What It Means if Your Poop Floats

C'mon, we know you want to know.

We get it: Talking about bathroom issues is embarrassing. But anyone who’s ever seen a copy of What’s Your Poo Telling You? knows that the type of thing that goes down in the toilet says a lot about what’s going on in your gut. Some issues are NBD and are probably just the result of what you had for breakfast. But other issues can be the sign of something more serious.

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So what the heck does it mean when your poop floats? “Most of the time it’s normal,” says Niket Sonpal, M.D., assistant clinical professor of gastroenterology at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. “But it could be a signal that something is starting to brew. Normally, stool is a solid thing—and it shouldn’t really float or stick to the toilet.”

Sonpal says your diet is the number one reason you might notice poop that stays afloat in the bowl. Insoluble fibers, like bran, or foods that can cause gas, like artificial sweeteners or starch, are tough for the body to digest and can affect the quality of your poop, he says. These types of foods can cause your poop to contain excess gas, and it’s that extra air that will make it lighter, causing it to float.

Lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity are also fairly normal causes of poop that floats. If you’re prone to either of these things, there’s likely no reason to worry, though. That’s because the majority of time in these cases, floating stool is caused by an inocuous diet choice (like eating bran) that won’t negatively affect your health. If you know you have either lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, once you go back to eating foods that you know won’t bother you, your poop should return to normal pretty quickly.

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But there could be a more serious cause behind the floating phenomenon, says Henry Binder, M.D., professor emeritus at Yale School of Medicine. It could actually be caused by an increase of fat in your poop, which is an indication that your body isn’t processing nutrients properly.

If this is the case, the floating issue is the result of what doctors call malabsorption, or your body’s inability to process a certain nutrient. 

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To figure out what’s making your poop stick to the top of the toilet bowl, Sonpal suggests trying a basic elimination diet to get your gut in check. Slowly remove one or two foods from your diet that could be causing the gas in your poop until the issue stops. “Most of the time, a simple change in diet can go a long way,” he says.

If that doesn’t work, you may have a malabsorption issue—and you should have your doc check things out.

 Macaela MacKenize is a writer, runner, and (aspiring) yogi. Thanks to her inner nerd, she’s researched everything from the weirdest health and fitness trends, to the behavioral economics of our love lives, to what happens when we donate our bodies to science. When she’s not writing, you might find her singing in a rock ‘n’ roll cover band. 

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Source: Women’s Health Mag