Why Exactly Does Poop Float & Should I Be Concerned? Medical Experts Explain

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
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Poop may not be the most pleasant topic of conversation, but let's face it, you've probably had a lot of questions about the regularity (or irregularity) of your bowel movements.

Along with wondering about oddly colored or oddly shaped stools, we can't help but wonder why some poop floats. To get to the bottom of it, mbg spoke with functional medicine doctors and gut health experts on why it happens and whether it's cause for concern. 

Reasons for floating poop:

1. The particles in the stool are small.

According to functional medicine doctor Wendie Trubow, M.D., when the particles in stool are so small, they may be lighter than the density of water. 

"This should mean that digestion is good and food and waste are being broken down properly," she tells mbg. Eating high-fiber foods, like cruciferous vegetables, beans, or whole grains can lower the density of poop in some cases. 

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2. You may have taken too much magnesium. 

Magnesium can promote better sleep and may support healthy blood sugar levels. In too high doses, though, Trubow says it can cause your stool to absorb more water, making them looser. "This isn't worrisome but might indicate the need to take less magnesium," she says. 

3. You may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 26% of participants with functional bowel disorders also had floating stools.

Researchers concluded that not everyone with floating stools has IBS, but it is a characteristic of the GI disorder. If you have other symptoms (cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, etc.), consult with a doctor or gastroenterologist. 

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4. Your stools are high in fat. 

When stools are fatty, called steatorrhea, they are more likely to float. "Since fat (which is oily) and water don't mix, the stool containing fat will float on the surface of the toilet water," Trubow explains. This could mean the body isn't properly absorbing certain nutrients or lacks the enzymes necessary to break down certain foods. According to functional medicine doctor Anshul Gupta, M.D., this could be a side effect of pancreatic enzyme deficiency, gallbladder dysfunction, or leaky gut. It's important to talk to a doctor if you're concerned about fatty stools.

What to do about floating stool. 

Floating poop isn't always cause for concern, but it can be a sign of an underlying issue. Try these six suggestions to promote healthy digestion when it starts to feel off: 

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1. Manage stress.

When you're stressed out, digestion usually will be, too. (Blame the gut-brain axis.) Practicing stress-management techniques, like mindfulness, breathwork, or movement, will allow the rest of the body—including the mind and the gut—to relax, holistic psychologist Nicole Lippman-Barile, Ph.D., previously told mbg. 

2. Take a daily probiotic.

probiotic+

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Four targeted strains to beat bloating and support regularity.*

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While probiotic-rich foods are a good source of probiotics, it can be beneficial to diversify your probiotic sources—especially since specific probiotic strains can serve different functions

"The longer you take a probiotic, the more diverse your microbiome will become, and the stronger your immune system and GI tract get," integrative physician Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., says.*

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3. Chew food completely.

The efficiency and nutrient density of food is increased by properly chewing, nutritional psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, M.D., said during a mindbodygreen podcast episode. This can promote greater absorption of nutrients, which can lower the risk of fatty stools. 

4. Avoid fried foods.

Fried foods tend to be difficult to break down, Trubow explains. Limiting your intake or avoiding them when possible may support healthier digestion.  

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5. Eat gut-friendly foods.

Gut-friendly foods can include prebiotic and fermented foods, as well as foods containing digestive enzymes or plenty of fiber. Here are lists of each:  

Bottom line.

Floating stools can indicate everything from healthy digestion to more concerning issues like irritable bowel syndrome. While there are plenty of ways to promote healthy digestion, it's always a good idea to visit a doctor or gastroenterologist if your poop consistently seems abnormal or concerning. 

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