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Why do some poops float: Stools – floating Information | Mount Sinai

Stools – floating Information | Mount Sinai

Floating stools

Stools that float are most often due to poor absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) or too much gas (flatulence).

Food passes from the stomach into the small intestine. In the small intestine all nutrient absorption occurs. Whatever has not been absorbed by the small intestine passes into the colon. In the colon most of the water is absorbed from the food residue. The residue is then eliminated from the body as feces.


Most causes of floating stools are harmless. In most cases, floating stools will go away without treatment.

Floating stools alone are not a sign of an illness or other health problem.


Many things can cause floating stools. Most of the time, floating stools are due to what you eat. A change in your diet may cause an increase in gas. Increased gas in the stool allows it to float.

Floating stools may also happen if you have a gastrointestinal infection.

Floating, greasy stools that are foul smelling may be due to severe malabsorption, particularly if you are losing weight. Malabsorption means your body is not properly absorbing nutrients.

Most floating stools are not caused by an increase in the fat content of the stool. However, in some conditions, such as long-term (chronic) pancreatitis, the fat content is increased.

Home Care

If a change in diet has caused floating stools or other health problems, try to find which food is to blame. Avoiding this food may be helpful.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Tell your health care provider if you have changes in your stools or bowel movements. Contact your provider right away if you have bloody stools with weight loss, dizziness, and fever.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

  • When did you first notice the floating stools?
  • Does it happen all the time or from time to time?
  • What is your usual diet?
  • Does a change in your diet change your stools?
  • Do you have other symptoms?
  • Are the stools foul smelling?
  • Are the stools an abnormal color (such as pale or clay-colored stools)?

A stool sample may be needed. Blood tests may be done. In most cases, however, these tests will not be needed.

Treatment depends on the specific diagnosis.

Höegenauer C, Hammer HF. Maldigestion and malabsorption. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 104.

Schiller LR, Sellin JH. Diarrhea. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 16.

Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 131.

Last reviewed on: 5/4/2022

Reviewed by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Why Do Stools Float Sometimes?

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

  • What Are Floating Stools?
  • Why Would Stools Float?
  • When To See a Doctor
  • Treatment
  • Prevention

Stools, or poop, usually sink to the bottom of the toilet, but sometimes, they can float. If your poop never sinks to the bottom of the toilet bowl, you may have too much gas in your intestines.

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.

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.

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

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:

  • Hard candy
  • Fizzy or carbonated drinks
  • Gum

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.

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Feces buoyancy linked to intestinal microbiota

American researchers figured out why some feces sink in water while others float on the surface. According to experiments on mice, the composition of the intestinal microbiota is solely responsible for this. The report on the work was published in the journal Scientific Reports .

Feces 10-15 percent of people float on the surface of the water, and this is not associated with any pathological condition. Among people with functional bowel disorders, this proportion rises to about one in four. Historically, it was believed that the buoyancy of feces is due to the high content of fat in it, but in 19In 1972, Michael Levitt, a gastroenterologist from the University of Minnesota, and his student William Duane, in experiments with the stool of 39 people (including six patients with steatorrhea), showed that even fatty feces sink when gas is removed. The researchers did not specify the origin of the gas component, and this question, which has the potential for clinical application, has remained open until now.

To understand it, staff at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, under the direction of Nagarajan Kannan, used conventional C57BL/6 (B6) and gnotobiotic (born and reared in aseptic conditions that do not have a microbiome) mice. Some of the latter have been colonized with microbiota in their intestines by a single intragastric injection of the drug, either in the faeces of normal mice or one of two healthy women, or by allowing contact with environmental bacteria. Fecal sterility of germ-free mice and successful colonization of the intestines of the rest were confirmed by polymerase chain reaction, scanning electron microscopy, and measurement of bacterial DNA concentration (a measure of microbiota density).

Flow cytometry showed that the number of undigested particles of food biomass is inversely related to the density of the intestinal microbiota. In thermogravimetry, the feces of germ-free mice differed from the rest of the samples in at least three temperature ranges; pycnometry revealed its significant superiority in relative density. The shape, size and color of the stool in all groups of animals did not differ.

