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Stools - foul smelling

Foul-smelling stools; Malodorous stools

 

Foul-smelling stools are stools with a very bad odor. They very often have to do with what you eat, but may be a sign of a medical condition.

Considerations

 

Stools normally have an unpleasant odor. Most of the time, the odor is familiar. Stools that have an extremely bad, abnormal odor may be due to certain medical conditions. Foul-smelling stools also have normal causes, such as diet changes.

 

Causes

 

Causes may include:

  • Celiac disease - sprue
  • Crohn disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Intestinal infection
  • Malabsorption
  • Short bowel syndrome

 

Home Care

 

Home care depends on what is causing the problem. Things you can do include:

  • Follow your health care provider's instructions.
  • If you have been given a special diet, stick to it closely.
  • If you have diarrhea, drink more fluids so you do not get dehydrated.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your provider if you have:

  • Black or pale stools
  • Blood in the stool
  • Changes in the stool related to diet
  • Chills
  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Weight loss

 

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

 

Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Questions may include:

  • When did you first notice the change?
  • Are the stools an abnormal color (such as pale or clay-colored stools)?
  • Are your stools hard to flush?
  • What sort of diet have you eaten recently?
  • Does a change in your diet make the smell worse or better?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

The provider may take a stool sample. Other tests may be needed.

 

 

References

Juckett G, Trivedi R. Evaluation of chronic diarrhea. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(10):1119-1126. PMID: 22085666. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22085666.

McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 132.

 
  • Lower digestive anatomy

    Lower digestive anatomy - illustration

    Food passes from the stomach into the small intestine. In the small intestine all nutrient absorption occurs. Whatever has not been absorbed by the small intestine passes into the colon. In the colon most of the water is absorbed from the food residue. The residue is then eliminated from the body as feces.

    Lower digestive anatomy

    illustration

    • Lower digestive anatomy

      Lower digestive anatomy - illustration

      Food passes from the stomach into the small intestine. In the small intestine all nutrient absorption occurs. Whatever has not been absorbed by the small intestine passes into the colon. In the colon most of the water is absorbed from the food residue. The residue is then eliminated from the body as feces.

      Lower digestive anatomy

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Stools - foul smelling

           

             

            Review Date: 7/22/2016

            Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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