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:
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Short Bowel Syndrome
  • Parasite Infection
  • Stomach Acid Deficiency
  • Gluten Sensitivity
  • Steatorrhea
  • Low Digestive Enzymes

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:
diarrhea for 1-3 months
excessive flatulence
craving specific foods
fatigue after slight exertion
Caucasian ethnicity
occasional meal-related burping
frequent episodes of diarrhea
severe abdominal pain
macrocytic red cells
very pale stools
edema of the ankles/lower legs
being easily irritated
... 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
Parasite Infection 94% Confirm
Stomach Acid Deficiency 24% Unlikely
Gluten Sensitivity 20% Unlikely
Low Digestive Enzymes 4% Ruled out
Cystic Fibrosis 4% Ruled out
Steatorrhea 4% Ruled out
Short Bowel Syndrome 1% 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:

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