What Does Floating Poop Mean?

Floating poop can happen to anyone, and it typically means you may be eating foods that produce too much gas.

man sitting on toilet

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If you steal a glance at your stool in the toilet before you flush, you probably have gotten to know what's usual for you when it comes to the stool's color and consistency. You likely notice that your poop typically sinks to the bottom of the toilet. So when you see that your poop is floating in the toilet, you might wonder why.

Usually, floating poop is just the result of eating foods that produce too much gas. In some cases, however, floating stool may point to other more serious health issues. Here's what to keep in mind if you notice your poop is floating.

Reasons Your Poop Floats?

There are several reasons why stool may float. Some of these causes may be working together or separately to cause your poop to float. 

Eating a High-Fiber Diet

Whether your poop floats may also depend on what you eat. The small intestine can’t digest some carbohydrates, such as fiber, on its own.

Fiber will pass through the small intestine into the large intestine—the colon—where bacteria will then break down the carbohydrates. As the foods break down, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gasses are released into the colon.

These gasses can end up getting trapped inside your stool, making the stool buoyant enough to float.

High-fiber foods include:

  • Beans
  • Bran
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Cauliflower

Eating Dairy When You Have a Lactose Intolerance

Those with lactose intolerance cannot digest foods with lactose, which is the sugar found in milk and milk products, such as ice cream, yogurt, and cheese. In the U.S., lactose intolerance affects about 36% of people.

If you have lactose intolerance and choose to eat these foods, you will likely experience an increase in gassiness, as well as other gastrointestinal issues like bloating and diarrhea. 

Again, this extra gas that is being produced in the colon can make its way into your poop, causing the poop to float.

Having a High Fat Content in the Stool

Floating poop may also be a sign that your stool contains too much fat. This is an occurrence known as steatorrhea. Stools that float due to fat also tend to also be large, pale and have an unpleasant odor. 

Steatorrhea may be a result of eating fatty foods, but it may be a sign of a condition that affects how your body breaks down fat. Steatorrhea may be a result of eating too many greasy, fatty foods, which would lead to a higher content of fat in your stools. Since fat floats, your poop would as well.


Fatty stools may also be related to a condition known as malabsorption, which interferes with your digestion and your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as fat. Because malabsorption may affect how much fat your body absorbs, the fat you eat—even if it was only a small amount—could end up in your poop.

Conditions Affecting the Pancreas

Conditions that damage the pancreas may affect the body’s ability to break down fat, leading to fatty stools that float.

For example, chronic pancreatitis, a condition in which the pancreas is inflamed or swells for a long period of time, could damage the pancreas. Another condition is cystic fibrosis, where mucus can block passages of the pancreas and prevent it from working properly.

Chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis can both lead to a condition known as pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, which is when the pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are molecules that help break down fat.

If the pancreas can’t make the digestive enzymes needed to break down fats, then these fats can end up in your stool, which can then cause stool to float in the bowl.

Conditions Affecting Bile Acid

Another way in which fats are broken down is with bile acid. The liver produces bile, and then bile is stored in the gallbladder, just beneath the liver. The gall bladder then releases the bile into the small intestine. There, bile breaks down the fat, for your system to absorb.

Without enough bile from the liver, your system won't be able to digest all of the fat you consume. Again, this extra fat will end up in your stools, causing them to float.

Conditions that may reduce the amount of bile in the system include:

  • Crohn's disease—which involves chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract
  • Gallstones and other bile duct issues
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis—a chronic disease that can scar and block the liver

Conditions that block the bile duct may also cause a buildup of bilirubin, a dark yellow-brown substance in bile. The main symptom of high bilirubin levels is jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. 

These conditions may allow fat to build up in your system and ultimately cause your poop to float. However, these conditions will likely come with a variety of other symptoms aside from floating stool. 

Conditions of the Small Intestine 

The small intestine is where the breakdown of fats takes place. Some conditions can damage the small intestine, hindering its ability to adequately absorb fats and other nutrients. 

For example, Celiac disease is a disorder that disrupts the body’s ability to digest gluten and can cause damage to the intestine when gluten is ingested. Likewise, infections in the small intestine can keep fat from being sufficiently absorbed. 

Some examples are giardiasis, an infection caused by a parasite in the intestines, and Whipple disease, an infection caused by bacteria that interfere with your ability to digest fats and carbohydrates.

This extra fat content can end up in your stool, causing it to float. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Most likely, seeing your poop float is nothing to worry about, especially if you've been eating more high-fiber or fatty foods. You’ll likely start having sinking poop again without any treatment.

In some cases, floating poop can be a sign of a health condition that needs treatment, but floating poop alone is not a sign of an illness or health problem. It is just one side effect of such conditions. 

If your floating poop persists and is paired with one or more of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider:

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Nausea 
  • Anemia (may include feeling tired, cold, dizzy, or irritable)
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

When you talk to a healthcare provider, they may ask you to describe the appearance of your floating stool in color and consistency. They may also ask about any abnormal odors and how long you have been experiencing both floating poop and your other symptoms. 

A Quick Review

Floating poop might happen occasionally, and is likely a temporary reaction to having too much air or gas in your system. In some cases, floating stool could signal a more serious condition. 

Make a note of your recent diet and any other symptoms you may be experiencing. Talk to a healthcare provider if your floating poop persists alongside any other concerning symptoms. 

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