To assess the buoyancy of faeces, the researchers used a simple LIFT test they had previously developed – levô in fimo (literally translated from Latin as “raising in dung”) test. It consists in placing stool fragments in water and a Trump fixer solution (10 percent formaldehyde and one percent glutaraldehyde) in phosphate buffer (TFS), followed by recording their position (at the bottom or surface) after a minute, hour and day. It turned out that all samples from germ-free mice sink in water and TFS in less than a minute, while about half of the bacteria-colonized samples remain on the surface of the water and all of them continue to swim in TFS after a day.

Also, the authors of the work performed simultaneously LIFT and microbiota density determination in gnotobiotic mice before intragastric colonization (all faeces were drowned, bacterial DNA was practically not determined) and after it weekly for 12 weeks. By the third week, with all methods of microbiota formation (transplantation from mice and humans, from a non-sterile environment), the DNA concentration in the whole stool began to stabilize at a level of more than 10 thousand nanograms per milligram, from that time all biosamples floated.

Metagenomic analysis of the intestinal microbiota of conventional, artificially colonized gnotobiotic and their donor mice revealed 13 dominant species of gasogenic bacteria from 11 genera, and their composition in different animals was extremely heterogeneous. The most common was methane-producing Bacteroides ovatus , associated, as previously shown, with an increased risk of flatulence in humans.

Thus, the buoyancy of feces depends solely on the gases produced by the microbiota; Swallowed air and the chemical composition of the dense matter of the stool do not play a role in this, Kannan concluded.

In 2019, Tufts University researchers reported that fecal transplants from physically fit older adults significantly increased the grip strength of mice. At the same time, a Belgian-Dutch scientific group showed that the intestinal microbiota affects the quality of life and the risk of developing depression. In turn, the species composition of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract depends on at least 69 main factors, including such non-obvious ones as the opinion of one’s own body weight and plans to reduce it, preferences for chocolate varieties and taking antidepressants – the Dutch, Belgian, Russian and British scientists.

You can read about the various uses of excrement in wildlife in the blog “It’s the norm: about the instrumental use of feces.” Issues related to fecal transplantation are analyzed in detail by Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor Mikhail Gelfand.

On mice

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Why poop sinks (and why they float to the surface) – Drink-Drink



  • Floating and sinking poop
    • What to do if your poop floats to the surface. poop color
      • Unhealthy shapes
    • Healthy smell of poop
      • Unhealthy smells
    • Doctor visit
    • Healthy poop frequency
      • Relieve constipation
    • Conclusion

    When was the last time you looked at what you left in toilet?

    While there are certainly more attractive (and better smelling) things, checking out what comes out on the other end can actually tell you a lot about your diet, activity level and overall health.

    It is especially important to know if your stool is sinking or floating. But since you probably (hopefully?) don’t look at other people’s poop regularly, it can be difficult to know if yours is “normal”.

    Let’s go over the basics of what normal, healthy poop looks like, what to do if it doesn’t look normal, and when to see a doctor.

    Floating and sinking poop

    Feed typically consists of: 0044

Hearing a loud bang! when you sit on the toilet, it is actually a sign that your poop is dense and therefore healthy.

If you’re on a high-fiber diet and your digestive system is working at full capacity, your stool should be heavy enough to sink to the bottom of the toilet.

What to do if your poop floats to the surface.

Although healthy stools sink, sometimes your stools float up like a lifeline.

One of the causes of floating stools is the formation of gas in the intestines, which is mainly due to the action of bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria produce gas as a result of their activity in the processing of food in the intestines. Usually the population of these gut bacteria is under control. However, under certain conditions, their number may increase. In addition, some conditions can cause incomplete digestion and absorption of food in the intestines. Both can lead to excess gas production.

Gas can also enter the intestines from the air that is swallowed during breathing, eating and drinking. Carbonated drinks are a source of gas in the intestines. In addition, gas is able to penetrate the walls of the intestine and be formed as a result of the chemical breakdown of food.

If you leave random floats behind, this is probably nothing to worry about. Eating new foods or foods that cause more gas can make your stool less dense, resulting in floating stools. It usually goes away on its own after about a day.

Floating stools can sometimes be a symptom of a gastrointestinal or gastrointestinal infection. They also tend to be temporary and will disappear on their own.

But if your stool floats a lot and seems greasy, it could mean you have malabsorption.

Another symptom of malabsorption is weight loss. See your doctor if this is a regular symptom for you, especially if it is accompanied by floating poop.

