The smell of your stool can be a sign to show us the state of your health. By no means does that mean stool should smell pleasant. But looking out for sudden changes or peculiarities in the smell of our poop can help in the early diagnosis of diseases.
Depending on your problems, your poop may smell metallic, pungent, repulsively bad, or even sweet. But by far the most common complaint is a stool with a distinctly metallic smell.
So if you’re asking the question, “Why does my poop smell like metal?” The answer may be due to some amount of bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract.
Let’s find out why.
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Why Does My Poop Smell Like Metal?
There may be several ways that lead to metallic-smelling stool. Some of them are quite harmless and may get resolved on their own. But some of the reasons may be a cause for concern. Your poop may smell like metal for your diet, medication, or due to diseases.
Let’s have a look.
In the case of diet, it is believed that high iron diets may be the cause of metallic-smelling stool. Iron is absorbed in the small intestine of the human digestive tract. In a high iron diet, the excess iron in the digestive tract liberated from the food being digested is not absorbed by the gut. Thus, the free iron binds with the by-products of digestion and is excreted out of the body as stool. A high enough concentration of iron may cause the stool to have a pungent metallic odor.
Another reason for metallic-smelling poop may be the side effect of some drugs. Some antibiotics like Metronidazole can cause a metallic taste in the mouth. Iron supplements are commonly prescribed for anemia, as a part of an oral contraceptive regimen, or during pregnancy. These iron tablets may increase the amount of iron in the body, and the excess is excreted out, causing your poop to smell like metal. Apart from these, many supplements may also cause the smell of your stool to change.
Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract like Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory bowel syndrome, malabsorption syndromes, bacterial infections, etc can produce foul-smelling stool. The color and amount of stool, as well as the frequency of bowel movements, can also change. But the main cause of metallic-smelling stool is gastrointestinal bleeding. This can be due to ulcers. Intestinal parasites, trauma, bacterial infections, etc. The iron content of blood present in hemoglobin is excreted in the stool and thus produces a metal-like smell.
To answer your question, “Why does my poop smell like metal?”, there is a high probability that it is being caused by GIT bleeding, and you have blood passing through your stool. So you should pay more attention to see if you have symptoms like severe abdominal pain, or can see blood after pooping and get yourself checked by a doctor.
Now we know that metallic-smelling poop is caused by bleeding in the digestive tract, it’s important to know what are the causes. So now let’s take a look at what causes blood to appear in the stool.
Causes of GI bleeding:
The thought of blood in the stool can be a frightening prospect. But it is a very important diagnostic parameter that helps physicians determine the likelihood of various diseases. Many conditions may cause bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, thus resulting in blood in the stool. The most important ones are discussed below.
Some of the common causes of GI bleeding are:
Gastroenteritis is a term used to describe the inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. It can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, ingesting irritants, or due to other associated illnesses. Gastroenteritis can cause bloody diarrhea, which causes metallic-smelling stool.
Ulcers are sores that are formed on the inner walls of the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcers can form in the stomach and the intestines. Peptic ulcers are commonly seen in the stomachs of people suffering from acidity, GERD, stress-related disorders, etc. These ulcers can cause bleeding from the walls of the GI tract. This presents as blood in the stool.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease:
Inflammatory bowel diseases include diseases like Chron’s disease and Ulcerative colitis. Inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation and ulcers in the colon and rectum.
Similar to peptic ulcers, these ulcers can erode the lining of the intestines, causing abdominal pain, bleeding, and bloody diarrhea. This blood is then seen in blood or detected by laboratory tests.
Intestinal polyps are usually benign non-cancerous growths inside the intestine. They are a lump of finger-like tissue that project into the lumen of the colon. They are usually harmless but can cause bleeding and bloody stools. Sometimes, polyps may become cancerous and malignant. In such cases, surgical treatment is recommended.
Diverticula are small pouches that can form on the walls of the colon. They usually aren’t a cause for concern, but they are a common site for infections. Infections of the diverticula can lead to inflammation, ulceration, and bleeding, which can later be seen as blood in the stool. This condition is called diverticulitis.
Anal fissures are another common problem that may cause bloody stools. It happens when the inner lining of the anus is injured which causes the rupture of minute blood vessels and leads to bleeding. Anal fissures are usually seen in patients with prolonged constipation, as hard stools can cause damage to the rectum and anus while passing.
If you have anal fissures, you might see fresh red and bright blood mixed in with your poop.
Hemorrhoids often referred to as piles, are a condition in which the veins in the walls of the lower rectum and anus become swollen and enlarged. Hemorrhoids can develop internally within the walls of the rectum, or externally under the skin near the opening of the anus. Hemorrhoids may cause painless bleeding from the rectum and anus during the passing of stools. This may be seen as bright red spots in your poop.
Tumors and cancerous conditions in the GI tract like Carcinoma of the stomach, and colorectal cancer, may cause ulceration, injury, and weakening of the walls of the intestines. This may cause bleeding and results in bloody diarrhea.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
If the metallic smell in your stool is coming from an unknown source of bleeding in your gut, proper diagnosis and treatment may very well save your life. If you have poop that smells like metal along with other symptoms like red spots in your stool, pain during pooping, stomachaches, acid reflux, nausea, etc. you should seek medical attention immediately.
The doctor will at first want a detailed history of your condition. So it is important to give them information critical to making a diagnosis, like your bowel habits, food and alcohol intake, family history of similar illnesses, any kind of medication you may be on, etc.
After taking your history and a primary physical examination, the doctor may order any of the following tests to confirm his diagnosis. These tests may include:
- Nasogastric lavage
- Barium X-ray
- CT scan and other imaging tests
As for treatment, there may be invasive and non-invasive procedures depending on your illness. In case of upper GI bleeding due to peptic ulcers, the doctors may prescribe Proton Pump Inhibitors for treatment. On the other hand, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove polyps, tumors, or segments of the intestine affected by cancer or diverticulitis.
What does metallic-smelling poop mean?
If your poop smells like metal, it means there is a high concentration of iron in your stool. This may be caused by bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
Why does my poop smell like sulfur?
Your poop may smell like sulfur after eating sulfur-rich foods like eggs, meat, dairy, etc. This is because sulfur gets liberated from these foods during digestion and is released during defecation. This causes bad breath and smelly poop.
What causes foul-smelling stool and gas?
Stool with an especially foul and unbearable odor is associated with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. These diseases include bacterial infection, parasites, malabsorption syndromes, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, etc.
Poop may be something that we all find universally repulsive, but when it comes to maintaining health and fighting diseases, it may be one of the single most important sources of information about the condition of the body.
So, next time your poop smells funny, be sure to take notice and speak to a healthcare professional. Remember, a healthy diet and exercise is the best way to protect your gut and stay healthy.