Poop Smells Like Skunk: Causes and What to Do

Poops generally have an unpleasant smell. However, when it smells like burnt rubber or skunk, it could be due to a change in diet. 

Underlying medical conditions such as diarrhea or flatulence can cause skunk-smelling stool. Let’s take a look at the various causes, the symptoms present, and treatment options.

Poop Smell Like Skunk: 8 Likely Causes & Treatments

poop smells like skunk

1. Diet

If your stool smells really bad, start with investigating your choice of food. It is very likely you have had too much of a particular food or introduced a new meal to your diet.

Foods rich in sulfur such as meat, cauliflower, garlic and broccoli easily induce a foul smell. Does this mean sulfur is bad? No, sulfur is in fact, a very essential nutrient for the body.

However, when sulfur intake exceeds what the body needs, it has to be expelled via urine or poop, which may lead to your poop smelling like a skunk.

Symptoms

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea.

Treatment

  • Reduce the composition of these foods in your diet. 
  • Stay hydrated

2. Antibiotics & Infections

Antibiotics target bad bacteria but sometimes, kill good ones and create an imbalance in the gut. This may lead to temporary stomach trouble and smelly poop. 

In some cases, the imbalance can lead to the multiplication of bad bacteria, resulting in infections. 

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramp
  • Watery or foul-smelling poop due to diarrhea.

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination
  • Medical history
  • Stool sample

Treatment

  • Symptoms should subside upon the completion of antibiotics. 
  • Drinking a lot of fluid preferably water
  • Avoid wheat, dairy, and other foods that can irritate your bowel.

3. Lactose Intolerance

This is a condition where the body cannot produce enough lactase to digest lactose (suffer present in dairy products).

Symptoms

  • Watery or poop that smells like skunk
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Pain and cramps in the abdomen

Diagnosis

  • Start with staying away from dairy products for a few days. Re-introduce them in bits and see if symptoms return.
  • Blood test
  • Hydrogen breath test – a test to detect the level of hydrogen in your breath. High levels of hydrogen are usually an indication of lactose intolerance.
  • Stool acidity test – to test the acid level of your stool after ingesting lactose. High acidic stool indicates lacrosse intolerance.
  • Genetic test – the examination of blood or saliva samples of a gene linked to lactose intolerance.
  • Surgical biopsy of the intestine

Treatment

  • Avoid milk or dairy products
  • Buy pills or supplements rich in lactase

4. Celiac Disease

This is a gastrointestinal condition where the body reacts to the presence of gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine. If not properly managed, it may result in malabsorption or failure to absorb food nutrients.

Symptoms

  • Weight loss
  • Greasy, pale or foul-smelling stool
  • Recurrent bloating or cramps
  • General weakness or fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Itching due to skin rash
  • Sores in the mouth area

Diagnosis

  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopy – a portion of your small intestine is examined for malabsorption.

NB: Do not stop taking gluten before going for these tests to ensure accuracy.

Treatment

  • Eat gluten-free foods always

5. Short Bowel Syndrome

This occurs when part of the small or large intestine is absent or fails to function. This condition is rare and usually results in malabsorption.

Symptoms 

  • Pale, fatty, foul-smelling stool
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn

Diagnosis

  • Blood tests: to check for anemia, malnutrition, and dehydration.
  • Abdominal X-rays and CT scans to check for obstructions and loss of bowel function.
  • A liver biopsy: check liver function.

Treatment

  • Anti-diarrheal drugs
  • Medications to repair the intestinal lining
  • Dietary modifications
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Surgery

6. Ulcerative Colitis

This is a chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease where the lining of the colon is inflamed. It often occurs when the immune system attacks friendly bacteria instead of bad bacteria.

Symptoms

  • Poop that smells skunky. Might contain blood or mucus.
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bowel incontinence 
  • Serious abdominal pain

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination
  • Medical history
  • A blood test or stool analysis
  • Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy – to examine the entire large intestine
  • Endoscopy and biopsy 

Treatment

  • Use of anti-inflammatory medications
  • Avoid foods that trigger symptoms such as alcohol and caffeine
  • Eat a balanced diet always
  • Colectomy – Surgery to remove the colon

7. Crohn’s Disease

This is another type of inflammatory disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract.

Symptoms

  • Frequent urgency to pee
  • Foul-smelling poop 
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever  

Diagnosis

  • Diagnostic tests for Crohn’s disease include:
  • Blood and stool tests
  • Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
  • Endoscopy and biopsy

Treatment

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs tailored to the affected region
  • Surgery (surgical bowel resection) – the removal of the affected part of the bowel.

8. Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis refers to the continuous inflammation of the pancreas. This results in the inability of the pancreas to secrete the hormones needed for proper food digestion.

Symptoms

  • Poop may look oily, pale and smell like skunk
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the upper abdomen and back, which worsens when eating or drinking
  • Malnutrition and weight loss

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination and medical history
  • CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography – the use of dye to examine internal organs
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopic ultrasound

Treatment

  • Take pain relievers
  • Whipple procedure – a surgery to remove pancreatic lesions
  • Pancreatectomy – removal of all or part of the pancreas

Conclusion

Do not panic when your poop smells like skunk. All you need to do is think about your recent choice of food and detect the likely cause. This article has made it easy for you to fish out such food.

Nevertheless, if after stopping these foods, your poop still smells like burnt rubber, appears pale or bloody, you need to consult a doctor to know the true cause.

References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/stools-foul-smelling
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324929
  3. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/symptoms/stools-foul-smelling
  4. https://tourocom.touro.edu/news–events/in-the-news/6-reasons-why-your-poop-smells-so-bad.php
  5. https://www.dana.org/article/ah-sweet-skunk-why-we-like-or-dislike-what-we-smell/
  6. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/954981/bowel-cancer-symptoms-signs-poo-stool-healthy-smell/amp
  7. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/trimethylaminuria/
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003132.htm
  9. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/954981/bowel-cancer-symptoms-signs-poo-stool-healthy-smell/amp
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7215946/