So let’s just get clear about this. Nobody’s poop smells great. So smelly poop is totally normal. But sometimes you might have poop that smells worse than your norm, especially if you ate something different than you usually do or started new medications.
The good news is smelly poop is typically harmless, except for the assault on your senses. Here’s why the bathroom might be so smelly and what you can do about it:
You’re eating foods high in sulfates
“The key thing that affects the smell of stool is diet. The food with which we fuel our system directly influences the bacteria in our digestive system and in our stool,” says Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based gastroenterologist and adjunct professor at Touro College. As food is broken down in the body, gases are produced as byproducts, and their smell can be pretty strong.
Foods that are high in sulfate content such as veggies, dairy, eggs, and meat can cause poop that smells like rotten eggs. “Sulfur is a necessary component in our diet, and certain foods high in sulfates increase sulfur gas as the byproduct of foods being broken down,” he says. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous veggies. Sulfates are also found in eggs, dairy, arugula, dry fruits, and garlic. If the bathroom smell is pretty rancid, try reducing the amount of sulfur-containing foods you eat (but don’t cut them out entirely; sulfur is essential to the body).
You’re eating high-fat foods
Foods that are high in fat can also cause smelly and even "oily" poop. “The fat left over that could not be broken down won't be absorbed by the colon, and thus it passes through in an undigested form,” Dr. Sonpal says.
This results in a smelly diarrhea-like stool referred to as steatorrhea. Again, no harm, but if you’re eating tons of fast food that is high in oily fats and have this problem frequently, you may want to dial it back for health reasons, too.
Plus, if you aren't on a high-fat diet like the keto diet but still notice steatorrhea, check with your doctor, as this could be an indicator that your body is having an immune reaction to gluten.
You have a food intolerance
Besides gluten, dairy could be an issue for you. “When your system doesn't tolerate lactose, and you consume milk or milk-based ice cream, you are risking a very stinky run for the bathroom brought about by malabsorption,” he explains. So if scary post-dairy poops sound familiar to you, get checked by a doctor to see if you’re lactose-intolerant. Also, try cutting out the lactose for a while and seeing if it fixes the stool’s odor.
Beer, wine, whiskey—of all things, alcohol could lead to smelly poop later on. “High levels of alcohol in the blood can affect organs in the body, such as your stomach and the intestines,” Dr. Sonpal says. High concentrations of alcohol can affect the flora in your intestines, so it doesn’t do its job as well as usual. The result: foul-smelling gas and poop. To mitigate it a bit, try drinking extra water when you have alcohol. (Good for you for a number of reasons.)
You’re on certain medications
“Medications like antibiotics or hormones can mess with gut bacteria, speeding up or slowing down the way poop moves through your intestines,” Dr. Sonpal says. Or they can cause malabsorption of certain nutrients, thereby causing smelly diarrhea. Either way check with your doc if your poop changed when your medications did.
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