Let’s get this out of the way now—everybody poops. It’s a natural part of life and it may be a little gross to think about, but everyone you know poops. That being said, occasionally things happen with your poop that may be a little odd or cause a little bit of concern. For example, if one day you discover after a bowel movement that you have floating poop. It’s not the natural state of poop and it might throw you off.
But don’t worry, we can explain why you may have a floating stool, the health concerns that may come with it, and the treatment of floating poop.
Floating Poop Causes
So, you’ve had your regular morning movement, and you happen to notice that your poop is floating. Like a Babe Ruth in a swimming pool, it’s just there, skimming the surface. The question becomes, why does poop float? Most of the time it sinks to the bottom, so why did it float this time? What are the causes of floating poop?
The first thing you need to know is occasional floating poop is normal and probably brought on by something you ate. The reason your average poop might start floating is due to excess gas. If you’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with your stomach or that maybe you have an intolerance for, like dairy or gluten, it can create more gas within your digestive system.
That gas can be transferred into your stool, and like the world’s grossest submarine, the excess gas trapped within the stool will cause the poop to rise to the surface. While this is the average cause of floating poop, it may not be the only one, and unfortunately, some of the rarer reasons for floating stool are not as funny.
Essentially, your intestine has a harder time absorbing fats for some reason, and that fat ends up in your stool causing it to float. This is called steatorrhea. Steatorrhea is often caused by a gastrointestinal infection.
2. Chronic pancreatitis
Floating stool can sometimes be a symptom of chronic pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas, and along with floating stool, it can also come with back pain, abdominal pain, bloating, and weight loss.
Symptoms of choledocholithiasis often include floating stool, jaundice, fever, and pain in the right upper or middle upper abdomen. Choledocholithiasis occurs when one or more gallstones are in the common bile duct. The symptoms will occur when the stone or stones begin to block the bile duct.
4. Sclerosing cholangitis
Occasionally pairing up with ulcerative colitis, sclerosing cholangitis is the inflammation, scarring, and possible destruction of the bile ducts of the liver both inside and out. Floating stool along with jaundice, fever, and dark urine are just some of the signs of this.
5. Celiac disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that involves the inflammation of the small intestine due to the consumption of gluten. Floating stool is part of a long list of symptoms for celiac disease, along with iron deficiency, anemia, and fatigue.
6. Cystic fibrosis
Sufferers of cystic fibrosis often have a floating stool. Their bodies make excess, thick mucus that essentially clogs up the lungs and can stop the body from absorbing the nutrients from food. And it’s that that will help make the stool float.
7. Pancreatic cancer
Floating stool can also be a symptom of pancreatic cancer.
Now, it should be noted, that while floating stool may be a symptom of some of these horrible things, it’s not incredibly common.
Diagnosis and Treatment
So you’ve read the rest of this article and now you are a little worried because you had one of your poops float. The good news is, you’re more than likely have nothing to worry about. As we previously stated, floating poop is just a symptom of a slight irregularity in your diet that may have caused too much gas. If it happens every once and a while, you have nothing to worry about. If it’s causing you a little worry, try changing your diet. Add fiber-rich foods, for example, and maybe avoid dairy or gluten.
Now, if you are consistently having floating stool, that may be the sign of a much bigger problem. There may be some ways to combat it.
- Step one is to get a diagnosis of the floating poop, or at least the cause. Go see your doctor and tell them your concerns. The doctor will set about tests and eliminate the possible issues. Unfortunately, after that, you may be looking at the bigger issues.
- Celiac disease is treatable, but at the moment, not curable. Follow doctors orders on diet (most of all, avoiding gluten) and you will probably see that the floating stool disappears, or at least becomes less frequent.
- Chronic pancreatitis can also be treated with a change to diet (ceasing the consumption of alcohol for example), as well as pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. Once that is dealt with, your stool should no longer be floating.
- Choledocholithiasis is also very treatable. The only bad part is most of the treatments require surgery to remove the stones blocking the bile duct. Once the bile duct is clear, your poop should start to go back to normal.
- Unfortunately, the two terrible, possible causes of floating stool left—pancreatic cancer and cystic fibrosis—is harder to deal with. Pancreatic cancer can be treated through a variety of medical means. If those means work, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer should fade away. Cystic fibrosis, unfortunately, has no cure. There are medical treatments available to help with the symptoms, however.
If It Floats, Don’t Panic!
After reading all of the horrible things that may cause floating poop, you may be really worried the next time you get a floater in the bowl. But relax. As we’ve stated, numerous times at this point, sometimes it’s just case due to something you ate, and rarely is one floating poo a sign of pancreatic cancer. However, if you are worried or your bowel movements seem a little weird, you can always talk to your doctor.
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Krucik, G., “What causes floating stools? 7 possible conditions,” Healthline; http://www.healthline.com/symptom/floating-stools
“Floating Poop,” MD-Health; http://www.md-health.com/Floating-Poop.html
Mackenzie, M., “What It Means if Your Poop Floats,” Women’s Health, August 31, 2015; http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/what-does-it-mean-if-your-poop-floats
Graedon, J., “Is Floating Poop A Problem?” The People’s Pharmacy, November 3, 2008; https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2008/11/03/is-floating-poo/