The so-called Fat stool (medical: Steatorrhea or Steatorrhea) always occurs when the digestive tract fails to absorb the fats supplied with food.The causes for this can be a food intolerance or a more serious illness such as pancreatic cancer.
The symptoms that often occur together with steatorrhea include gastrointestinal complaints such as flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Under Fat stool, in technical terms too Steatorrhea called, medical professionals understand a reduced intake of food fats, which are then excreted in the stool.
The stool accordingly takes on a foamy and sticky consistency, which is accompanied by a pungent odor. The affected person also suffers from symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas or diarrhea. Often the reduced fat intake is accompanied by a lack of protein intake, which can also lead to symptoms. Up to 10 g of fat can be excreted in the stool every day.
Experts then speak of a pathological fatty stool. Steatorrhea is a symptom of an illness or a food intolerance and should therefore always be medically clarified or treated accordingly.
The causes for Steatorrhea (fatty stool) lie in a pathologically reduced ability to absorb the fats supplied with food, which are then excreted again in the stool.
One possible reason for this can be a gluten intolerance, which leads to inflammation of the small intestinal mucosa and thus to a disruption of fat absorption. Diseases of the pancreas can also cause steatorrhea, for example inflammation or cancer.
Gallstones or inflammation of the bile ducts can also be responsible for the appearance of fatty stools. Certain medications may also affect the digestive tract's ability to absorb fat. Medicines that are used to treat obesity, in particular, often result in fatty stools, as do some antibiotics.
In steatorrhea, the excreted stool contains a lot of fat. The consistency of the stool is often soft or sticky. Its volume can be unusually large. It is also possible that foam forms or the stool has an oily sheen. The stool may also have an unpleasant odor.
A highly visible sign of steatorrhea is the elimination of fat that is not bound in the stool. The stool may have small grease eyes, which may be visible in the water closet after using the toilet. The stool can also contain large amounts of liquid fat, which form small puddles when excreted. However, the evidence of steatorrhea is not always so clear.
Steatorrhea can appear as a symptom of various diseases. Therefore, the fatty stool is often accompanied by other complaints that differ depending on the underlying disease. The symptoms that often occur together with steatorrhea include gastrointestinal complaints such as flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
People may lose weight if larger amounts of fat are excreted undigested, as the body will not absorb the energy it contains. Any weight loss can only be indirectly related to steatorrhea, which in turn depends on the underlying disease that also causes the fatty stool.
Fat stool can often already be recognized by the person concerned. At the next visit to the doctor, a detailed discussion takes place in order to inquire about the living conditions and previous history of the patient. A stool examination provides information about the actual fat content.
Blood tests can help identify inflammation or gluten intolerance. Cancer can also be discovered in this way. Ultrasound and X-ray examinations or computed tomography allow further conclusions to be drawn about the condition of the organs.
If steatorrhea is left untreated, the disease responsible for it can spread unhindered and, under certain circumstances, cause severe damage to the affected organs. Some diseases, such as pancreatic cancer, can even lead to patient death if left untreated.
Whether and which complications steatorrhea causes depends primarily on the cause. If the fatty stool is based on gluten intolerance, lack of treatment can lead to deficiency symptoms and chronic infectious diseases. Since celiac disease weakens the entire organism, long-term effects such as cardiovascular diseases and allergies are also conceivable.
If, on the other hand, a disease of the pancreas is responsible for fatty stools, it can lead to inflammation or even cancer. A tumor disease, if left untreated, can even lead to the death of the patient. With gallstones, steatorrhea is usually followed by an infection of the gallbladder, which can develop into what is known as a porcelain gallbladder. This increases the risk of developing gallbladder cancer.
Apart from the accompanying gastrointestinal complaints, fatty stools themselves have no serious consequences. Occasionally, however, it can cause constipation or even an intestinal obstruction. The treatment of steatorrhea also addresses the causes.
If there is inflammation of the pancreas, for example, side effects from prescribed medication can occur. The same goes for celiac therapy. Gallstones require surgery, which has known risks such as infection, bleeding, or injury.
Irregularities in using the toilet should be monitored and followed up. If there are abnormalities when emptying the bowel, special care must be taken. Often the first symptoms of an existing illness can be recognized here. If the observations are unique, there is usually no cause for concern.
