toilet paper, diarrhea medicine,

Q. I was watching Oprah and heard a doctor on her show say that poop should NEVER float. Why?
I have not changed my diet at all, but all of a sudden about two months ago, every time I have a bowel movement, my poop floats.

Is there something wrong with my system? I feel fine and have no pain or anything unusual.

A. Health professionals have been debating the causes of “floaters” vs “sinkers” for decades. Some believe floating is caused by excess fat in the stool as a consequence of digestive disease. Others maintain that gas is the culprit.

One possible cause of floating poop is celiac disease. This is a somewhat mysterious condition that affects a lot more people than most doctors think. It frequently goes undiagnosed. One of the world’s leading experts estimates that over 90 percent of people with celiac are not diagnosed.

Because people with celiac cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, they have all sorts of problems absorbing nutrients from food. Because fat may not be well absorbed from the digestive tract, people with celiac disease may end up floating stools. They can be light grey or tan in color and have an unpleasant odor. People who always have “floaters” might want to ask a doctor for a blood test to check for celiac disease.

Other symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Digestive distress: bloating, abdominal pain & cramps, diarrhea
  • Fatty floating stools; tan or light gray in color; gas
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Arthritis or joint pain
  • Neuropathy (nerve pain: burning, tingling, numbness)
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skin rash (that can be intensely itchy at times)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Neuropathy (tingling or burning feeling in feet or legs)
  • Depression and/or brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Mouth sores
  • Lactose intolerance (reaction to milk sugar)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Infertility
  • Easy bruising

To learn more about the kinds of tests to seek, you may wish to listen to our one-hour interview with Peter Green, MD, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

Since you have only recently noticed floaters, this may not a problem you have to be concerned about. If you feel well and have no diarrhea or other symptoms, it probably makes little difference. If it persists, tell your doctor about your floating poop at your next visit so she can rule out anything serious such as celiac disease or pancreas problems.

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  1. Marc

    My poop has always Floated. Maybe a few times a year I have a sinker. I just found out that sinking poop is normal. I thought just the opposite. I am a little troubled that I am 44 years old and have never heard this before.

  2. nan

    I en joyed reading the comments and found useful. I have IBS with that lactose and glutin intolerance.but may have cealiac symptoms . Keep up with the information as it good not to be alone with these conditions. I have gained some help and ideas and will use these to ensure better health,

  3. Edna C.

    I found your articles are so interesting and informative. I would like to know more informations about health issues thats why I want to receive emails from you. Thank you.

  4. NM

    I agree with the commenters that say it is from eating a lot of fiber. I don’t eat grains and so consequently I don’t consume gluten. I eat tons of veggies so on and off I get floaters,

  5. Nb

    You should try a low carb gluten free diet. My stomach used to rumble and roll every time I ate, I was always gassy and felt bloated even when I only ate a small amount.
    Since cutting sugar, carbs, and all gluten from my diet, taking a probiotic, and getting off the pill, my stomach shrank, I lost a ton of weight, and absolutely no more rumblies. I feel so much better!!

  6. jason

    my wife has these symptons and had a test where they found blood in her poop and is diagnosed with colon cancer. your symptons are exactly what she had and she listened to doctors not to worry now they have wrecked our lives. go and get checked, listen to your own body and demand checks to make sure. bowel cancer is a silent killer until it’s too late

  7. Rita cachia

    Just wanted to know from people getting floaters, what are your cholesterol levels????

  8. Lora

    I started getting terrible bloating after meals and floaters after contracting norovirus – I had IBS for years but getting so sick seemed to take it up a notch and these were new symptoms. Even though the norovirus was gone in a few days, the bloat and float symptoms persisted on and off over a year.
    After hearing that lactose malapsorbtion was a possible cause I tried out lactose free milk. I also allow myself some mature hard cheeses such as Grana Padano and Emmenthal as I understand the long maturing process eliminates nearly all the lactose. My floaters almost completely stopped, (with some occasional exceptions when I made mistakes eating out) so I’d agree it is worth a try with lactose free milk.

  9. Veronica

    Try lactose free dairy (not soya) it worked for me, especially the milk!

  10. JV

    This is weird…
    I know I have celiac since about half a year and when I started the diet after some weeks my poop began to float…
    I don’t know why this happens because before that it was fine.
    Can someone help me?

