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Greasy Stool Symptoms

Now and then, all of us might suffer from greasy or fatty stools that typically float in the toilet and are hard to flush. Occasional fat in the stool is normal, especially after a very rich meal at a fancy French restaurant, for example, where you probably feasted on high-fat foods. However, persistent fatty stools are not normal and may indicate some type of disorder in the gut. Because greasy stool symptoms typically indicate an inability to absorb fats and, therefore, fat-soluble vitamins, the condition must be addressed to prevent deficiency in these nutrients.

Greasy stool, or steatorrhea, means that you have too much fat in your stool. Sometimes, this condition can be caused by weak bile in the system, as bile helps us to break down the fats in our stool effectively and absorb all our fat-soluble vitamins from them, like vitamins A, E, D, and K. Too much fat in the stool can also be a sign of malabsorption, meaning you aren't absorbing nutrients well when food passes from the stomach into the intestines.

Consistently greasy stools are a sign of some problem with fat absorption in the body. Over time, such inability to absorb fats can cause all kinds of problems, as essential fatty acids are crucial to virtually all of of our systems, from keeping our eyes moist and liquid, to keeping our skin youthful, to manufacturing hormones. So see a doctor if greasy stool symptoms are a persistent problem.

If you have steatorrhea you'll typically notice a cluster of symptoms that accompany the fatty stool such as:

Greasy Stool Causes Overview

Greasy stools are a sign of a malabsorption of fats in the digestive tract. A wide range of diseases and disorders can cause this problem with absorption.

Most common causes of greasy stools:

  • Pancreatitis: The pancreas manufactures enzymes that help us break down fats properly. They work in conjunction with bile (produced by the liver) to break fat globules down into tiny fat particles and help us extract nutrients from our foods. If the pancreas is not functioning properly, you may not be breaking down fat effectively, causing the greasy stool.
  • Whipple disease: This disease is caused by a bacterial infection in the intestines. Whipple's disease negatively impacts your body's ability to break down both fat and carbohydrates and is a common cause of malabsorption and greasy stool.
  • Food intolerances: Allergies and intolerances to foods like dairy or gluten can also impact nutrient absorption in the gut, leading to fatty stools.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Crohn's disease: All of these conditions of the bowel and intestine are inflammatory conditions that impact how well nutrients and fats are absorbed by the body. Therefore, gut issues like these can all cause greasy, fatty stools.
  • Cystic fibrosis: This disease, usually symptomatic since early childhood, causes the mucous membranes in the body to become sticky as mucus becomes thick. This mucus blocks ducts and valves, or passages in the pancreas, and prevents the normal release of bile and enzymes that break down fat. Greasy, foul-smelling stools are one of the hallmark symptoms of this disease.

2 Potential Greasy Stool Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Intestinal Infection by Giardia Parasite

    Some intestinal illnesses are caused by parasitic infection. People can become infected if they swallow or swim in contaminated water or are exposed to infected feces.

    With proper treatment, symptoms will last no longer than 2 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with intestinal infection by giardia parasite:
    anxiety
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  2. 2.Pancreatic Cancer

    Pancreatic neoplasm affects the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen, and causes symptoms like abdominal pain, back pain, urine changes, fatigue, and weight loss.

    The treatment & prognosis for pancreatic neoplasm vary and are dependent on the disease severity.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Greasy Stool Treatments and Relief

To treat greasy stools or steatorrhea, any doctor or gastroenterologist will first want to isolate the cause of the problem. Because there are so many gut and organ conditions that can contribute to a problem with fat absorption, he or she will run a battery of stool tests.

For individuals with weak bile or who don't have a gallbladder, which stores and concentrates bile, supplemental bile salts or pancreatic enzymes can help the individual to break down fat better, enabling them to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids.

For food allergies and intolerances, simple avoidance of triggers will resolve the problem. For more serious diseases, from pancreatitis cystic fibrosis, medications and lifestyle changes are typically the course of action.

FAQs About Greasy Stool

Here are some frequently asked questions about greasy stool.

What foods cause greasy stools?

Greasy stool is generally a sign of intestinal malabsorption, associated with conditions such as celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, lactase deficiency and so on. These conditions disrupt processes of fat breakdown/absorption. In principle, any food that exacerbates these underlying conditions can cause greasy stool. There is less evidence regarding the association between consumption of whole nuts, natural and artificial fats with greasy stools.

Can coffee cause greasy stools?

There have been no studies linking coffee and greasy stool. Caffeine in the coffee is a potent stimulator of smooth muscles in the intestinal tract and thus might have an impact on bowel function. Sometimes dairy products in the coffee can contribute to greasy stool among patients with lactase deficiency.

Why do I have oily stools when pregnant?

Oily, fatty, or greasy stools can be caused by intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). Cholestasis is a term used to describe conditions with diminished bile formation and/or excretion — as bile is essential to fat absorption. ICP can cause fat malabsorption and, hence, oily stool. ICP typically develops in the late second and/or third trimester and rapidly resolves after delivery. This condition also cause pruritus (itching of the skin) and an elevation in serum bile acid concentrations. The etiology for ICP is not completely understood, but likely involves a combination of genetic susceptibility, hormonal factors, and environmental factors.

Can you have greasy stools after gastric bypass surgery?

Yes. Certain gastric bypass surgeries, such as jejunoileal bypass, biliopancreatic diversion, and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass can cause greasy tool. These procedures shorten the length of the functional small intestine to reduce the effectiveness of nutrient absorption, which contribute to greasy stools.

Why does my stools float?

Stools that float are usually fatty or greasy and are most often due to poor absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) or too much gas (flatulence). Flatulence can be caused by consumption of foods that are hard to digest, such as fiber, or food that your body cannot tolerate. Malabsorption can be caused by many conditions with compromised processes of food breakdown/absorption.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Greasy Stool

  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our greasy stool symptom checker to find out more.

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Greasy Stool Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced greasy stool have also experienced:

    • 10% Diarrhea
    • 9% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 5% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced greasy stool were most often matched with:

    • 3% Intestinal Infection by Giardia Parasite
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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