Why Do You Have Floating Stool and How to Deal With It?

Stool usually has a solid structure and does not stick to the toilet. However, dietary changes can result in an alteration of your stool's structure and give it a floating appearance. Floating poop is usually sticky, pale, soft, or foul-smelling and is hard to flush down the toilet as well. Such stool is usually a sign of steatorrhea, meaning a high content of fat in your poop. Most of the time, such stool does not cause you too much trouble and may return to normal without requiring any treatment. However, it can be a symptom of some other diseases.

Causes of Floating Poop

1. Dietary Changes

Your food intake is usually responsible for your floating stool. Dietary changes can result in an increase in gas. Foods that can increase the content of gas in your stool include those that are rich in lactose, starch, fiber or sugars, such as apples, milk, beans, soft drinks, cabbage, sprouts and sugar-free candies.

2. Some Conditions and Diseases

  • Malabsorption

Your floating stool will take up a greasy look and develop a very foul smell if you are suffering from severe malabsorption. It happens when your body is unable to process and absorb the nutrients or when you are suffering from diarrhea. In such cases, your stool passes through the intestines rather quickly. Gastrointestinal (GI) tract infection is one of the most common causes of malabsorption. This infection is a result of bacterial or viral infection. Such infections usually do not last long and can go away without any treatment if not severe.

  • Lactose Intolerant

If you are lactose intolerant, you may have floating stool when you consume any sort of dairy products. Lactose is a sugar that is present in dairy products and people who are unable to digest it suffer from lactose intolerance. If you are lactose intolerant, consuming dairy products can lead to diarrhea and gas in your stool, and even cause malabsorption.

  • Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is characterized by inflammation of the small intestine's lining when a person consumes gluten. Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease which means that your own immune system becomes your enemy and mistakenly starts attacking the healthy tissues. Floating poop is one symptoms of celiac disease, along with bloating, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, iron deficiency anemia, etc. It is an inherited and incurable disease, and the symptoms can only be controlled by avoiding gluten consumption.

  • Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is characterized by production of excess mucus which is of a thick color and is very sticky in the digestive tract and the lungs. It is an inherited disease in which the excess mucus stops the pancreas from absorbing the nutrients completely, causing them to float. The only treatment is to take medications that can minimize the occurrence of the floating stool and might reduce the other symptoms.

  • Short Bowel Syndrome

Short bowel syndrome is a disease in which the intestines become unable to absorb the nutrients in a proper manner. An intestinal disease or absence of a part of the small intestine due to surgical removal or a genetic defect can cause this problem.

  • Other Diseases

Floating stool can also be caused by some very rare diseases that include:

  • Bassen-Kornzweig syndrome (the intestines stop absorbing fat)
  • Biliary atresia (bile ducts that have not formed completely, making the intestines impossible to absorb fat)
  • Disaccharidase deficiency (absence of enzymes like isomaltase and sucrase that break down starches and sugars)
  • Chronic pancreatitis (due to gallstones, alcoholism or a problem with the immune system)

Diagnosis and Treatments of Floating Poop

Your doctor is most likely going to ask you how long you have been having floating stool, any other symptoms, your medical history and diet. In some cases, your doctor might also ask for stool or blood tests to identify the reason why you are having such poop.

The cause of floating stool is going to determine the treatment that the doctor will recommend to you. If a bacterial infection is the reason, antibiotics will be prescribed to you. If you have diarrhea, your doctor will prescribe antidiarrheal medications. Dietary changes may be also recommended by your doctor.

If the floating stool is not accompanied with any other symptoms, your diet is most likely to be the reason. Keeping an eye on your food intake and the number of bowel movements you have can give you an insight regarding the foods that may cause floating stool. Trying to find out what the food is and avoiding this food can help you get rid of floating stool and prevent this problem in the future.

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor immediately if:

  • The problem of floating poop has not ceased even after a few days.
  • The floating stool is bloody and accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, fever or dizziness. Such symptoms may indicate severe malabsorption or other diseases.

For more information, watch the video below to learn about what your poop says about you:

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