Melena is described as black, tarry stools that are associated with upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Bloody stools are an indicator of a problem in the digestive tract. Blood in the stool can occur from anywhere along the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus.
The most obvious and common sign of melena is a dark color present in the stool. There are also other symptoms to look out for that can provide an explanation or cause for this condition. These symptoms may include:
- Rapid pulse
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
Causes of Melena Disease
Bleeding that takes place in the esophagus, stomach, or the start of the small intestine makes the stool appear black or tarry. That said, heavy or rapid bleeding in the upper GI tract can result in bright red stools too.
Other causes of melena include consuming black licorice, lead, iron pills, bismuth medicines like Pepto-Bismol, and blueberries. Beets and tomatoes can also make stools look red in appearance. Dark red blood is usually a sign of blood coming from the small or large bowel, rectum, or anus.
Usually, bleeding in the upper part of the GI tract causes black stools. It could be due to the following reasons:
- Anomaly in the blood vessels
- A tear in the esophagus due to violent vomiting
- Stomach ulcer or gastritis
- Anal fissures
- Trauma or injury from foreign body
- Widened, overgrown veins (called varices) in the esophagus and stomach
- Polyps or cancer in the colon or small intestine
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Infection in the intestines
If one notices abnormalities in their stools, they should call their primary care physician immediately to get a medical diagnosis because melena might not be the cause of your condition. A rectal exam, including lab testing your stools, can confirm diagnosis. Aside from that, one may need to undergo one or more tests to determine the cause:
- Tests for the presence of Helicobacter pylori infection
- Stool culture
- Barium studies
- Bleeding scan (nuclear medicine)
- Blood studies, including a complete blood count (CBC) and differential, serum chemistries, clotting studies
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
Firstly, restoration and maintenance of normal blood volume is important. Next, the site of bleeding and its underlying cause should be established. This is extremely important as methods using interventional endoscopy or radiology have to be developed to stop hemorrhage. Generally, melena is not considered a medical emergency as the bleeding is gradual.
Ultimately, a treatment regimen based on diagnosis and the condition of the patient is planned. Medications may include:
- Antibacterial drugs – to destroy ulcer-causing Helicobacter Pylori bacteria
Natural Remedies for Melena
When blood occurs in stools, one should stop drinking and smoking. Eating bland food is also advisable. One can practice home remedies until relief is obtained.
- Drinking the juice of raw onions helps stop blood from oozing into stools. Also, radish or spinach juice can provide relief.
- Drinking a juice of figs soaked overnight is known to ease the condition.
- Drinking bitter gourd juice with buttermilk helps stop bleeding.
- Consuming a mixture of sesame seeds and water can be beneficial.
- Drinking coriander seed-soaked water is also effective.
- A paste of rose petals called gulkand with water is taken for three days on an empty stomach as a remedy for blood in the stools.
One should eat a diet rich in fiber and plenty of fresh green vegetables and fruits. Instead of consuming products with processed white flour, one must include whole grains in the diet; this provides roughage for cleaning the system. Drinking water every morning is also helpful in clearing the system on a regular basis.
Also, one should avoid consuming, tea, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco. A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate rest and low-stress levels help to avoid this problem.
Cadmium sulp, Cinchona, Carbo veg, Graphites, Iris versicolor, Kali bichromicum, Kreosote, Lycopodium, Nux moschata, Nux vomica, Petroleum, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Sulfur, Symphytum are useful homeopathic remedies. These can be used to relieve symptoms associated with melena and ailments of the GI tract.
As usual, make sure to speak to your primary care physician before you take any new medications or try any natural remedies.
What is melena disease?
Melena is classified as the presence of black, tarry stools associated with upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
Wilson ID. Hematemesis, Melena, and Hematochezia. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 85.