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Steatorrhea: What Causes Yellow Oily Stool and How is it Treated?

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Have you ever found yourself in a bathroom battle, where no matter how many times you hit that flush button, your ‘deeds’ simply refuse to vanish into the watery abyss? If you’re one of those folks who prefer not to inspect their ‘contributions’ in the WC, this situation can be nothing short of maddening. Welcome to the world of steatorrhea, where your stool becomes a defiant, yellow, and oily foe that just won’t budge.

Imagine this: you’re in the most intimate of places, desperately trying to reclaim your dignity, as you engage in a full-on flushing marathon. But as your frustration mounts and your water bill skyrockets, your yellowish, oily stool seems to scoff at your efforts. It’s as if your bowel movements have suddenly turned into a game of “Hide and Seek” with no intention of revealing themselves.

Now, let’s get one thing straight – we’ve all had our fair share of bathroom woes, and it’s a topic that often lurks in the shadows of embarrassment. But, my friends, it’s time to shed some light on this ‘dirty little secret’ and understand the intricacies of steatorrhea.

Steatorrhea, often characterized by pale yellow or clay-colored, foul-smelling, and greasy stools, is like the pesky guest who refuses to leave the party. It occurs when your body struggles to absorb fats properly, resulting in this greasy rebellion in your toilet bowl.

The frustration is real, and those suffering from steatorrhea often find themselves locked in a battle of wills, each flush a symbolic confrontation with their defiant stools. Yet, there’s hope on the horizon. Understanding the causes and potential remedies for steatorrhea is the first step towards liberating yourself from this ‘stool-induced’ misery.

In the journey ahead, we’ll explore the intricacies of steatorrhea – its potential causes, the impact it can have on your daily life, and, most importantly, the relief and strategies available to help you bid farewell to these stubborn, oily foes. It’s time to regain control in your bathroom kingdom and face your stool issues head-on. So, join us as we embark on this enlightening quest for a world where your ‘deeds’ no longer refuse to disappear.

What type of diarrhea is steatorrhea?

Steatorrhoea is a type of diarrhea where there is too much fat in the stool. Stool contains a mixture of undigested nutrients. These include proteins, fibers and salts. The stool usually also contains mucus, dead skin cells or other waste that the body can excrete. Discover in this article the causes of steatorrhea (which is different from keriorrhea), What color is fatty stool, and steatorrhea treatment.

What causes steatorrhea?

Steatorrhea may be caused by foods high in fat and fiber, such as nuts. Steatorrhoea is not usually a major health concern and happens after eating meals high in fat, fiber, or potassium oxalate.

Some foods that are especially high in indigestible or difficult to digest fats and fibers are likely causes of steatorrhea.

Common foods and drinks known to cause steatorrhea include:

  • nuts, especially whole nuts with the skin or shell intact
  • oily, high-fat fish, such as escolar or oilfish which can be mislabelled butterfish or fatty tuna
  • excessive alcohol
  • artificial fats
  • naturopathic or essential oils
  • coconut and palm kernel oil
  • whole wheat products

Severe or persistent symptoms of steatorrhea may indicate a condition such as malabsorption, enzyme deficiency or gastrointestinal disorders.

Which disorder is associated with steatorrhea?

Diseases and Conditions known to cause Yellow oily stool include:

  • certain diseases of the pancreas
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Lesion or kidney failure
  • Damage or liver failure
  • Hypoparathyroidism or too little parathyroid hormone
  • Gallbladder cancer, gallstones or gallbladder removal
  • celiac Disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Metabolic states of lipids (fats) such as Gaucher’s disease and Tay-Sachs disease.
  • Bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract, including Clostridium difficile and Whipple’s disease
  • Gastric band surgery
  • Damage or intestinal damage
  • diabetes
  • some diabetes medications
  • kidney, liver, and pancreas cancer medications
  • obesity medications, such as fat- and carb-blockers
  • cholesterol medications
  • parasitic infections, commonly Giardia
  • HIV
  • tropical sprue
  • amyloidosis
  • congestive heart failure
  • lymphoma or lymph damage

Symptoms of yellow oily stool

Symptoms of mild steatorrhea may include foul-smelling stool, a stool that floats, and a stool that is difficult to flush away.

