Why Does My Poop Smell Like Sulfur? Foods and Other Causes That Stink

Photo: Getty Images / Tatiana Volgutova
Here's a fun conversation starter (or ender) for you to whip out the next time you're on a bad date: Poop is not actually supposed to smell bad.

While poop has its own...special aroma, it's not supposed to stink so badly that you regret even having the ability to smell. If it does, that can have some implications for your health. “What [usually] causes stinky smelling poops is when a person has a hard time absorbing all the nutrition from the food before it comes out," says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, founder of BZ Nutrition in New York City. This is known as malabsorption, she says, and it's often caused by gut issues like Crohn's and colitis.

What causes sulfur smell in poop?

However, if this doesn't apply to you and yet you're consistently stinking up your bathroom, check in with what you’re eating. While there aren’t necessarily foods that make your poop smell good, there are certain healthy foods—particularly foods high in sulfur—that can make your bowel movements smell super bad, Zeitlin says. (Other common stink-inducing foods include lactose, alcohol, and sugar alcohols.)

Experts In This Article

It's important to mention up-front that sulfur is not inherently bad. It's a common element that your body needs to produce the antioxidant glutathione as well as support blood and digestive function. It's also great for your skin and hair, Zeitlin says. “Adding in sulfur-rich foods has been shown to help fight acne and reduce other skin issues like rosacea and dry, scaly skin patches. And studies have shown that sulfur has an antibacterial effect against the bacteria that causes acne and dermatitis,” she says.

How do you get rid of sulfur poop?

Instead of cutting out healthy foods for the sake of neutralizing weird-smelling poop, Zeitlin suggests keeping a meal diary to see if there are certain foods that cause worse-smelling stools than others. “Every physical body is different and will respond differently to different foods, so figuring out what feels best for you and your body is crucial; a food diary will help nail this down,” she says. However, if limiting seemingly-problematic foods doesn't help, Zeitlin says you should seek a medical professional—since again, this could be a sign of bigger gut issues.

Foods High in Sulfer

As for problematic foods, here are a few foods high in sulfur that might be responsible for particularly smelly poops:

1. Cruciferous veggies

Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and cabbage, are high in sulfur and thus if eaten in excess, could result in some unpleasant bathroom experiences. “These foods can make some people feel bloated and gassy because of the amount of fiber they contain,” Zeitlin adds. “If you experience bloat from these foods, but love eating them, it would be better on your gut to eat them cooked instead of raw." The reason? Cooking will help break down some of the fiber for easier digestion.

2. Animal protein

That’s right—red meat, poultry, fish, pork, and eggs can all make your gas smell, too, says Zeitlin. That's because certain amino acids found in animal-based protein contain sulfur. What’s more, if you have the steak with wine or beer, it might be even stinkier, as alcohol can also be a trigger for unpleasant, malodorous BMs.

3. Alliums

You might love seasoning vegetables and meats with onions and garlic, but those can lead to rank breath and poops, says Zeitlin. Thanks, sulfur! They're also FODMAP foods, meaning they might cause a reaction in those with IBS or other gut sensitivities.

4. Dried fruit

I know medjool dates are *the* snack to eat right now, but dried fruit is typically high in sulfur (it's used to preserve the fruit)—and when eaten in large portions, can make your gas smell bad. Stick to a small serving and swap for fresh when you can to keep gas in check.

5. Dairy

This one is the biggest betrayal of all. “Dairy products are rich in sulfur," says Zeitlin. "However not everyone who eats cheese has foul-smelling poops. If you are lactose-intolerant or have a milk protein allergy and you eat dairy products, your gut will not be able to absorb the food properly and cause your poops to smell worse than others. That smell may come out with a sulfur aroma to it, but it is from the lactose—not the sulfur.”

Other FAQs About Poop

What causes diarrhea that smells like rotten eggs?

According to board-certified gastroenterologist, Samantha Nazareth, MD, diarrhea that smells like rotten eggs can be indicative of malabsorption or an infection. “If there’s ongoing [smelly] diarrhea, this could mean your body is not properly absorbing or breaking down something (lactose/fructose/carbohydrate intolerance, pancreatic insufficiency), you have a GI condition (like IBD or celiac disease), or there’s an infection,” she explains. “Particularly smelly bugs are Giardia, a parasite, and Clostridium Difficile, C. Diff for short, which is a bacteria.”

What does it mean if your poop has a chemical smell?

While sulfur doesn’t smell particularly chemical, it technically is. In any event, ayurvedic specialist and the founder of Shakti School, Katie Silcox, MA, says that if you have weird-smelling poop—particularly if it smells chemical—it could be a clear indicator of a poor diet. “Have you been eating processed foods full of chemicals?” she asks. “If so, try cutting out those foods for a few days and seeing if the smell changes.”

Why does my poop smell like sweet sulfur?

Still contemplating what it means when your poop smells like sulfur? “A sulfur smell can indicate a lowered/weakened metabolic capacity and can be exacerbated by eating things like eggs, onions, beans, broccoli, asparagus, garlic, and cruciferous veggies without spices,” says Silcox, who is a New York Times best-selling author of Healthy Happy Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women. Additionally, she shares that in Ayurvedic medicine, things that are sweet smelling or tasting can be indicative of a Kaphic imbalance.

“This means too much heaviness,” Silcox explains. “Try lowering high-fat foods and reducing your fat/sweets intake. Healthy fats are great for us in moderate amounts, but if we have a weekend liver/gallbladder, too much fat can cause sluggish digestion and contribute to those weird smells.”

The good news is that there are some foods that reduce stool odor. “Try spicing your food up with ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, and black pepper to awaken the digestive process and help digest sulfuric foods,” Silcox suggests.

What does it mean if your poop has a strong smell?

If your weird-smelling poop is characterized by a particularly strong scent that seems to linger, Silcox says that it could be an indicator that your digestive system is inflamed. “It can also just be a sign that your digestion is a little overheated,” she adds. “Have you been eating a lot of hot spicy foods lately? What about alcohol? This is considered ‘fire water’ in traditional medicine. Try removing spicy, fried foods and alcohol for a few days and see if that shifts the smell.”

Another reason your poo may smell particularly strong? You’ve been constipated. “Constipation can mean going to the bathroom less often, having hard stools, or even feeling like everything didn’t come out,” says Dr. Nazareth explains. “If poop is sitting in your colon for a longer time, it ferments further.” To avoid a constipation-related smelly situation, Dr. Nazareth says you can increase your water and fiber intake, and get active. Doing so will help get things moving and less smelly, she says.

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