What causes oily and foul-smelling stools and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Oily and foul-smelling stools can be a cause for concern, as they may indicate underlying digestive issues or gastrointestinal problems. The consistency and odor of our stool can provide valuable insights into our overall digestive health. In this article, we will explore the possible causes of oily and foul-smelling stools and discuss how to treat this condition effectively.

Understanding Stool Consistency and Odor

Before delving into the causes and treatments, it is essential to understand what normal stool consistency and odor should be like. Stool consistency can vary from person to person, but generally, it should be well-formed, easy to pass, and not excessively hard or loose. Normal stool odor is usually mild and not overly offensive.

Causes of Oily and Foul-Smelling Stools

Dietary Factors

One of the most common causes of oily and foul-smelling stools is a diet high in fat. When we consume excessive amounts of fatty foods, our digestive system may struggle to break down and absorb the fats properly. This can result in oily bowel movements and foul-smelling feces.

Digestive Disorders

Several digestive disorders can contribute to the development of oily and foul-smelling stools. Conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and pancreatitis can affect the body’s ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients, leading to changes in stool consistency and odor.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders, such as malabsorption syndromes and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can also cause oily and foul-smelling stools. These conditions disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to changes in stool appearance and odor.

Treating Oily and Foul-Smelling Stools

1. Dietary Modifications

One of the first steps in treating oily and foul-smelling stools is to make dietary modifications. Reduce your intake of fatty foods and opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. This can help improve digestion and reduce the occurrence of oily bowel movements.

2. Increase Fiber Intake

Incorporating more fiber into your diet can help regulate bowel movements and improve stool consistency. Fiber-rich foods, such as legumes, whole grains, and fruits, can add bulk to the stool and promote regularity. This can help reduce the likelihood of oily and foul-smelling stools.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore the balance of gut flora and improve digestion. Adding probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt and fermented vegetables, or taking a probiotic supplement, can support healthy digestion and reduce digestive issues that may contribute to oily and foul-smelling stools.

4. Medications

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to treat underlying digestive or gastrointestinal disorders that are causing oily and foul-smelling stools. These medications can help manage symptoms and improve overall digestive health. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

5. Hydration

Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining healthy digestion. Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day can help soften the stool and promote regular bowel movements. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily to support optimal digestive function.

6. Seek Medical Advice

If dietary modifications and lifestyle changes do not alleviate the symptoms of oily and foul-smelling stools, it is important to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can conduct further tests and evaluations to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.


Oily and foul-smelling stools can be indicative of underlying digestive or gastrointestinal disorders. By understanding the causes and implementing appropriate treatment strategies, it is possible to improve stool consistency and odor. Making dietary modifications, increasing fiber intake, incorporating probiotics, and staying hydrated are all effective ways to address this condition. However, if symptoms persist, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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