Fat In Stool: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Healthy poop is a sign that your digestive tract is working properly.

Noticing fat in your stool could be worrisome. Most times, it is also foul-smelling, oily, and bulky. It is medically referred to as steatorrhea.

In this article, we will be discussing why it happens, other symptoms it may come with, and what to do when you pass a fatty poop.

What Causes Fat in Stool?

When digested food enters your small intestines, it has to be small enough to be absorbed into your body. In order to make it across, enzymes must ensure the food is properly broken down.

If fats from food are not broken down properly, they will not be absorbed and instead will continue into your large intestines. They will then be excreted in the feces along with other substances that cannot be digested by your body. This is generally referred to as malabsorption.

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Here are some circumstances that can cause it:

1. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

When the pancreas has a problem producing digestive enzymes like pancreatic lipase, fats will not be easily broken down. Pancreatic inflammation or damage, cystic fibrosis, and pancreatic cancer increase the risk of EPI.

2. Low Bile Production

fat in stool

Bile works to emulsify fats in your food to help with its digestion. Problems with bile production or secretion lead to steatorrhea. Some examples include the inability of the liver to synthesize bile, a blocked bile duct or poor quality of bile production.

3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

This refers to two conditions that affect can the intestines- Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These can damage the surface of the small intestine and affect the absorption of fat.

4. Drugs

Diet pills can get in the way of fat absorption if they block the digestion of fats. As such, the undigested fat is excreted in the stool.

5. Whole nuts

Eating too many whole nuts, especially with the skin and shell, can lead to incomplete digestion. This is because nuts with their skin and shells have high-fat content and if it is not well digested, the excess fats will appear in stool.

6. Lactose Intolerance

This occurs when a person is deficient in Lactase, an enzyme that helps to break down lactose- the sugar in milk. This can lead to problems with fat absorption.

How Is It Diagnosed?

It’s always best to see your doctor whenever you’re unsure of anything about your body and health.

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

Other symptoms that may present with steatorrhea are:

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  • Ongoing diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin

Your doctor will ask some question to try to identify why exactly there is an increased fat level in your stool. You’ll also be examined with some focus on your abdomen. Thereafter, some tests may be requested that could include:

  • Full Blood Count
  • Stool microscopy, culture, and sensitivity
  • Stool lipids
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT Scan
  • MRI

Treatment

The treatment is usually targeted at the underlying cause. After making a diagnosis, your doctor will work out a treatment plan based on his or her findings.

Here are some tips to help you improve your symptoms.

1. Hydration

Staying hydrated may help you reduce the risk of fatty stool. It is recommended to drink enough water every day.

2. A Good Diet

If you already know some meals give you a bloated feeling and bowel problems, you can try to adjust your diet and avoid such foods. For instance, people with lactose intolerance should be cautious about taking dairy products.

3. Eating Good Fats

The type of fats you ingest will have a real impact on fat absorption. Concentrate on eating healthy sources of fats such as avocado, eggs, fish, coconut oil, and stay away from processed fats.

4. Limit Alcohol and Cigarette smoking

Excessive alcohol intake and cigarette smoking can destroy your pancreas. The pancreas is essential for the digestion of fats. Hence, reducing or stopping their intake is beneficial.

5. Nutritional supplements

Malabsorption of fats affects the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Supplements containing vitamins A, D, E, K as well as iron, folic acid, magnesium, and calcium are recommended for people affected. You can check some supplement reviews at reviewy.org. Always discuss with your doctor before starting any supplement.

6. Medical Treatment

In moderate to severe cases, medical intervention is needed. Intravenous fluids are used for hydration and to restore electrolyte balance when there’s associated diarrhea.

Surgery is usually necessary for a blocked bile duct.

Conclusion

Finding oily feces in your toilet bowl does not need to be an immediate cause for alarm. However, it is important to get a proper diagnosis in order to correctly get the underlying cause treated.

References:

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Omiete Charles-Davies, MBBS

Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in medicine and surgery. He is a licensed medical doctor and has worked in different private and government-owned hospitals as a general medical practitioner. For fun, he loves to travel and experience new cultures.
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