Q. I am totally confused about floating poop. I had always heard that it was due to a high-fiber diet and not a cause for concern. Then I read in your column that it could be an early warning symptom of pancreatic cancer. Now every time I have floaters in the toilet I wonder if I should worry.

A. Floating poop is a never-ending source of comments on our Web site. People seem fascinated with this topic.

Doctors have been arguing for years about why stool sometimes floats. One school of thought attributes this to gas. Other experts maintain that a high-fiber diet leads to floaters.

In most cases floating stools are not worrisome. There are, however, some situations that require medical investigation. People with celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten in wheat, barley and rye), cystic fibrosis or short bowel syndrome may produce stools that float.

Pancreatic cancer is a rare but deadly cancer. Randy Pausch filmed his “Last Lecture” and mentioned floating poop as one of his symptoms. Not surprisingly, this scared a lot of people. Most have nothing to worry about. If, however, the floaters are pale, bulky and greasy and accompanied by abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice or generalized itching, a person should seek medical care promptly. In fact, any major significant change in bowel habits calls for a check-up to rule out a serious problem.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Betty

    I read an article in your column recently about floating stool. I had been having this symtom for about 3 weeks. My past doctor had retired so I enlisted a new doctor. I called, but his nurse called and told me to cut down on fats. I eat no fatty meat and a balanced diet. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with his theory, even though I’m 83 years old.

  2. uzma
    Richardson Texas

    I have greasy stool for the first time in my life I don’t have gall bladder has taken out last year No pain no fever however I’m going to the doctor tomorrow for complete check up
    Any advice would be appreciated

  3. Sharon

    For about 2 plus weeks, I have noticed quick transit time from eating to excreting. The stools have been greasy and floating(not pale in color),
    but the hunger I feel so much of the day tells me I am not absorbing my nutrients. also, I worry as to whether this is my liver and gallbladder
    showing me I cannot digest fats well. Should I be worried about the BIG C? Should I do a liver and gb cleanse?
    I do not have pain, and my general health is good, yet I am worried and just would ask anyone reading this who has had experience with such a
    condition to comment.What screening tests(stool sample OR blood work) should I consider?
    I decided I will start a food and and void diary tomorrow and see if this can help when I see Doc
    in about 2 weeks.
    comments welcome.

  4. Sharon

    For 2 weeks, I have had greasy, floating stools preety soon after I eat. I find I am hungry frequently.
    I believe this is too quick transit time from eating to excreting.
    should I be concerned about this signaling a serious medical illness?!
    Anyone have any experience with such a condition or any direction for me??
    would a stool sample OR a basic blood test be the best screening.
    Also, could this be that my liver and gallbladder are not digesting fats”
    Comments or suggestions would be very appreciated!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.