Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

How Dangerous Is Floating Poop?

Floating poop is not uncommon. Is it worrisome or a result of eating fiber that leads to gas? Sometimes floating poop IS a serious symptom.

We need total honesty now. Do you carefully examine what ends up in the toilet after a bowel movement? If so, you would not be alone. An extraordinary number of people pay careful attention to poop. They want to know if it sinks or floats. What color is it? Is it long and firm? We often hear about “loose stools.” Darned if we know what loose means, though we suspect most people interpret that as diarrhea-light. Because people are so vigilant, we frequently get asked the question: is floating poop worth reporting to a doctor? Here is just one example:

Is Floating Poop A Cause for Concern?

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. Some experts believe that a GI infection can contribute to floating poop. If that’s the case and the problem persists, a stool analysis might be called for.

When to Worry:

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. You can learn more about the celiac connection at this link.


This is doctorspeak for fatty stools that float and smell bad. When this happens it could suggest that your body is having a hard time metabolizing and absorbing fat. If your pancreas is not making enough of the enzymes necessary to break down fat, something could be wrong with this critical organ.

Now that so many people are using GLP-1 agonists to lose weight, we do worry about pancreatitis as a side effect (Frontiers in Pharmacology, May 27, 2024). Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) and tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Zepbound) have been linked to pancreatitis. One symptom of pancreatitis is steatorrhea.

Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is a rare but deadly cancer. Randy Pausch filmed his “Last Lecture” and mentioned floating poop as one of his symptoms. If you have not seen this amazing video, please take some time to watch. It will bring tears to your eyes. Here is a link.

Not surprisingly, the mention of floating poop as a symptom of pancreatic cancer 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.

Is Floating Poop a Problem? Be Prepared with Answers:

If you do visit a gastroenterologist because of a change in bowel habits, do your homework. Come prepared with answers to the following questions:

  1. When did you first notice a change in bowel behavior?
  2. What is the color of your stool?
  3. Approximately when did your stools begin to float?
  4. Do they smell bad?
  5. Do they always float or is this an occasional thing?
  6. Did a change in your eating patterns proceed the floaters?
  7. Are you a vegetarian and do you eat a lot of fiber?
  8. What other gastrointestinal symptoms do you have?

Protect Your GI Tract!

We hope you have not taken offense at our use of the word poop in this article. What ever you call a bowel movement, it is a perfectly natural process. We do want you to take prevention seriously. Colonoscopies save lives. We think that this procedure is important, especially for people at high-risk for colorectal cancer. That means if someone in your family had this kind of malignancy, make sure you are tested periodically.

We also think that an upper GI endoscopy is important for people who have severe heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). If the cells in the esophagus become “dysplastic” or pre-cancerous, there are now procedures that can be done to reverse the condition. We are especially impressed with something called radiofrequency ablation (Techniques in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, July, 2017).

Take good care of your GI tract. If you are worried about floating poop, please discuss your concerns with a knowledgeable health professional. If you found this article of interest, please share it with family and friends by scrolling to the top of the page and clicking on the icon for email or social media. Thank you for supporting our work.

Rate this article
4.4- 219 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
  • Alenzi, K.A., et al, "Pancreatitis with use of new diabetic medications: a real-world data study using the post-marketing FDA adverse event reporting system (FAERS) database," Frontiers in Pharmacology, May 27, 2024, doi: 10.3389/fphar.2024.1364110
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.