Symptoms of EPI are similar to other conditions that affect your stomach and digestion
Many people do not realize the pancreas plays an important role in digestion and that problems with the pancreas can result in digestive issues. When you have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), your body is missing the enzymes it needs to digest food, which causes important nutrients to pass through the body unabsorbed.2
This can lead to a number of signs and symptoms that may vary from person to person. People with EPI may have one, two, or several of the symptoms listed.
EPI symptoms may include2,3:
Foul-smelling, greasy stools (steatorrhea)
People with EPI cannot absorb all of the fat that they eat. The undigested fat that passes through the digestive system may cause oily or greasy-looking stools. These stools may also smell really bad, float, and be difficult to flush.
Not all people experience steatorrhea, but it is the most common sign of EPI. Tell your doctor if you notice oil droplets in the toilet bowl or if your stools have the appearance of salad dressing or motor oil.
Unexplained weight loss
People with EPI cannot properly digest or absorb the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates found in food, which can result in weight loss.
Gas and bloating
Because people with EPI cannot properly digest food, it can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as gas and bloating.
The gas and bloating that sometimes happen with EPI can cause stomach pain.
Undigested food may move too quickly through the digestive system, resulting in diarrhea.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, make sure you let your doctor know. Download the Doctor Discussion Guide to keep track of any symptoms you may be experiencing, and share them with your doctor.