Floating stools can also be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS has other symptoms as well, such as:

  • cramps
  • bloating after eating
  • constipation
  • frequent diarrhea

If, in addition to these other symptoms, you often have floating poop, talk to your doctor.

Healthy poop color

Healthy brown stool. This is because bile from your digestive organs colors your stool.

Your poop may vary in color depending on what you have eaten recently. If your stool looks very dark or even black, it’s probably because you’ve been eating a lot of blueberries or foods that use dark food colorings like black licorice.

Unhealthy shades

If the color of your stool is not in the range between yellow and dark brown, this may indicate a serious health problem.

Light color

Light brown, gray, or clay-colored feces may indicate that your bile ducts are not working at full capacity. This may be a sign of:

  • hepatitis
  • blockage of the bile ducts
  • gallstones
  • tumor in the liver or pancreas

If your stool becomes lighter than usual and does not return to its dark brown color, look for other symptoms you may have. Contact your doctor if you are not feeling well.


Red stools or bloody stools may be a sign that you have a rectal blockage. It can also indicate hemorrhoids or gastrointestinal bleeding.

In some cases, red stools can be a warning sign of colorectal polyps or bowel cancer.

If you see blood in your stools or frequently have red stools, call your doctor and let him know, regardless of other symptoms. They will be able to tell you if you need to have your stool checked to determine what is causing your red stools.

Healthy poop shape and consistency

Poop can take on many shapes and stay healthy.

Your faeces usually come out in shaped logs of clay consistency. Narrow, snake-shaped stool is also considered normal. Your poop can be big, small, short, or long: all of these shapes are on the spectrum of normal values.

Unhealthy shapes

There are some features in the consistency and shape of your stool that may indicate an underlying medical condition. Most things about the shape and size of your stool have to do with your diet.

Stool that looks lumpy or is shaped like a small softball or caterpillar may mean that you are constipated. Increase your water intake if you notice that your stools are pebbly or dry, even if you don’t strain to walk.

A stool that looks bumpy or fuzzy may mean it’s time to fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Low fiber in your diet can cause your poop to become very soft. If your feces lack (for lack of a better word) definition, increase the amount of fiber you get at every meal.

Healthy smell of poop

Even healthy poop doesn’t smell the best. After all, there is a reason why the word “excrement” is synonymous with the word “rude.”

Bad-smelling poop is the result of the decomposition of bacteria and food. Poop has a very distinct smell that you are probably familiar with, and each feces smells differently. Feces with an earthy or musty odor are typical and normal.

Unhealthy odors

Stool that smells like fat, unpleasant or especially putrid may be a sign in your body that something else is going on.

Taking antibiotics alters the microbiota in the gut. This can lead to foul-smelling stools. Often this is temporary and goes away on its own, but a course of probiotic supplements can’t hurt to help.

If you are menstruating, your stool may have a distinct and strong odor during your period (which is completely normal).

You may also develop bad stool odor in addition to diarrhea if you take more than the recommended dose of a multivitamin or supplement. This too will go away on its own in a day or two.

Seeing a Doctor

If your poop is especially smelly and accompanied by other symptoms, you may need to see a doctor.

Bacterial infections such as food and dairy allergies and gastrointestinal parasites can cause abnormally foul-smelling stools. Malabsorption can also cause a strong odor.

If your poop smells worse than usual, look out for other symptoms you may have. Call your doctor if you have particularly smelly stools and:

  • frequent cramps
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • bloody stools

Healthy poop frequency

Someone poops a couple of times a day. Others only poop every other day. Regularity is important, but there is a wide range of what is “normal” when it comes to poop frequency.

You may poop more or less depending on how much fiber you have in your diet, how much meat you eat, what kind of physical activity you tend to do, and other factors.


If you feel constipated, try increasing your water intake first. Dehydration means you may not have enough water passing through your intestines to form hard, healthy stools.

If that doesn’t work, increase your fiber intake. Keep in mind that eating a lot of fiber can actually slow down digestion, at least initially.

Home remedies for constipation are another option if you don’t poop regularly. Consider taking a magnesium supplement or a natural laxative to get things moving. Certain exercises, such as jogging or yoga, can also help.

Tell your doctor if you regularly get constipated or if your stools are hard and dry.


Healthy poop tends to settle to the bottom of the toilet bowl, look dark brown and smell a bit musty, but not particularly unpleasant.