Chances are good that you probably don’t think too much about your poop. In fact, most people don’t, aside from a bit of curiosity after dropping a major load. However, it’s helpful to pay attention to your bowel movements, because they can tell us a lot about the body’s health, even when there are no other signs that something may be wrong. The size of your poop, the shape, color, and consistency can all point out one thing or another about your health. Another potential problem indicator is whether your poop sinks to the bottom, or floats on the surface.
More than likely, you’ve had a poop that floats at least once or twice in your lifetime. At the simplest level, poop floats when it is less dense; densely-packed stool sinks to the bottom, while the less dense stool floats on the surface. Different research says that it’s a matter or fat or air being present within the feces. It may be a combination of both, in fact. The additional air may be a result of carbohydrates that the body has failed to absorb. In a case like this, lactose especially comes to mind.
As most adults are lactose intolerant, it is not uncommon for the body to fail to absorb it, leaving it to ferment within the digestive system as fuel for the gut bacteria. Even if your body can handle lactose, an excess of dairy will lead to the same results. The same is true of sugary and gassy drinks like sodas. The extra gas they bring with them may contribute lots of air, and not all of it will come out the front end as burps. Some of this air may end up caught in your stool, resulting in lighter feces.
Lighter, less dense feces are more likely to float than sink. This is true whether the lack of weight is caused by excess air or excess fat. In the case of fat, it’s thought that an overindulgence of fatty foods may cause some of that fat to get caught in the stool. Almost anything your body can’t absorb, whether from a problem with the body, or simply a surplus of nutrients, gets excreted as waste. However, if it’s not a matter of excess, then it is likely a problem known as malabsorption, which is when the body cannot properly take in nutrients.
Check the toilet for signs of oil. If present, then there may be a problem with the pancreas. It may not be absorbing fat properly. If the poop itself is oily, then it may be a bacterial problem; bacteria may have migrated out of the small intestine and started breaking down your food before your body can. If you are finding signs of oil in the toilet or your stool, along with floaty poops that persist, see a doctor, as they can perform a number of tests to figure out what’s going on with your digestive system.
Using a procedure referred to as a fecal fat test, a doctor can determine if you have malabsorption. The test works by measuring the levels of fat being excreted in your bowel movements. That being said, there are additional symptoms of malabsorption besides fatty stools; other signs, such as foul-smelling stools, loose stool, and abdominal cramps will also likely be present. If you find that you are exhibiting some of these other symptoms during your bowel movements, it’s critical that you go see a doctor. This is especially the case if the signs have persisted for more than a month.