Steatorrhea and Alcoholism – How Are They Linked?
Steatorrhea – also known by the less pleasant and much easier-to-say nickname fatty stool – is a condition marked by, as you might have guessed, the presence of too much fat in your stool. All eliminations will include a mixture of undigested nutrients, which typically include protein, fiber, and salt. It also comes loaded with other unthinkable bits of excrement, including dead cells and mucous – anything the body doesn’t want to keep recirculating. Keep reading to learn more about the link between steatorrhea and alcoholism.
What Causes Steatorrhea?
Smaller cases of steatorrhea can occur from simply eating a meal that’s really high in fat. Eating meals very high in fiber or potassium oxalate can also cause your body to excrete lots of fat. Particular foods are known to cause steatorrhea, like nuts, fish that are high in fat (like sardines), artificial fats or hydrogenated oils, and whole wheat products.
In this article, we’re going to be addressing one of the lesser-known causes of the condition: alcohol consumption. Keep in mind that eating the foods listed above can greatly contribute to the emergence of steatorrhea, so if you’re going to be drinking and going out for dinner, you might want to skip out on the walnut-garnished salmon with bread.
The reason alcohol can cause steatorrhea is because of the way it affects the functioning of certain organs, particularly your pancreas and liver. These two organs are highly involved in determining what’s retained in your body and what’s passed out through stool, so if you’re drinking to the point that your organs aren’t working properly, you can expect to be more liable to develop steatorrhea (as well as a host of other problems which we won’t get in to here).
What are the Symptoms of Steatorrhea?
There are a few physical symptoms that typically come alongside steatorrhea. However, if you’re a chronic drinker, chances are you experience most of these symptoms on the regular:
- Diarrhea or frequent trips to the bathroom
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Bloating and gassiness
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Aches and pains in your muscles, bones, and joints
However, the real determining factor of whether or not you have steatorrhea is what your poop looks like. Again, though, if you’re a frequent drinker, chances are you’ve grown accustomed to these types of elimination. This isn’t a good sign – it’s an indication that you probably already experience steatorrhea. Good thing it’s not life-threatening. This is what steatorrhea poop looks like:
- Foamy or frothy feces that look like mud
- Abnormally malodorous bowel movements
- Abnormalities in the colour of your stool – abnormally light or yellow
- Floating stool
- Poop that looks like it’s coated in a layer of grease
- Poop that refuses to be flushed
If you notice that these symptoms, which are quite consistent to alcoholics and familiar enough to most people who have spent longer than usual in the bathroom after a night of drinking, become chronic, then you may have a problem. It can be difficult for an alcoholic to determine whether the symptoms are chronic as a result of their drinking, because bowel issues tend to remain an issue for alcoholics even during withdrawal.
Getting a Diagnosis
If you think it’s time for you to get an actual diagnosis to see whether or not you have steatorrhea, you should probably stop drinking first. If you need to go through a medically supervised detox to get yourself through withdrawal, then do so – there’s not a lot of point getting a doctor to analyze your poop just to tell you that yes, you’ve got steatorrhea symptoms, but they’re probably just from your drinking. They might not even bother testing you until you’ve gone clean.
When you do get a diagnosis, they’ll probably follow a standard procedure. They’ll need to know how much fat you consume, so they’ll tell you to consume about 100 grams of fat on a daily basis for the three days before the test. You’ll have to stop eating for 5 hours before you do the test.
To prepare for the test, as you may have guessed, you will have to deposit some of your digested meals into a stool sample collection kit. They’ll probably provide you with specific instructions of how to do this. Given the serious, gritty nature of harvesting your own poop, I’ll leave that part for your local professional to tell you about.
If you’re excreting more than 7% of the 100 grams of fat that you’ve consumed, your doctor will either tell you that you’ve got steatorrhea or that you have to stop drinking. Possibly both.
Steatorrhea and Alcoholism
Steatorrhea is one of the most common conditions that arises in people who habitually drink alcohol. It’s not usually a life-threatening condition, though with too much drinking, it can worsen into a state that can cause injury.
Getting a diagnosis is easy for regular people, but for alcoholics, you’re probably going to have to sober up before you can get a reliable diagnosis. Since that’ll probably be enough to clear up your steatorrhea, you might as well try that as soon as possible!