What is stool odor?

Stool odor is the smell associated with stools, or bowel movements. Stools normally have an unpleasant odor.

Stools are formed in the large intestine (colon), which is part of the digestive system. Normally, “good bacteria” live in your large intestine and help digest or break down the food remnants that enter the large intestine from the small intestine. Stools are formed during this process. Stools are passed through the large intestine to the rectum for elimination from the body. The normal, unpleasant smell associated with stools is a result of the bacteria.

Changes in stool odor can be caused by the foods you eat. Even extremely foul-smelling stools can be due to changes in your diet. However, abnormally foul-smelling stools may also be a sign of a disease, disorder or condition. Examples include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and intestinal infections. Because of the range of possible causes of bad stool odor, a correct diagnosis of the underlying disease, disorder or condition is very important. Contact your healthcare provider for a physical exam.

In some cases, foul-smelling stools may be a sign of a serious or life-threatening condition, such as an intestinal infection, abscess, or obstruction. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have foul-smelling stools with serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, cramping, and bloody stools.

Seek prompt medical care if your stool odor is unusual, unexplained or persistent, or causes you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with stool odor?

Foul-smelling stools may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms frequently affect the digestive tract but may also involve other body systems.

Digestive symptoms that may occur along with stool odor

Stool odor may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive system including:


What causes stool odor?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to foul-smelling stools. Foul-smelling stools can be a sign of inflammatory disorders, intestinal infections, malabsorption disorders, and inherited medical conditions.

Infectious causes of stool odor

Foul-smelling stools may arise from intestinal infections caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites including: Read more about stool odorcauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 7, 2014 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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