June 1, 2021

What the smell of your stool says about your health

By Health Plus

When it comes to our health, we generally pay more attention to what we put into our body than what comes out. But every once in a while, we unintentionally eat something that forces us to confront the foul smelling consequences. While a temporary change in stool odor is to be expected, what does it mean if the unusual smell persists? A divergence in the normal smell of your stool can be the first clue to a developing digestive or health issue. 

the most common reasons why stool odor changes

1. Sulfur
Sulfur is a mineral produced by our body for various functions including helping to metabolize food. It is also naturally found in vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Eating too many sulfur rich foods can cause foul smelling gas or bowel irregularities. Sulfur-containing substances called sulfites are often used as food preservatives. They help reduce bacterial spoilage and slow the browning of fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood. They are also commonly added to wine during the fermentation process in order to reduce bacterial growth. Excessive amounts of sulfites can interfere with the balance of gut bacteria and cause a change in the odor of your stool. It can even trigger a bout of diarrhea. To ease these symptoms, try limiting the number of sulfur rich vegetables in your meals or eliminate sulfites from your diet.

2. Fatty Foods
Foods that are high in fat, like certain cuts of beef or various cheeses, can cause smellier stools. Since fatty foods are more difficult for the digestive tract to break down, the food can get passed onto the colon in an undigested state. This can cause gas and even constipation. Increasing the fiber in your diet or supplementing with a daily fiber product can bring relief and help get your digestive system back on track.

3. Food intolerance
The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. When people cannot digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy, they often experience abdominal discomfort, gas as well as loose, smelly stools. Another common intolerance is sensitivity to sugar substitutes like fructose, sorbitol, or xylitol. An elimination diet can help identify which food or ingredient may be causing the problem. Certain digestive enzymes can provide support to the digestive tract and may allow you to continue eating foods you like without digestive challenges.

4. Constipation
The longer it takes food to travel through your colon, the more time it has to ferment and develop a strong odor. To stay regular and still continue to eat your favorite foods, be sure to supplement with dietary fiber to ensure easy passage.

5. Antibiotics
Taking antibiotics can disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in the bowel, which can lead to what is known as antibiotic-associated diarrhea. When this happens, it is important to consume plenty of fluids like water or clear broths and eat yogurt that contains live cultures to build up the good bacteria. If the symptoms persist or accelerate, you should consult your doctor.

6. Too much alcohol
Alcohol can affect the smell as well as the consistency of your stool. High in sulfites and sugar, alcohol requires the good bacteria to work overtime. Alcohol also speeds up digestion, which can put a strain on the colon as it works hard to process excess waste. Consequently, any undigested waste is discarded along with the excess alcohol to create a smelly mess. The solution is to either drink less or to spread out your drinks. Furthermore, do not forget to drink plenty of water since dehydration can also affect the smell of stool.

7. Malabsorption
When the body cannot absorb certain nutrients properly, it can cause foul smelling stool and a host of other symptoms. Normally, the body absorbs what it needs from the food you eat as it works its way through the digestive system. If food is not absorbed properly, it can cause frequent diarrhea, bad smelling stools, weight loss or other more serious symptoms. When these symptoms persist overtime, it can indicate a more serious condition like Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, celiac disease or other conditions. Medical attention is recommended for an accurate diagnosis.

The bottom line is that an occasional change in your stool scent is bound to happen depending on what you eat or drink. However, if the smell persists and is accompanied by unusual digestive symptoms like stomach pain, excessive gas and weight loss, it may be time to consult a doctor.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/health/stools-foulsmelling?c=721239811414#prevention
https://www.pointinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Allergies-to-Sulfur-Compounds-paper.pdf https://www.prevention.com/health/a29700920/why-does-my-poop-smell/
https://www.healthline.com/health/antibiotics-diarrhea#foods-to-avoid
https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/malabsorption-syndrome

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