How to Deal with Floating Stool

What Causes It? What Should I Do About It?

Girl with constipation
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Floating stools are a health issue typically associated with increased fat in the feces. Often soft and foul-smelling, these stools frequently stick to the side of the toilet bowl or are difficult to flush away. Floating stools may also be pale in color.

Common Causes of Floating Stools

In some cases, floating stools simply result from consuming meals high in fat. In other cases, floating stools may result from excess gas (a condition also known as flatulence).

Excess gas may be caused by consumption of insoluble fibers, artificial sweeteners, and a variety of other substances.

In addition, floating stools are frequently experienced by people with irritable bowel syndrome, as well as those with Graves' disease (an immune system disorder that causes overproduction of thyroid hormones).

Floating stools may also signal the presence of a condition called steatorrhea. In the case of steatorrhea, abnormally high quantities of fat in the feces result from reduced absorption of fat in the intestine.

Steatorrhea may be caused by gastrointestinal infections, use of certain medications, or the presence of conditions known to disrupt the absorptive lining of the intestines (such as Crohn's disease and celiac disease).

Steatorrhea can also occur as a symptom of conditions affecting the pancreas, gallbladder, or liver. Such conditions are often marked by decreased levels of lipase (a digestive enzyme produced the pancreas) and/or bile salts (a type of substance formed in the liver).

Lipase and bile salts are both needed to break down and absorb fat.

Here's a look at several conditions that can cause decreased levels of lipase and/or bile salts and, in turn, result in floating stool:

1) Chronic Pancreatitis

Often linked to alcoholism or gallstones, chronic pancreatitis is characterized by inflammation of the pancreas.

Along with floating stool, symptoms include abdominal pain, back pain, abdominal bloating, and weight loss. It's also associated with diabetes.

2) Pancreatic Cancer 

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. 

3) Sclerosing Cholangitis

Sometimes associated with ulcerative colitis, sclerosing cholangitis is marked by inflammation, scarring, and destruction of the bile ducts inside and outside of the liver. Symptoms may include floating stools, fatigue, itchy skin, fever/chills, jaundice, and dark urine.

4) Choledocholithiasis 

Choledocholithiasis is the presence of one or more gallstones in the common bile duct. In many cases, the condition causes no symptoms unless the stone obstructs the bile duct. In addition to floating stools, symptoms commonly include pain in the right upper or middle upper abdomen (lasting for at least 30 minutes), fever, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

5) Bacterial Overgrowth

Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can interfere with fat absorption and result in floating stools.

Common causes of bacterial overgrowth include chronic stress, diabetes, immune deficiency, inadequate fiber intake, and use of oral contraceptives or other medications.

Treatments for Floating Stools

For the majority of people, floating stools are harmless and don't require treatment. Floating stools tend to subside on their own.

Since diet plays a part in the development of floating stools, it's possible that adjusting your diet may help with this issue. For example, some medical experts suggest removing one or two foods from your diet at a time to test whether those foods may be contributing to floating stools.

For help in improving your overall digestive health, try these natural approaches to stimulating digestion.

Floating Stools: When to Seek Medical Attention

While stools that occasionally float after eating high-fat meals shouldn't alarm you, it's important to seek medical attention if you're experiencing greasy, foul-smelling floating stools. Such stools may signal severe malabsorption.

You should also talk to a doctor if floating stools are accompanied by weight loss, dizziness, and/or fever.

SEE ALSO: Loose Stool | Green Stool | Dark or Bright Red Stool | Mucus in Stool | Pellet-Shaped Stools | More Poop Colors Explained


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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using any alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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