  11. Bianca

    what if it doesnt float all the time, just sometimes? Also a person who has a sweet tooth eating a lot of sweet things may change this at times and make it vary, I wonder? There are so many things that one eats and how do we know if the diet is causing it and also the variations of how the poop turns out and variation of different colours too could be from various different foods eaten, it is difficult to work out.

  12. texas

    I have been looking for an answer, since I heard a numerous times about when poop floats by Dr Oz, but never heard or missed the cause. My poop has been floating since I returned from Houston Texas. I did have a prostate operation, and now I’m worried whether I have any pancreas problems. I do bake and cook, with any flour, but in the last two years I’m slowly converting and testing Gluten free products, which I have greatly advanced in the kitchen. I can bake any type of muffin/ cookies without dairy, and sugar contents, by using honey, and different fruit liquids, and Virgin olive oil replacing butter,and still my poop floats.
    My next full doctor examination is May 14/2013, I definitely will bring up the type of test you proposed for cilia, and pancreas… I hope it’s not to late. I do have enormous pain behind my right eye, and hope it’s only a nerve connection from my right arm, since a german shepherd jumped at my right shoulder and tearing my bicep, and 6 other small muscles. A MRI was done, but could find nothing, the pain is only when I hit my foot hard to the ground, or one of my horses pulls/jerks instantly at the right side rein.

  13. nick

    my friend had pancreatic, and survived it, and he told me the same thing, but he did say that it was not the only symptom, and just because floating stools were not just pancreatic symptoms, he never noticed the stools until after diagnosed because he never knew, his first symptoms was massive pain stomach. sent home with panadol, went for second opinion cause pain was not right, diagnosed straight away. Alive today but said a week or two later would not have been the same result.

  14. Abrooks

    I was always told by physicians that floating poop was the result of a diet rich in vegetables and fiber. He advised that protein is what causes poop to sink.

  15. Doreen

    My poop floats I’m 37 and feel fine. my belly never hurts. I don’t think I should be concerned ????

  16. Patricia

    I noticed about 2 or 3 years ago that my feces not only float but that when I have any bowel movement that there is a layer of grease or oil that covers the water everyone ! I became very concerned and told my doctor.
    I am a disabled vet. I have since had my gallbladder removed. They believed out was related too the gallstones I had, which turned out to be only one massive stone in gallbladder, but that caused me enormous pain, surgery corrected the pain.
    I am concerned that I still have the floating feces and oil that covers the complete top of the water in the bowel! Also when I wipe I feel like I’m never clean for the oil or grease that remains on my bottom after I defecate and try to wipe! Please help me..what’s strong with me? I am extremely worried and unfortunately the.doctors at the veterans hospital have been no help!
    I know this isn’t normal , and somethings wrong! Is this life threatening? Can it be?…I also have stomach pain , gas, nausea sometimes I vomit, always I cramp! My feces ALWAYS FLOATS WITH GREASY DEPOSITS ON TOP OF WATER AND ON MY BOTTOM! PLEASE SOMEBODY, ANYBODY HELP ME!
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Floating feces don’t necessarily signal a problem, but together with your other symptoms, the “steatorrhea” (elimination of unabsorbed fat) should definitely trigger an investigation to see what is causing the trouble.
    Possible causes:
    Celiac disease
    Pancreas problems
    Wilipedia has a pretty good overview of steatorrhea:
    Please request a second opinion with a gastroenterologist who is willing to do the appropriate tests to get to the bottom of your situation.

    • Katie

      Your gall bladder helps to digest fat. Since yours was removed your ability to absorb fats is compromised. You could take a lipase enzyme with meals that contain fat to help you digest it. I would recommend seeing a naturopath to help you with your situation.

  17. Holly S.

    I don’t see what the big deal is. I am now 31 and my poop has always floated my entire life. Always. I have never had any problems, diseases. No matter if I change my diet or not.

  18. Jt

    I recently switched from lipitor to zocor. Could this change cause new incidence of floaters?

  19. kay

    I dont usually look at my poop but yesterday I looked mine floats.

