Poop, feces, excrement… whatever you call it, there’s no denying the unpleasant smell. While it’s perfectly normal for poop to be pungent, it makes you wonder what it is about our poop that makes it stink. So why does poop smell bad?
“Stool generally does not have a pleasant smell because it releases byproducts of digestion.” Shelby Yaceczkoa clinical dietitian at UCLA Health told Live Science.
Skatole, also known as 3-methylindole, is “one of the compounds in feces that gives it its bad odor.” Emma Laingtold LiveScience, clinical professor and director of dietetics at the University of Georgia and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. bacteria They produce this compound when they break down the amino acid L-tryptophan in the gastrointestinal tract, he said. (Interestingly, the same compound in small concentrations gives a pleasant smell to flowers such as jasmine, according to the American Chemical Society.)
There is more than 10,000 microbial species They live in humans and more bacterial cells than human cells. These microorganisms are essential for digestion and largely responsible for the smell of feces. Different bacteria emit different gases depending on the types of foods and substances they break down, Laing explained; Bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and mouth contribute to this process, she said.
Because bacteria break down what we eat, factors such as dietary patterns, alcohol intake, dietary supplements, and prescription medications can affect the odor of stool. Sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol., are often used in candy and can make poop smell particularly bad. And foods that contain sulfate (such as eggs, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, legumes, and meat) can contribute to the production of sulfur gas, which has a rotten egg smellduring digestion.
Highly processed and sugary foods can be difficult to digest, causing bacteria to produce more gas and stinkier poop, Yaceczko said. And consuming large amounts of alcohol produces smelly stools because it wreaks havoc on the intestines and digestive process, Laing added.
If you notice a change or worsening of stool odor, it is most likely due to a change in your diet or medication, Laing said. The digestive process eventually adapts and worsening odor is usually temporary, she added.
However, a particularly unpleasant odor, such as putrid or rotten, that does not go away could indicate a serious health problem. Malabsorption diseasesas inflammatory bowel disease either Celiac Disease, can prevent the body from digesting and absorbing nutrients, which can cause persistent bad odors. A viral or bacterial infection in the intestine could also be to blame. And so-called motility disorders, which cause slower-than-normal emptying of the gastrointestinal tract, give feces more time to ferment, thus increasing the stench, Yaceczko said.
If an unusually bad odor persists, especially in combination with symptoms such as diarrhea, blood in the stool, abdominal pain or fever, “an immediate visit to your healthcare provider is warranted,” Laing said.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.