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
- Arthritis or joint pain
- Neuropathy (nerve pain: burning, tingling, numbness)
- Muscle cramps
- Skin rash (that can be intensely itchy at times)
- Neuropathy (tingling or burning feeling in feet or legs)
- Depression and/or brain fog
- Mouth sores
- Lactose intolerance (reaction to milk sugar)
- Muscle weakness
- 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.