  20. Xtrchessreal

    I am 48 a recent full fledged vegan (that means I don’t eat any thing with any sort of animal product including eggs, diary, fish, or any thing that has a heartbeat, blood, or beetle juices such as the ones Starbucks was using in its strawberry frappes, also no pink slime or meat glue, I am also salmonella, e coli, listeria free) I don’t eat frozen products, I use a Vitamix blender to make my own mixtures of raw vegetables and fruits, nuts, grains to get the maximum stored nutrients and enzymes. Read “the China Study” or “Skinny Bitch” watch “Forks over Knives” for starters.
    My background: I used to have a fatty liver condition which is a precursor to about 37 possible liver issues. I was eating ice cream for breakfast, bratwurst and cheese mac for lunch and burgers and fries for dinner. One of the symptoms is floating poop and frequent diarrhea, I had an extremely high ferrite (iron) blood count, High LDLs, low HDLs but normal cholesterol. I changed to a low to no fat diet for about 6 months and cured it. However, years later after watching “Forks over Knives” I began to realize just how terrible animal proteins were for my blood vessels. That is right I said animal proteins not fats. So even eating low fat meats is detrimental to my health. Milk is mostly fat unless you get the 2% fat then its 98% animal protein.
    Long story shorter: My friend told me about her Celiac disease which is allergy to gluten and how “Skinny Bitch” got her started eating properly. She lost 75 pounds in a year eating only raw veggies no animal products. Since I knew I still had a potentially deathly diet I decided to go vegan with her. One of the things that happens is my body goes through a detox and my poop is floating again – no diarrhea. After reading many articles I found that the sink or swim poop thing is determined by many things. When I had my fatty liver condition it was caused by the fats not being digested and passing through the GI also the liver will release its stored fat at times and you will have floating poop from fat.
    Now I have floating poop from eating vegetables and fruits, beans etc. which cause more gas. So I fart a lot. As I am eating this vegan diet I have gone from sinkers to floaters but I am more healthy than ever. The body adjusts over time and recently I am having sinkers and floaters at the same time.

    • Nina
      Aliso viejo, ca

      Thanks for sharing, very informative!

    • Dena

      It’s a common thought that celiac is an allergy , but infact its an autoimmune disease. Although the Celiac Association tells us celiacs to call its an allergy when at a restaurant, so that it is taken serious. Just as another clarification, celiacs can have cronic constipation , although it might be more common to have loose stools as a symptom. Hope this clarifies info on celiac.

  21. T.W.

    Have you had any procedural tests…? It’s a good idea if you aren’t getting relief to have your g.p. Dr. refer you to a gastroenterologist. Sure hope you find a kind and discerning physician who will get to the bottom of it. God bless!

  22. kathy

    I had rectal polaspe surgery last May and about 6 months ago my poop started to float is that normal?

  23. Maggica

    Hi Suzanne, I was wondering if you ever found out what is causing your problems. Please let me know,

  24. finnie

    I dont know when my poop started to float, I never looked but last week I was watching Dr Oz and he was talking about floater and sinkers and that every one should check their poo and that floaters meant you have pancreatic cancer or some blockage in the bile ducts and he said that bile in the poo make it sink. I am a floater and will get myself checked by Doc.
    For the last 30 or so years I had a lot of trouble with my bowels, I have to eat about 50 g of fibre a day, some days I do and other days I don’t, but when I do my bowels work ok, also found out last year I have leaky gut and suffer from a lot of gas especially when I drink water which I have to to keep my bowels working.
    Also I have low thyroid and I’m on med. I’m in my 60s and with this thyroid problem feeling very tired all the time and now thinking all the worst until I see my doc. Good luck to all you people.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Diagnosing pancreatic cancer is more complex than whether or not your poop floats. With a high-fiber diet and lots of gas, more than likely there is nothing wrong with your stool. That said, it makes sense to get any sudden change in bowel habits checked out by the doctor.

  25. me

    you may have celiac disease. It causes very acute fatigue in me and I just feel lousy. try for only 2 weeks to be gluten free. totally read labels. then go back to your diet. see if you notice anything

  26. Debra M.

    my poop started to float about a year ago sometimes in the morning I feel very tired. I talk to my Dr he just looked at me. It still floats and I am worried I have been under a lot of stress also.

  27. Mel

    my experience is also that when I eat lots of vegetables, my poop floats.

  28. Randy

    My poop is awesome, Paul!

  29. Andrew

    Thanks for the msg.
    Celiac Disease has been ruled out, docs confirmed diagnosis of IBS (which is what I suspected to be the case all along really!)
    Thankfully, the symptoms have not been as severe of late. I’m just being a bit more careful with my diet & avoiding the ‘trigger’ foods.

  30. Pam

    I would get tested for Celiac Disease. You sound like me when I get gluten in my system.

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