Why Does Poop Float

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

Is Your Poop Supposed to Float or Sink?

I’ve decided to switch to a completely vegan diet. It’s been fine so far because I’ve been a vegetarian for years, so the switch wasn’t difficult. The only thing is I’ve been getting more gas and my poop is floating almost every time I go. Is that’s a problem? Is your poop supposed to float or sink?

Doctor’s Response

Normal, healthy stool is solid and doesn’t usually float or stick to the sides of the toilet bowl. But floating feces alone is not usually a sign of serious illness, and most of the time things will go back to normal with a change in diet.

Feces that float may simply be due to a diet high in insoluble fiber that can result in excess gas in the stool, which causes it to float. People who are vegetarian or vegan may have stools that float from high fiber foods. People who are lactose intolerant or gluten sensitive may notice their stool floats after eating high fiber foods. In these cases floating stool is nothing to worry about-it may even be normal and healthy for those individuals and their particular diet. The stool will return to “normal” once fiber is reduced in the diet.

Floating stool can also signal a condition called malabsorption, when the body is not processing nutrients properly. The floating stool may appear to be oily or have oil around it. See a doctor if this occurs.

Other causes of floating feces include a high fat content in the stool, which may be a result of chronic pancreatitis.

Stool color, form, and texture can change for a variety of reasons. The change may reflect substances that are added to stool, or changes to substances normally present in stool. Some stool color changes may suggest an underlying medical condition, and others may be due to ingestion of certain foods or medications.

Black Stools (Not Sticky, No Odor)

Causes of black stool include iron pills or bismuth-containing medications (such as, bismuth subsalicylate or Pepto-Bismol). If the stool color is dark because of any of these medications, it is typically not sticky in texture and is not foul-smelling.

Black Tarry, Sticky Stools

Bleeding in the stomach (from gastritis or an ulcer) or the intestines can change the color of stool. If bleeding occurs in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine, the stool may turn black and sticky, and be described medically as black, tarry stool (melena). Generally, black, tarry stool also is foul-smelling. This change in color and consistency occurs because of chemical reactions to blood within the intestine that are caused by digestive enzymes within the intestines.

Maroon or Red Stools

If the bleeding originates from lower parts of the intestines or the colon, blood may not come into prolonged contact with digestive enzymes because of the short distance from the site of bleeding to the rectum. Moreover, large amounts of blood within the intestines speed up transit of stool so that there is less time for the changes to take place. The stool in this type of bleeding may be dark red or maroon in color. Beets, other red vegetables, cranberries, and red food dyes also can turn the stool color red or maroon.

Gray or Clay-Colored Stool

Stool can be gray or clay-colored if it contains little or no bile. The pale color may signify a condition (biliary obstruction) where the flow of bile to the intestine is obstructed, such as obstruction of the bile duct from a tumor or gallstone in the duct or nearby pancreas. The change of stool color to gray or clay typically occurs gradually as these medical conditions progress relatively slowly and stool becomes pale over time.

Yellow Stool

Stool that is yellow may suggest presence of undigested fat in the stool.

This can occur as a result of diseases of the pancreas that reduce delivery of digestive enzymes to the intestines (pancreatic insufficiency), such as:

  • cystic fibrosis,
  • chronic pancreatitis (long standing inflammation and destruction of the pancreas usually due to alcohol abuse), or
  • obstruction of the pancreatic duct that carries the enzymes to the intestines (most commonly due to pancreatic cancer).

Celiac disease: Another condition that possibly may cause yellow and greasy stool is celiac disease (a malabsorption syndrome).

The digestive enzymes released from the pancreas and into the intestines are necessary to help digest fat and other components of food (proteins, carbohydrates) in the intestines so that they can be absorbed into the body. If the pancreas is not delivering enzymes into the intestines, then components of food, especially the fat, can remain undigested and unabsorbed. The stool containing the undigested fat may appear yellowish in color, greasy, and also may smell foul.

Ingestion of very high fat foods also can cause yellow, soft, and foul smelling stools.

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Weight loss medications such as orlistat (Xenical, alli) work by limiting the amount of fat absorbed by the intestines. This can lead to bulky, yellow, and greasy stools.

Green Stool

When stool passes through the intestines rapidly (diarrhea), there may be little time for bilirubin to undergo its usual chemical changes, and stool can appear green in appearance due to rapid transit.

Eating excessive amounts of green foods, foods with green or purple dyes, and vegetables also can cause stool color to turn more green than normal.

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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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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

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.


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.


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.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

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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