Why Does My Poop Float

Azer, S.; Sankararaman, S. Steatorrhea. StatPearls Publishing, 2021.

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.

What to Know About Floating Stools

Normally, floating stools aren’t a cause for concern. Read on to learn more about why stools float, what floating stools say about your health, and more.

What Are Floating Stools?

When stools float, it means the poop stays on the surface of the toilet water instead of sinking. Normally, poop sinks to the bottom of the toilet bowl.

Floating poop doesn’t mean you’re sick, but it can be a symptom of various conditions.

Why Would Stools Float?

There are several reasons why poop floats and never seems to sink.

Too much gas. You may have too much gas in you due to your diet, which can make your stools float.

Some people think that floating poop is caused by fat, but it’s usually caused by gas. Research has indicated that once floating stools were degassed, they weighed the same as sinking poop. This indicates that gas was responsible for making floating stools float, rather than fat inside the poop.

Gas in your digestive system is usually caused when you swallow air or eat certain types of foods that break down into gas.

If you eat a high-fiber diet with a lot of vegetables and fruits, you may get floating stools because digesting high-fiber foods releases more air during digestion. This leads to air or gas being trapped in the stool, making it float in the toilet bowl.

Medical conditions. If your poop floats, there’s a slight chance you have steatorrhea, which means you have too much fat in your poop. Steatorrhea indicates you can’t absorb fat properly, and it can be a symptom of the following conditions:

  • Celiac disease
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) due to cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis
  • Diseases affecting small intestines such as tropical sprue, Whipple disease, and lymphoma
  • Bile acid deficiency

You may also have the following conditions if you have floating poop:

  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Malabsorption, which means you’re not absorbing nutrients as well as you should
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When To See a Doctor

Floating stools don’t necessarily mean you have an underlying health condition. To determine if a health condition is causing this, you should be on the lookout for other indicators.

If your floating stools are smelly, sticky, or bloody, for example, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will give you a proper diagnosis and walk you through the process of understanding your condition if you have one. Here’s a closer look at what might cause these symptoms.

Smelly and sticky stools. Smelly and sticky stools are typically a symptom of nutrient malabsorption. This means your body isn’t able to completely absorb and digest nutrients from your gastrointestinal tract due to damage to the small intestine, not having enough pancreatic enzymes, liver disease, HIV/AIDs, or other conditions.

If your floating stools are smelly and appear sticky, you should contact your doctor.

Blood in your stool. If your floating poop is accompanied by blood, it could be caused by:

  • Bleeding in your anus or rectum
  • Cancer of your digestive system
  • Blood vessel abnormalities
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
  • Ulcers in the stomach or small intestine
  • Polyps
  • Diverticulitis

If you find blood in your stools, you should see a doctor. If you’re experiencing weight loss, dizziness, or fever in addition to finding blood in your stools, you should talk to your doctor immediately. You should also get emergency medical help if there is a lot of blood in your poop, or if it is maroon or black and tarry.

Your doctor will be able to determine what is the exact cause of bloody poop through imaging tests and physical exams.

Treatment

When you visit your doctor, they will likely ask you several questions about your medical history and your current health to determine why you have floating stools. They will also ask you about your diet and how long you’ve been having this issue so they can make any needed diet and medication recommendations.

Prevention

Unless there is a medical condition causing you to have floating poops, there is no need to do anything to treat or prevent them.

Monitor your pooping habits. Always be aware of any changes to your stool and bowel movements. If you’re suddenly pooping more or less, or your poop looks very different, you should report these changes to your doctor. Your doctor will find it easier to diagnose any health conditions you may have if you keep an organized record about your pooping habits.

Changing your diet. Sometimes, preventing floating poop can be as easy as changing your diet, since floating poop can be caused by eating foods that cause you to have more gas.

You should avoid the following foods if you have a problem with too much gas:

Keep a food diary so you can keep track of what you eat and narrow down what foods are giving you gas. You should bring this diary to your doctor so you can talk to them about how you can change your diet.

Show Sources

Azer, S.; Sankararaman, S. Steatorrhea. StatPearls Publishing, 2021.

Cleveland Clinic: “Rectal Bleeding.”

Columbia University in the City of New York: Go Ask Alice: “Floating stools — What do they say about my health?”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Gas in the Digestive Tract.”

‌‌Penn Medicine: “The Scoop on Poop: What Does Your Poop Say About Your Health?”

MITMedical: “It Happens.”

