool consistency.

Liver or gallbladder disease

Organs like the liver and gallbladder play essential roles in the digestion and absorption of fats.

The liver produces bile — a substance that helps digest fat — which the gallbladder stores before releasing into the small intestine.

Diseases affecting either organ — such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallstones, or cholecystitis — can impair the production of bile which may cause bowel changes.

How are the Causes of Sticky Poop Diagnosed?

A medical professional will use a comprehensive approach to diagnose the cause of sticky stools.

This process usually involves the following:

  • Medical history check: Your doctor will inquire about your symptoms, dietary and lifestyle habits, and family history of digestive disorders.

  • Physical examination: During the physical examination, your doctor will check your abdomen for signs of swelling or pain, and examine your body for other signs of disease.

Depending on the outcome of these initial steps, your doctor may order further testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis. These tests may involve:

  • Tests to analyze stool composition

  • Blood tests

  • Imaging studies to diagnose conditions like gallstones or liver disease

  • Endoscopic procedures, such as a colonoscopy

Based on the results of these tests and checks, your doctor will diagnose your condition and prescribe treatment.

How Do You Treat Sticky Poop?

Dietary adjustments

For most people, simple dietary changes can significantly impact the consistency of their stool and may be effective in resolving sticky poop. These changes may include:

  • Increasing fiber intake: Incorporating more fiber-rich foods into your diet — such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes — can help normalize bowel movements and the consistency of your stool. Fiber absorbs excess water in the digestive tract and adds bulk to the stool, making it less sticky.

  • Reducing fat consumption: Cutting down on certain foods — especially those rich in saturated fats like fried foods and processed snacks — can reduce the amount of undigested fat in your stool, making it less greasy and sticky.

  • Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for maintaining healthy stools and digestion. Staying hydrated can also help dissolve soluble fiber to improve stool consistency.

Key Point: How Much Water Should You Drink?

Your daily water intake depends on various factors, including your activity level, if you’re frequently exposed to hot temperatures, and underlying health conditions.

Generally, it’s recommended that men drink 13 cups (104 ounces) of water per day and that women aim for 9 cups (72 ounces).

Medical treatments

When sticky poop is caused by an underlying health condition — such as malabsorption syndrome or IBD — specific medical treatments may be recommended. These include:

  • Medications: Depending on the diagnosis, various medications can help manage conditions contributing to sticky stool. For example, anti-inflammatory drugs for IBD can effectively reduce symptoms and improve bowel habits.

  • Surgery: In severe cases — especially those involving structural problems with the digestive system or gallbladder — surgery might be necessary to remove blockages or repair damaged tissue.

  • Dietary supplements: In cases of malabsorption, vitamin and mineral supplements may be recommended to ensure the body gets adequate nutrients. This can help prevent deficiencies that can affect the digestive system and contribute to sticky stools.

It’s important to consult your doctor before using any medication for digestive conditions to ensure they are appropriate for your disorder.

Using the wrong medications can worsen the issue and may even cause additional bowel problems.

Lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes can improve your bowel health and stool consistency.

Your doctor may recommend adjustments for your specific habits, but general changes include:

  • Getting more exercise: Physical activity can stimulate digestion and improve bowel regularity, reducing the occurrence of sticky stool.

  • Practicing stress management techniques: Chronic stress can adversely affect digestion and intensify the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, and regular exercise can help manage stress levels.

  • Following a healthy diet: Consuming foods that provide a variety of vitamins and minerals can reduce your intake of fat, which may improve stool consistency.

When Should You See a Doctor About Sticky Poop?

Although not all cases of sticky poop require a trip to the doctor, it’s important to understand the circumstances and symptoms that might indicate the need for professional medical care.

You should make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent symptoms without any apparent causes, such as dietary changes

  • Sticky stools that don’t improve with treatment

  • Abdominal pain

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as finding blood in your stool or experiencing black and tarry stools

It’s also important to see your doctor if you have known digestive disorders and experience bowel changes like sticky poop.

These changes may indicate that the condition has progressed and requires more aggressive treatment.

Where Can You Learn More About Maintaining a Healthy Bowel?

If you’re concerned about your stool consistency or want to know more about healthy bowel movements, LifeMD is here to help.

A team of medical professionals can assist you with information and provide guidance on caring for your bowel to help avoid complications and promote regularity.

Make an appointment with LifeMD today to learn more about maintaining a healthy digestive system — all from the comfort of your home.

LifeMD makes it easy to stay on top of your health because talking to a doctor, filling your prescriptions, getting your labs done—and more—are all easy and cost-effective. Come discover a healthcare solution built around you and your life.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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