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Undigested Food in Stool

Updated on August 18, 2014

Undigested food in stool is generally remnants of high-fiber vegetables that have not been fully digested by the digestive tract enzymes. An enzyme is a kind of protein which helps trigger chemical reactions within the body.It is important to note that many types of foods that humans consume cannot be effectively digested by the digestive system enzymes.

Undigested food in stool is usually a minor problem, unless it occurs along with loss of weight, chronic diarrhea, or other bowel movement changes. It is vital to seek medical attention in case such additional symptoms are present.

Symptoms accompanying undigested food in stool

Undigested food in stool may be accompanied by the below listed symptoms:

  • Occurrence of watery, loose stools
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fever with an infection or dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Gas or flatulence
  • Urgency in passing stools
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Easy tiredness, fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Feelings of an incomplete bowel movement
  • Problems in starting a bowel movement

In addition to undigested food in stool, the below listed symptoms may help identify an underlying issue with enzymes in the digestive system:

  • Feeling full or satiated after nibbling at just a little bit of food; sensations of excess food in the stomach.
  • Bloating and gas post meals.
  • Evacuation of stools that float.
  • Presence of an ‘oil-slick’-like undigested fats in the toilet bowl.

It is important to seek medical attention for all cases of undigested food in stool, as it can indicate or cause the below mentioned health complications:

  • Nutritional deficiencies due to deficient absorption of varied amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Fully or partially undigested fats can result in severe deficiencies in important fatty acids and vital fat soluble vitamins like D,A, E, and K. This can result in diarrhea or elimination of floating pale stools.
  • Presence of incompletely digested proteins in the body can result in autoimmune reactions, allergies, etc.
  • Anomalous bacteria and other flora present in the digestive tract may consume mal-digested carbohydrates and convert them into acetaldehyde, alcohol, and other varied toxins.
  • Undigested food in the digestive system may also simply rot and poison the entire body.

Causes of undigested food in stool

Undigested food in stool can be caused due to the following reasons:

Presence of high dietary fiber content in meals
The human body usually cannot digest foods with high dietary fiber content, because it does not contain the essential enzymes needed to digest it.To be more specific, it can be said that dietary fiber does not allow hydrolysis to occur. Hydrolysis is a process wherein the chemical bond of a substance is split and broken down with the addition of water to it. Therefore dietary fiber passes almost unchanged from the body and gets eliminated as undigested food in stool. Some part of it may sometimes be broken down by bacteria and released as acids and gas.Peanuts, corn, peas, cereals, carrots, and beans are some common foods that cannot be easily digested by the human body.

Overcooking foods
It may be noted that thoroughly cooked foods, or foods that are cooked at very high temperatures, tend to remain undigested in the body for longer periods. This occurs because overcooking different foods alters the patterns of chemicals present in the food items. The human body can only break down foods that have a natural chemical pattern, with the help of relevant enzymes. Hence, barbecued and deep-fried foods that have severely altered chemical patterns are more difficult to digest and often get eliminated as undigested food in stool.

Presence of underlying conditions

  • Acute gastroenteritis:This illness can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection with diarrhea as the primary symptom. Other symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and loose watery stools, while severe instances may also include fever, weight loss, and undigested food in stool.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome/IBS: It is characterized by an array of abdominal anomalies like alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea, stomach cramps, distention, bloating, and occurrence of mucus and undigested food in stool. Its etiology is not known.
  • Other conditions:Toddler’s Diarrhea affecting 1 to 5 year olds, intolerance to foods, and mal-absorption conditions like Celiac disease are other disorders that can cause undigested food in stool.


Treatment of undigested food in stool

It is important to consult a doctor in all cases of undigested food in stool. If there is a diagnosis of an underlying disease as a causal factor, then doctors will prescribe relevant medications to cure the condition and alleviate the symptoms.

For normal cases of undigested food in stool, patients may follow the below listed self-care measures to find relief:

  • Eat smaller meals. Chew properly when eating. Drink lots of water.
  • Limit intake of foods like whole grains, raw vegetables and fruits, those with fats and grease, and powerful spices.
  • Eat grapefruits, rice, apples, bananas, ground beef, chicken, cottage cheese, fish, and other low fiber foods.
  • Avoid foods that induce gas such as cabbage, beer, carbonated beverages, etc.
  • Limit the intake of caffeinated beverages
  • Have plenty of yogurt and foods with probiotics.
  • Take digestive enzyme supplements

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