Why Does It Burn When I Poop?

A close-up of a lone toilet with two rolls of toilet paper sitting on top of it.
  • There are many reasons why a bowel movement can cause burning and discomfort. Some of these reasons include constipation, diarrhea, anal fissures, and inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis).
  • You can avoid bowel movements that are painful by developing good habits, such as eating regular meals and using the bathroom at the same time each day.
  • Cancer is one of the rare reasons why it may burn when you poop.
  • There are topical treatments available, but to really remedy bowel movement discomfort, you must prioritize digestive health.

Constipation is the most common digestive issue in the U.S., and chronic constipation is estimated to affect over 63 million Americans.

According to the statistics, between 60 and 70 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a digestive disease in recent years.

A burning sensation when you poop is often a symptom of a digestive disorder.

In this article, we’ll discuss painful bowel movements, conditions that can cause them, and steps you can take to treat digestive discomfort.

Are Painful Bowel Movements Normal?

There are several reasons why you may have a painful bowel movement. Sometimes it’s just temporary — a side effect of a brief digestive issue — but if you experience a sharp or lingering pain when passing a stool, this may be an indication of a more serious condition.

Temporary pain may occur if, for example, you have too little fiber and water in your diet. This can result in a hard stool that’s difficult to pass. Painful bowel movements caused by constipation often resolve when the constipation passes.

Difficult bowel movements — and the burning sensation that’s sometimes associated with them — can be inconvenient but are only serious in certain cases.

Pay close attention to any other symptoms you are having, as this can help your doctor better understand what’s going on.

Additional symptoms associated with painful bowel movements

If you have trouble passing a stool, you may also experience one or more of the following:

  • A burning sensation when pooping

  • An inability to completely empty your bowels

  • A feeling like there’s a blockage in your digestive system

  • A need to remove the stool with your finger

  • Abdominal pain

  • Stools that are lumpy or hard

  • Runny stools

  • The passing of three or more stools per day

  • The passing of fewer than three stools per week

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Bloody stools

  • Fever or chills

A woman on the toilet with her elbows on her knees and her head resting in her hands. She appears to be in discomfort.

Why Does It Burn When I Poop? Possible Causes

Sometimes a burning poop can be remedied simply by going easy on spicy foods.

However, if the burning sensation does not calm down even after you’ve removed spicy foods from your diet, your problem may be linked to one of the following conditions:


Occasional constipation is normal. Your digestive system will be affected by diet, stress, and hormonal changes from time to time, but chronic constipation can cause a burning sensation when you pass a stool.

Constipation may be a condition that millions of Americans struggle with, but there are solutions. Speak to your doctor for professional medical advice on how to manage your constipation.

Key Point: What is Chronic Constipation?

It’s not normal to strain when passing a stool. If your constipation continues for several weeks or months, though, it’s considered chronic.

Passing a stool three times per week may be normal for some people, but you shouldn’t experience pain or have to push very hard during a bowel movement.

Constipation that persists may also indicate a bowel blockage (also known as an intestinal obstruction). Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect this, especially if you have stomach cramps as well.

Anal fissures

Also known as anal tears, anal fissures refer to tears in the lining of the anus or small cuts around the exit of the anus.

Anal fissures typically form when you pass a hard stool, but they can also be caused by chronic diarrhea.

Discomfort, bloody stools, and sharp pains that worsen during and after each bowel movement are some symptoms of anal fissures.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

One of the symptoms of IBS is frequent diarrhea that can cause a burning sensation when you poop. Gas and stomach cramps are among the other symptoms of IBS.


Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or rectum. They can be caused by:

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Chronic constipation

  • Straining during bowel movements

  • Stress

Hemorrhoids can cause itching, discomfort, and hard lumps around the anus.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease refers to chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the digestive tract. There are two main types of inflammatory bowel diseases, namely:

  • Crohn’s disease: Crohn’s disease affects the lining and sometimes the deeper layers of the digestive tract. The disease may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.

  • Ulcerative colitis: This condition is characterized by inflammation and sores on the inner lining of the rectum and the colon (large intestine).


This inflammatory condition affects the rectal lining and typically arises due to trauma in this area caused by anal sex and/or the insertion of objects.

Some symptoms of proctitis include:

  • Rectal pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Itching

  • Discharge

  • The constant urge to pass a stool


Three or more sudden bowel movements per day may indicate diarrhea. When you have diarrhea, food passes through your system faster and your stool may still contain digestive enzymes, stomach acid, and bile from the digestive process. These substances can burn or irritate rectal tissue.

Some factors that may lead to burning diarrhea include:

  • Spicy foods

  • Digestive acids, such as bile

  • Excessive alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • Sweeteners

  • Frequent use of laxatives

  • Fructose (fruit sugars)

  • Food intolerances

  • Food poisoning

  • Medications that cause diarrhea, such as metformin (used to treat diabetes)

  • Chronic digestive conditions

  • Certain surgeries and therapies, such as radiation therapy


Though uncommon, colon cancer and rectal cancer can sometimes cause a burning sensation when you pass a stool. Both of these conditions start out with growths called polyps — these attach themselves to the intestinal wall, sometimes causing blockages and bleeding.

Here are some of the symptoms of colon and rectal cancer:

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as pooping more often or less often (constipation or diarrhea)

  • Changes in stool consistency

  • Anal discharge or bloody stools

  • Growths in the anus

  • Itching, irritation, burning, or pain in or around the anus

  • Cramps, gas, or other abdominal pain

  • Fatigue

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Constantly feeling like you cannot completely empty your bowels

If you experience one or more of the above symptoms, or you suspect an underlying medical condition is causing the burning sensation when you poop, contact your doctor.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

A sexually transmitted infection can cause painful bowel movements.