Often the food intake was not optimal or pollutants such as alcohol were consumed. If there are repeated or increasing changes, it is advisable to consult a doctor. This is especially true if the peculiarities persist over several days or weeks and show an increasing character. A soft or sticky stool indicates disorders of the organism.
If the volume of excretions is unusually high compared to the food consumed, this is an indication of an existing disease. In the case of general complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, a control visit to a doctor should take place. An unpleasant smell of the excretions, gas or changes in weight are to be understood as warning signals of the body.
Any general malaise, pain, diarrhea, or constipation should be investigated. If you notice that small puddles of fat are excreted from the intestine when you go to the toilet, you should consult a doctor immediately and be informed of the observations.
Became clear Steatorrhea Once diagnosed and the cause of the disorder determined, appropriate therapy can then be initiated. This depends on the respective illness. Gluten intolerance often does not require any special treatment; however, the person affected must avoid foods containing gluten in order to remain symptom-free.
Inflammation of the pancreas should be treated immediately as it can otherwise be life-threatening. Here, various medications are given and, under certain circumstances, a surgical procedure in which the affected parts of the organs have to be removed. The same applies to pancreatic carcinoma: Surgical removal of the tumor in combination with chemotherapy promises good treatment results.
Gallstones should definitely be removed if they cause symptoms such as fatty stool. In many cases they can be smashed, which is effective and less stressful for the patient. Following a diet can also be useful in many cases in order to support the respective therapy and not to put additional strain on the digestive tract. Basically, the earlier the disease is recognized and treated, the higher the likelihood of problem-free therapy and complete cure.
The appearance of Fat stool basically cannot be prevented directly. However, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient exercise, as well as avoiding alcohol and nicotine, can help prevent the development of the diseases that are responsible for fatty stools. If the first signs of a fatty stool appear, it is advisable to consult a doctor if in doubt. He can clarify the causes and, if necessary, initiate appropriate therapy.
After successful treatment of steatorrhea, depending on the cause, follow-up care may be essential. If celiac disease was the cause of the steatorrhea, it is inevitable to avoid foods containing gluten even after the treatment. In the case of diseases of the pancreas (inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatic cancer) or the gastrointestinal tract (Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases), regular blood check-ups as well as gastric and colonoscopies and, if necessary, ultrasound examinations of the organs are necessary even after the steatorrhea has been resolved.
If gallstones were the cause of the steatorrhea, no follow-up is required if they have been removed. If the cause was an inflammation of the biliary tract, regular biliary examinations should be carried out even after the inflammation has been successfully treated, as the likelihood of recurrence of the biliary tract infection is increased in people who have already had one.
If the use of certain medications such as antibiotics caused the development of steatorrhea, these should be avoided in the future. In addition, regular observation of the stool can often identify recurring steatorrhea at an early stage. Here, patients are challenged, who pay attention to changes in their stool (especially a loamy color and a sour smell, but also diarrhea and unusually high stool volume) and should consult a doctor early on if they suspect renewed steatorrhea.
Self-treatment of steatorrhea is based on medical therapy. If there is an underlying gluten intolerance, the doctor will recommend a diet. If gallstones are the cause, they must be removed. After a surgical procedure, the patient has to take it easy. The bowel movements should return to normal within a few days after the operation.
If the fatty stool is caused by inflammation of the pancreas, the most important measure is to take the prescribed painkillers correctly. In addition, a lot of fluids must be absorbed so that digestion can regulate itself quickly. As soon as the symptoms subside, a light diet can be resumed. The symptoms should have completely subsided after one to two weeks at the latest. A healthy lifestyle with lots of exercise helps recovery and prevents steatorrhea from recurring.
The diet must be changed to fatty stools. Patients are on a low-fat diet consisting of protein and low-fiber foods. In particular, trans fats, i.e. industrially hydrogenated fats that are mainly found in frozen foods and pasta, should be avoided. Alcohol should be avoided as far as possible. In addition, small meals are recommended that provide the body with little but high-quality protein. In children, further medical clarification is necessary in order to rule out metabolic diseases as the cause.