Undigested fat in stools can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'critical'. Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.
Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms. In order to diagnose undigested fat in stools, we could:
|Cystic Fibrosis||2%||Ruled out|
|Short Bowel Syndrome||1%||Ruled out|
|Heart Disease||1%||Ruled out|
Do you pass stools containing undigested fat? These stools might be yellow or pale in color, float, contain white specks, or leave an oily film on the toilet water.
Possible responses:→ No / don't know
In one study, subjects with heart disease had 10 times more fat in their stool than heart-healthy individuals. This means those with heart disease weren't absorbing their fats [Am J Cardiology 5: p.295, 1960].
Stool fats (or fecal fats, or fecal lipids) are fats that are excreted in the feces. When secretions from the pancreas and liver are adequate, emulsified dietary fats are almost completely absorbed in the small intestine. When a malabsorption disorder or another cause disrupts this process, excretion of fat in the stool increases.
Steatorrhea also suggests the following possibilities:
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.