The following STIs may cause rectal inflammation (proctitis):

STIs that cause a burning sensation during bowel movements may cause additional symptoms such as:

  • Rectal discomfort or bleeding

  • A constant urge to pass a stool

  • Constipation

  • Anal pain

Diet or lifestyle

Food and lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on your digestive health. Therefore, it’s important to make choices that contribute to gut health.

Here are some factors that can negatively impact your body’s ability to digest food:

  • A diet high in fat and low in fiber

  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

  • Not drinking enough water

  • Not eating meals at the same time each day (no eating schedule)

  • Not exercising enough

  • Not getting enough sleep

  • High stress levels or anxiety

A collection of high-fat foods such as a cheeseburger, onion rings, French fries, pizza, and potato chips.

Treatments for Discomfort

The treatment required to ease your pain or discomfort will depend largely on what’s causing the burning sensation when you poop. Stool softeners and other over-the-counter treatments, such as hydrocortisone or ibuprofen, are generally used.

More serious conditions, such as cancer and Crohn’s disease, will require medical treatment.

Following the tips below may alleviate the diarrhea or constipation that may be the main cause of your painful bowel movements:

  • Eating a balanced diet

  • Reducing stress

  • Getting into a rhythm with your bowel movements (for example, going at the same time each day)

  • Keeping regular mealtimes

  • Increasing your fiber intake

  • Increasing your water intake

  • Avoiding foods that you’re allergic to

  • Incorporating regular exercise into your routine

  • Taking a probiotic supplement

  • Getting enough rest

How to Prevent Painful Bowel Movements

Build good bowel habits

Developing bowel habits that will make it easier to pass a stool can prevent conditions like constipation, diarrhea, anal fissures, and hemorrhoids.

You can avoid discomfort if you:

  • Eat balanced meals at the same time each day

  • Limit caffeine and artificial sweeteners

  • Stay hydrated

  • Consume both soluble and insoluble fiber

  • Try to "go" at the same time every day — make it a priority

  • Use the correct posture to poop (invest in a poop stool)

  • Avoid laxatives wherever possible

Key Point: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves, while insoluble fiber does not. Your digestive system requires both to function optimally.

Soluble fiber: This is found in nuts, seeds, oat bran, and certain fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and glucose levels.

Insoluble fiber: This is found in beans, berries, and vegetables like carrots and cauliflower. Because insoluble fiber does not dissolve, it bulks up the stool and draws water into it, allowing it to pass more easily through the digestive tract.

Stay hydrated

You need to drink around eight glasses of water each day to stay hydrated and avoid constipation.

However, if you do not include insoluble fiber in your diet, your stool won’t be able to hold the water you drink. Therefore it’s important to be mindful of your fiber and water intake to avoid painful bowel movements.

Enjoy a balanced diet

Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats can improve your digestive health by:

  • Regulating your hormones

  • Strengthening your immune system

  • Reducing the effects of stress

  • Making it easier to pass a stool

A collection of high-fiber foods such as apples, broccoli, oranges, and whole-grain bread. The word

Prioritize digestive health

Prevention is better than cure, and it’s important to look at the whole picture if you want to build a robust digestive system.

By making a real effort to prioritize your gut health, you can avoid the issues that stem from digestive disorders, such as chronic diarrhea and constipation, and general discomfort when you poop.

A few things you can do to make your digestive health a priority include:

  • Consuming fewer calories

  • Cutting back on sugar, caffeine, greasy foods, and alcohol

  • Consuming more fermented foods

  • Managing stress

  • Exercising regularly

  • Allowing for changes to your routine, especially when you’re traveling

  • Allowing yourself enough time to have a comfortable bowel movement

Have a sitz bath

A sitz bath is a deeply soothing treatment that involves soaking the rectal area in a warm bath — with or without salt — for ten to twenty minutes each day.

Some benefits of sitz baths include:

  • Relieving pain and itching

  • Reducing inflammation and discomfort

  • Improving hygiene

  • Improving blood flow, which, in turn, promotes healing (great for hemorrhoids and anal fissures)

When Should I See a Doctor?

A burning sensation when you poop could be caused by nothing more than the hot wings you had the night before, but it could also indicate a bowel disorder or a more serious underlying condition.

If your painful bowel movements persist and you experience one or more of the following, seek professional medical advice:

  • Abnormal anal growths (lumps or bumps)

  • Chronic or severe constipation

  • Anal discharge or bleeding

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • An itchy, irritating, or painful sensation in or around the anus

  • Bloody or black stools

  • Diarrhea lasting three or more days

  • Severe stomach cramps

  • Any significant changes in bowel movements

  • Symptoms that worsen or don’t improve with treatment

Even if you don’t display any of the serious symptoms listed above, it may be worth visiting a doctor anyway to learn more about digestive health and how to prevent future discomfort when you poop.

Where Can I Learn More about Bowel Movements and Bowel Health?

Do you experience painful bowel movements? Is passing a stool something you dread?

Whether you’re dealing with diarrhea, constipation, bleeding hemorrhoids, or something more serious — like inflammatory bowel disease — you can get treatment and management advice. Schedule a video appointment, and meet with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from the comfort of your home.

Dr. Banita Sehgal

Dr. Sehgal received her medical degree from Western University in Los Angeles and trained as Chief Resident at White Memorial Medical Center, also in Los Angeles. She’s been practicing medicine for 20+ years and has a specific interest in women’s health.

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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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