Seeing your poop float might surprise you. But it's usually nothing to worry about. More often than not, it's related to something you had to eat.
Other times, floating poop can be a symptom of an underlying condition. If you're experiencing other symptoms as well, consider talking to your healthcare provider.
Here are the main reasons behind this type of stool (poop), ways to prevent it, and when you should see a healthcare provider.
The following are common causes of floating stool:
Most of the time, floating stool is the result of something you ate that leads to gas. The extra air from the gas makes poop less dense, or packed. This leads it to float when it hits the toilet bowl.
Your intestines, or bowels, are part of your digestive system. They help your body break down and digest food. If you eat a large meal or something that produces gas, the gas mixes with stool in the intestines.
Have you noticed you feel gassy after you eat specific foods? That's because certain types of foods can produce gas. Here are some examples:
- Apples, pears, peaches, and prunes
- Artificial sweeteners
- Asparagus, artichokes, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and onions
- Fruit juices
- Apples, pears, peaches, and prunes
- Sodas and soft drinks
- Sugar-free candies and gum
Many of these foods contain sugars that canmake excess gas, like sorbitol or fructose. For instance, prunes, apples, peaches, and sugar-free foods contain sorbitol. Sodas, honey, and fruit juices are high in fructose.
If your floating stool is a result of gas-producing food, there's some good news. Your poop should return to normal after you eat less of the foods that bother you.
Poor absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat, known as malabsorption, can alter your stool. It can make the stool greasy, foul smelling, and cause it to float. Unexplained weight loss can also be a sign of malabsorption.
Malabsorption can have many causes such as medications or damage to the intestinal lining due to medical conditions.
High Fat Content in Stool
Fatty stool, known as steatorrhea, can cause it to float. This may happen occasionally after eating a fatty meal. However, if it happens often it can be a sign of malabsorption from a medical condition.
People with lactose intolerancemay have floating poop when they eat dairy products. That's because they have low levels of the enzyme lactase that the body needs to digest lactose (a sugar in milk).
Lactose isn't only in milk—it's also in many other dairy products, like yogurt, ice cream, and some cheeses.
That's why someone with lactose intolerance might become bloated or gassy after eating dairy, which can lead to floating stool.
High Fiber Intake
Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can lead to gas and make your poop float. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, but it can be more gentle on your system to increase it gradually. It can also help to drink plenty of water.
Digestion Relief for Symptoms of Too Much Fiber
If your stool floats often, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Crohn's disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that may include malabsorption that may affect stool. The cause of Crohn's disease isn't well understood but may involve a combination of genetic factors and an immune system reaction within the digestive tract that causes inflammation.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which eating gluten triggers white blood cells to attack the lining of the small intestine. The damage to the intestinal lining can lead to malabsorption and cause stool to float.
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid and can cause hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). The excess thyroid hormones can affect the digestive system and lead to malabsorption.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Along with gas, people with irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) may have floating stools.
A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology examined people with IBS. The researchers concluded that floating stools were a characteristic feature of IBS. In fact, 26% of the adults in the study reported having floating stools.
A gastrointestinal infection can lead to malabsorption and changes in stool. For example, Whipple's disease is a bacterial infection that affects the digestive system and interferes with your body's ability to absorb fats.
Chronic pancreatitis is when there's inflammation in your pancreas. The condition is usually a result ofgallstones or long-term alcohol abuse. It often occurs after acute, or sudden, pancreatitis. It's also linked todiabetes.
While floating stool is common in pancreatitis, you may experience other symptoms as well. Stomach pain, back pain, bloating, and weight loss are all common.
Steatorrhea can be caused by cystic fibrosis, an inherited condition that damages the lungs and digestive tract. Cystic fibrosis treatment often involves digestive enzyme supplements similar to those your pancreas normally releases.
Sclerosing cholangitis affects the bile ducts in and around your liver. It's closely linked with ulcerative colitis, another type of inflammatory bowel disease. The condition is marked by inflammation, scarring, and destruction of these bile ducts.
Along with floating stools, symptoms include:
- Dark urine
- Itchy skin
Choledocholithiasis is when you have one or more gallstones in the common bile duct.
The condition doesn't provoke any symptoms unless the stone blocks the bile duct. As well as floating stools, you might feel pain in the right upper or middle upper stomach. The pain usually lasts for at least 30 minutes.
Fever, jaundice, nausea, and vomiting can also occur. You may lose your appetite.
Although pancreatic cancer isn't common, it's another potential cause for floating stool.
One of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer is jaundice, or yellowing eyes and skin. But that's not all. Jaundice can also be characterized by certain stool changes. It can cause pale or gray stools, as well as greasy, floating stools.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Stools that sometimes float shouldn't alarm you. That said, some types of stool changes may be symptoms of a condition that requires treatment. Steatorrhea, or fatty stool, is often caused by an underlying condition.
Consult your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your bowel habits that last more than two weeks. Tell your healthcare provider if you're having additional symptoms, like:
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
Treatments, if any, will depend on the cause. It may involve slight diet changes or treating an underlying medical condition.
Lifestyle Treatment Options
Floating stool due to excess gas isoften harmless and goes away without treatment. By now, you know that diet can play a role in the developmentof floating stools. So, it's possible that adjusting your diet may help with this issue.
For example, some dietitians and healthcare providersrecommend that you take out one or two foods from your diet at a time. That way, you can test if those foods contribute to floating stools.
Your healthcare provider may also suggest that you keep a record of the foods you eat and your bowel movements. A record can help your healthcare provider see if there's a pattern or connection between the food you eat and your stools.
Treating the Underlying Condition
Malabsorption and/or steatorrhea can cause your stool to float. The treatments will depends on the primary condition behind it. For example, those with celiac disease will follow a gluten-free diet. Those with cystic fibrosis may take a digestive enzyme supplement.
If a certain food makes gas worse, you might not have to avoid it. You can find enzyme supplements over the counter. These supplements can help you digest certain foods, such as beans and milk. Eating smaller portions can also help.
Many foods that can cause gas also have positive traits. Beans, for instance, have about 10 grams of fiber per cup and are rich in antioxidants.
Rather than avoiding these foods, try:
- Eating smaller servings
- Spacing out your intake over the day
- Taking over-the-counter enzyme supplements (that help your body digest foods like beans)
- Avoiding large meals (which put extra pressure on the digestive system)
Most of the time, excessive gas is the reason why your stool is floating. Certain foods you eat can give you gas. The main culprits are lactose in milk products, soluble fiber, or sugarsin food. That could be raffinose in beans, fructose in fruit, or sorbitol in prunes.
But certain conditions can also cause excessive gas or malabsorption, which results in your poop floating. Consult your healthcare provider if you're experiencing other symptoms or if your problem doesn't go away.
The Causes of Foamy Poop