‌‌The New England Journal of Medicine: “Floating Stools — Flatus versus Fat.”

What It Means When Your Poop Floats

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.

Updated on November 08, 2021

Robert Burakoff, MD, MPH, is board-certified in gastroentrology. He is the vice chair for ambulatory services for the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

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.

causes of floating poop

Excessive Gas in the Stool

Your intestines, or bowels, are part of your digestive system. They help your body break down and digest food.

Most of the time, floating stool is the result of something you ate. If you eat a large meal or something that produces gas, the gas mixes with stool in the intestines.

The extra air from the gas makes poop less dense, or packed. This leads it to float when it hits the toilet bowl.

Foods That Produce Gas

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
  • Beans
  • Fruit juices
  • Apples, pears, peaches, and prunes
  • Honey
  • Sodas and soft drinks
  • Sugar-free candies and gum

Many of these foods contain sugars that can make 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.

Lactose Intolerance

People with lactose intolerance may 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.

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.

Recap

Excess gas in your stool can make it to float. Eating foods that contain sugars like sorbitol or fructose can produce excess gas. People with lactose intolerance and IBS might have a similar experience.

Other Causes

Here’s a look at several conditions that can lead to floating stools.

Conditions that Cause Malabsorption

Some medical conditions can cause malabsorption, or the inability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat. Unsurprisingly, malabsorption can lead to floating poop.

Conditions that disturb the lining of your digestive tract can have this effect, such as:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Bacterial overgrowth
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Short bowel syndrome

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is when there’s inflammation in your pancreas. The condition is usually a result of gallstones or long-term alcohol abuse. It often occurs after acute, or sudden, pancreatitis. It’s also linked to diabetes.

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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.

Sclerosing Cholangitis

Sclerosing cholangitis affects the bile ducts in and around your liver. It’s closely linked with ulcerative colitis. The condition is marked by inflammation, scarring, and destruction of these bile ducts.

Along with floating stools, symptoms include:

Choledocholithiasis

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.

Pancreatic Cancer

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:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever

Recap

Talk to your healthcare provider if the changes in your bowel habits last longer than two weeks and if you’re having other symptoms, like stomach pain, weight loss, or a fever.

Treatment

Lifestyle Treatment Options

Floating stool due to excess gas is often harmless and goes away without treatment. By now, you know that diet can play a role in the development of floating stools. So, it’s possible that adjusting your diet may help with this issue.

For example, some dietitians and healthcare providers recommend 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

If you’re not able to absorb fat properly, you may have a condition called steatorrhea that can cause your stool to float. The treatment for steatorrhea depends on the primary condition behind it.

For instance, steatorrhea can be caused by a condition called cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis treatment often involves digestive enzyme supplements similar to those your pancreas normally releases.

Prevention

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)

Summary

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 sugars in 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.

A Word From Verywell

Having floating poop from time to time is quite common and often food-related. Many times, excessive gas is the issue.

If the problem appears to be regular (or you notice other symptoms), talk to your healthcare provider. You may think it’s embarrassing, but your healthcare provider hears about issues like this all the time. They can help identify any underlying conditions that might be causing stool changes.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Bouchoucha M, Devroede G, Benamouzig R. Are floating stools associated with specific functional bowel disorders?Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015;27(8):968-973. doi:10.1097/MEG.0000000000000380
  2. Pham A, Forsmark C. Chronic pancreatitis: review and update of etiology, risk factors, and management. F1000Res. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-607. doi:10.12688/f1000research.12852.1
  3. Sirpal S, Chandok N. Primary sclerosing cholangitis: diagnostic and management challenges. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2017;10:265-273. doi:10.2147/CEG.S105872
  4. Almadi MA, Barkun JS, Barkun AN. Management of suspected stones in the common bile duct. CMAJ. 2012;184(8):884-892. doi:10.1503/cmaj.110896
  5. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
  6. Gan C, Chen YH, Liu L, et al. Efficacy and safety of pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy on exocrine pancreatic insufficiency: a meta-analysis.Oncotarget. 2017;8(55):94920-94931. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.21659
  7. Dhingra D, Michael M, Rajput H, Patil RT. Dietary fibre in foods: a review.J Food Sci Technol. 2012;49(3):255-66. doi:10.1007/s13197-011-0365-5

Additional Reading

  • Bailey J, Carter NJ, Neher JO. FPIN’s Clinical Inquiries: Effective management of flatulence. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(12):1098-1100.
  • Ohge H, Levitt MD. Intestinal gas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 16.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.

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Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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