Foul-Smelling Stools

What Causes Foul-Smelling Stools?

Foul-smelling stools can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'very serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose foul-smelling stools, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "foul-smelling stools" as a symptom.  Here are seven possibilities:
  • Gluten Sensitivity
  • Short Bowel Syndrome
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Stomach Acid Deficiency
  • Parasite Infection
  • Low Digestive Enzymes
  • Steatorrhea

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
excessive flatulence
difficulty gaining weight
diabetes in family members
moderate abdominal pain
orange stool color
confirmed heartburn
significant abdominal pain
macrocytic red cells
flatulence
Caucasian ethnicity
meals worsen left iliac pain
diarrhea for 1-3 months
... and more than 30 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of foul-smelling stools:
Cause Probability Status
Short Bowel Syndrome 95% Confirm
Gluten Sensitivity 27% Unlikely
Low Digestive Enzymes 26% Unlikely
Cystic Fibrosis 4% Ruled out
Stomach Acid Deficiency 2% Ruled out
Steatorrhea 0% Ruled out
Parasite Infection 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

In the Bowel Movement Symptoms section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about foul-smelling stools:
How offensive do your stools usually smell? This is difficult to quantify, but a strong smell despite brief exposure to the air, or comments by others, are good indicators!
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ Never / rarely offensive
→ Occasionally offensive
→ Often offensive
→ Always offensive
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either non-offensive-smelling stool or offensive-smelling stool, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Steatorrhea

Steatorrhea also suggests the following possibilities:

Cystic Fibrosis

Most people with cystic fibrosis have difficulty absorbing dietary fat, which in turn leads to steatorrhea.  Cystic fibrosis interferes with the ability of the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes: fat is normally broken down by lipase, a digestive enzyme that is produced and secreted by the pancreas.

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