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Got Floating Poop? Here Are 5 Reasons Why It Happens

The shape, size, and color of your poop says a lot about your health. But what about it’s buoyancy?

You’re probably used to your poo sinking to the bottom of your toilet bowl. But now it’s floating like a foul-smelling log. What gives?

An occasional floating stool usually isn’t a serious problem. But if all of your bowel movements are floaters, it could be a symptom of a digestive health issue. 

5 Reasons Why Poop Floats

Let’s examine the common causes of floating poop and whether they warrant concern. 

1. A High-Fiber Diet

Eating enough dietary fiber is essential for your health and wellness. But one weird side effect of a high-fiber diet is floating poop. That’s because your body doesn’t fully digest fiber, therefore making your poop lighter and less dense.

Types of foods rich in fiber include:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Legumes

Takeaway: You’re in the clear—stick to your fiber-rich diet.

2. Excessive Gas

The gas in your gut makes poop less dense, which allows it to float. It’s kind of like inflating a balloon, except replace helium with flatulence and swap the balloon for feces.

Farting up a storm can happen when you eat high-fiber foods, overeat, make sudden changes to your diet, or swallow air while you eat. There are also certain foods that are notorious for producing excess gas, such as:

  • Fizzy or carbonated drinks
  • Gum
  • Hard candy
  • Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol

Takeaway: No need to worry, but keeping an eye on your diet might make your poop more dense.

3. Malabsorption

This is the medical term for when your gut doesn’t absorb enough nutrients from food. Some common causes of malabsorption include:

  • Lactose intolerance: This means your body has trouble digesting lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. If you experience diarrhea, gas, or bloating when you eat dairy, it may be a sign of lactose intolerance.
  • Steatorrhea: This means your poop has a high fat content. Steatorrhea may be a symptom of celiac disease or a bile acid deficiency
  • Liver diseases and biliary problems: Your liver makes bile, which is essential for digesting food. But if your liver doesn’t send enough of this fluid through your bile ducts into the small intestine, it can cause fatty stool that floats. Gallstones can also block bile ducts, leading to fatty stools.

Takeaway: If your poop floats frequently, malabsorption might be the culprit. Talking to a health care professional can help you confirm and treat the underlying issue.

4. Gastrointestinal Disorders

More than one out of every four people with functional bowel disorders experience floating stools, according to a 2015 study. That includes medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and dyspepsia (indigestion).

Moreover, another 3% of people in that study with gastrointestinal disorders had floating stools. These include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, gallstones, and other disorders that affect the digestive system.

Takeaway: If your floating poop coincides with other tummy troubles, one of the above conditions may be at play. But it will take a gastroenterologist to confirm.

5. Pancreas Problems

Quick anatomy lesson: your pancreas is a long, flat gland behind your stomach that regulates your blood sugar levels. Health problems that involve the pancreas are linked to malabsorption, which can cause poop to float.

One condition called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) (due to cystic fibrosis or chronic pancreatitis) has been linked to fatty, floating poop.

A more serious issue is pancreatic cancer. If a tumor blocks the pancreatic duct, a shortage of digestive enzymes can lead to undigested food passing through the gastrointestinal tract. “If this happens, stool may float due to the higher fat content, appear bulky, greasy, and unusually pale,” explains the Columbia University Department of Surgery

Takeaway: Consistent floating poop may indicate pancreas problems, but you can’t diagnose them based solely on what your poop looks like.

When to See a Doctor About Floating Poop

Floating poop is usually the result of something you ate; it’ll sink again once you recalibrate your diet. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:

  • Your stool floats more than a few days in a row: this might signal an underlying health condition.
  • Blood in your poop: some causes of bloody poop include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, and colon cancer.
  • Unintentional weight loss: chronic malabsorption prevents your body from getting the nutrients it needs to sustain a healthy weight.

Whether your poop floats, smells worse than usual, explodes out of your butt like lava, it can tell you a lot about the inner workings of your body. Pay attention, dude—your poop is smarter than you think.

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