Steatorrhoea is when a person has a loose but bulky Yellow oily  stool with globs of fat and noticeable oil separation. Mild or short-term cases of steatorrhea may cause some limited discomfort.

Additional symptoms of mild steatorrhea include:

  • foamy, frothy, or mucous-filled stool
  • foul-smelling stool
  • diarrhea or loose or runny stool that is bulkier than normal
  • light-colored stool, often a light brown, green, orange, or yellow
  • stool that floats
  • stool that appears to be covered in a thick, greasy film
  • stool that is difficult to flush away
  • abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and gassiness
  • heartburn and indigestion
  • general exhaustion
  • minor muscle, bone, and joint ache

Malnutrition and dehydration may be caused by severe or chronic cases of steatorrhea. Further, serious symptoms can occur as well, especially when associated with underlying medical conditions.

Symptoms associated with severe or chronic steatorrhea include:

  • chronic loose, heavy, foul-smelling, fat-filled stool
  • anemia
  • muscle weakness and pain
  • chronic exhaustion
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • reduced growth rate in children
  • vision problems
  • skin conditions
  • neurological conditions
  • osteoporosis


Usually, a doctor diagnoses steatorrhea by asking questions about a person’s symptoms, examining their medical history, and prescribing a stool fat test to determine the fat content of the stool.

Some doctors may use a 24-hour test, but fat in the faeces is best judged when collected for 72 hours.

To prepare for a stool fat test, a person must consume 100 grams (g) of fat daily for three days prior to the test and fast for five hours immediately prior to the test.

You must take a stool sample with a removal kit and instructions and bring it to your clinic or doctor.

When eating 100g of fat a day, a healthy person should excrete 7g or less fat per day into the stool.

Steatorrhea is usually defined as the excretion of more than 7 grams of fat within 24 hours when consuming 100 grams of fat per day.

If a steatorrhoea is diagnosed, the doctor may need additional tests to determine the underlying cause.

Treatment for steatorrhoea

The treatment of steatorrhoea depends on the cause and severity of the symptoms. Mild cases of steatorrhea can often be successfully treated at home with rest and basic care.

Following certain steatorrhea diet guidelines can also help reduce the risk of oily bowel movements.

Home remedies for the treatment and prevention of steatorrhea are:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Reduction of fiber intake
  • reduce fat consumption in the diet
  • stop smoking or reduce smoking
  • Stop or reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Reduce or limit the consumption of potassium oxalate.
  • Increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the diet by taking supplements such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Increased intake of vitamin B-12, folic acid, iron, magnesium and calcium through the diet.
  • Take over-the-counter medications for diarrhea, including loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol)
  • Take anti-acid, anti-swelling and over-the-counter medicines
  • Severe or chronic cases of steatorrhea usually require medical intervention. People who suffer from steatorrhea due to an underlying condition usually also need medical treatment.

Medications for the treatment and prevention of steatorrhea are:

  • Intravenous fluids (IV) to restore electrolytes and stop dehydration.
  • antidiarrheals
  • Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT)
  • Proton pump inhibitor or PPIs
  • MHC oils

When to see a doctor for Yellow oily stool

Severe chronic steatorrhea requires medical attention. Mild to moderate steatorrhea can only cause dehydration and mild discomfort. However, these symptoms can lead to serious illnesses such as heart attack and organ failure if left untreated.

Steatorrhoea can also be an indication of underlying medical problems that need to be treated. These include gastrointestinal disorders, enzymatic deficiencies or hypoparathyroidism.

The presence of fat in a stool specimen may be helpful in diagnosing these conditions.

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