Skip to content
Home » Unraveling the Aromas: What Does the Smell of Your Poop Tell You?

Unraveling the Aromas: What Does the Smell of Your Poop Tell You?

While the topic of poop may not be the most pleasant, it is an essential aspect of our digestive health. Apart from its appearance, the smell of your poop can provide valuable insights into your well-being.

The odors emitted during bowel movements can vary, indicating different factors and potential health issues. In this blog post, we will delve into what the smell of your poop tells you, the significance of different odors, and when to seek medical attention.

The Importance of Poop Odor

The smell of your poop is influenced by the combination of gasses, bacteria, and other substances present in your digestive system. While some degree of odor is normal, unusual or persistent changes in smell may indicate underlying health conditions or dietary factors. Paying attention to the aroma of your poop can help you identify potential issues and take appropriate action.

A woman smells a bunch of small flowers

Decoding Different Poop Odors

Normal Odor

Normal poop typically has a distinct, but relatively mild odor. The smell is influenced by the breakdown of food particles, bile pigments, and the presence of bacteria in your digestive tract. A slightly unpleasant smell is considered normal, indicating healthy digestion and the presence of beneficial gut bacteria.

Foul or Strong Odor

If your poop emits a particularly strong or foul odor, it may be an indication of poor digestion, malabsorption, or an imbalance in gut bacteria. Certain foods, such as garlic, onions, or spices, can temporarily cause an intensified smell. However, if the odor persists or is accompanied by other digestive symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

Ammonia-like Odor

An ammonia-like smell in your poop may indicate a higher concentration of nitrogen in your waste. This can be a result of protein-rich diets, dehydration, or impaired kidney function. If you consistently notice an ammonia-like odor or have concerns about kidney health, it is recommended to seek medical evaluation.

Sweet or Fruity Odor

A sweet or fruity smell in your poop can be a sign of malabsorption or the presence of excess sugar in your digestive system. It may suggest issues such as lactose intolerance, fructose malabsorption, or even diabetes. If you frequently experience sweet or fruity odors, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation.

Strong, Putrid Odor

A strong, putrid smell in your poop can be a cause for concern. It may indicate an infection or the presence of harmful bacteria in your digestive tract. Conditions like bacterial overgrowth, Clostridium difficile infection, or gastrointestinal infections can lead to this type of odor. If you experience persistent strong, putrid smells, it is crucial to seek medical attention for diagnosis and treatment.

A roll of toilet paper unrolling with a sprig of eucalyptus, what does the smell of your poop tell you

Stool Smell Chart

Poop SmellWhat It Means
Distinct, but relatively mild odor; Slightly unpleasantThis is normal and indicates healthy digestion.
Foul or strong odorIndicates poor digestion, malabsorption, or an imbalance in gut bacteria. Note: Certain foods (i.e. garlic, onions, or spices) can temporarily cause an intensified smell.
Ammonia-like odorIndicates a higher concentration of nitrogen in your waste; May be a result of protein-rich diets, dehydration, or impaired kidney function.
Sweet or fruity odorMay indicate malabsorption or the presence of excess sugar in your digestive system; May suggest lactose intolerance, fructose malabsorption, or even diabetes
Strong, putrid odorA cause for concern, possibly indicating an infection or the presence of harmful bacteria in your digestive tract (bacterial overgrowth, Clostridium difficile infection, or gastrointestinal infections)

When to Seek Medical Attention

While variations in poop odor can be influenced by diet and temporary factors, persistent changes or concerning smells may warrant medical attention. If you notice persistent strong odors, unusual changes in smell, or if the odor is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, or weight loss, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional.

It is worth noting that certain conditions, such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), can also affect the smell of your poop. According to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) clinical guide on SIBO, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can lead to malabsorption and changes in bowel habits, including odor. If you suspect SIBO or have concerns about your digestive health, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable for proper evaluation and management.

woman discussing with a professional her smell of your poop

To learn more, watch my FREE IBS Masterclass to learn more about what your poop tells you about your body.

Conclusion:

Along with color, the smell of your poop can provide valuable clues about your digestive health. While everyone’s experience may differ, paying attention to unusual or persistent changes in poop odor can help identify potential issues and guide you towards seeking appropriate medical evaluation. Remember, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance regarding any concerns about your poop smell or digestive health.

All the stool pictures featured on this website have been generously provided by participants in our IBS Dietitian programs. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every client who has granted us permission to utilize their stool pictures, contributing to the development of this informative and educational platform. thank all of our clients for granting us permission to use their stool picture to create this educational website.

References:

American College of Gastroenterology. (2020). ACG Clinical Guideline: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 115(2), 165-178. doi:10.14309/ajg.0000000000000501

American College of Gastroenterology. (2021). ACG Clinical Guideline: Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 116(1), 17-44. doi:10.14309/ajg.0000000000001059

American Gastroenterological Association, Bharucha, A. E., Dorn, S. D., Lembo, A., Pressman, A., & American College of Gastroenterology. (2023). American Gastroenterological Association-American College of Gastroenterology Clinical Practice Guideline: Pharmacological Management of Chronic Idiopathic Constipation. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 118(5), 707-735. doi:10.14309/ajg.0000000000001686

Mayo Clinic. (2022). Stool Colors: What They Mean. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/stool-color/expert-answers/faq-20058080

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Gas in the Digestive Tract. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *