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Does Your Poop Sink or Float? (And Why It Matters)

Today’s blog is republished from my friends at TheAlternativeDaily, a leading publisher of daily alternative health tips that I personally read every day…The original article can be found here:

While the subject of our bathroom habits is usually either brushed under the rug or discussed in the form of embarrassing jokes, it is actually a complex and important area of health that should not be ignored.

We’ve talked about healthy bathroom habits and ways to resolve constipation, and today we will discuss the buoyancy of poop in particular. Whether your poops bob at the surface or dive to the bottom can be a sign of many things to do with your health and nutritional status.

Here are some of the hidden wellness messages that can be deciphered from the contents of your toilet.

Poor digestion of fats

A common conclusion in the health community is that floating poops are a sign of poor digestion. When the floating stool sticks to the side of the toilet bowl and is difficult to flush, or an oily sheen appears on the surface of the water, fats in the diet are likely left undigested.

So what can be done about floating poop? Talk to a trusted health practitioner about the health of your liver, gallbladder and pancreas, all of which are involved in producing the bile that is used to digest fats.

Too little fiber

While many sources seem to indicate that sinking poops are preferred, others suggest that floaters are a sign that the diet contains a good amount of fiber. This is because those who eat more fiber, also known as prebiotics, have greater colonies of bacteria in the lower gut. This leads to poop that contains more gases produced by the bacteria. The gases make waste less dense and cause poop to float.

Regardless of whether you are seeing floaters or sinkers in the toilet, make sure that your diet contains lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes to ensure that an adequate amount of fiber is being consumed. The goal is to get at least 35 grams each day.

If fiber is a new thing in your diet, start slowly! Otherwise the number of bacteria feasting on all that fiber may increase too quickly and cause digestive discomfort.

Celiac disease

Some experts believe that floating poops could be a sign of celiac disease. Gluten leaves the gut inflamed and unable to digest food properly. Stools may float and be grey or tan in color, and have a foul odor. A particular concern is if you see floating, soft, diarrhea-like stool frequently or for an extended period. If this is you, consider getting tested for celiac disease, or better yet, simply decide to eliminate gluten from your diet!

Constipation

On the other hand, sinking poops can be a sign of chronic constipation. Constipation can occur when a person doesn’t have enough digestive motility (i.e., the intestines are not working to push the waste along). There are many causes of constipation, such as poor diet, anxiety, lack of exercise and not drinking enough water.

Common solutions are to drink more water to help hydrate the bowel and the stool, take magnesium supplements to relax the intestine, and use herbal remedies such as aloe vera juice and cayenne pepper, which are known to improve elimination.

Does the floater vs. sinker debate really matter?

In the end, many health experts do not emphasize the buoyancy of poop (or lack thereof). More important is the frequency, shape, color and smell. Use the following checklist to determine if you are a healthy pooper:

  • Eliminate at least once per day (but not more than three times).
  • Have poops that are smooth and about the shape of a banana, not too hard and not too soft.
  • Color should be an even medium brown with no visible bits of food, fat, blood or mucus.
  • Smell should be fairly neutral, not overly unpleasant.

The more points you answer “yes” to above, the better your poop health is! Ideally you will experience a mix of floaters or sinkers on different days, along with some that just hover in the water and don’t go to either extreme.

How does your poop stack up? Make sure you take a moment to check it out next time you go! If your toilet habits need a little upgrading, try these smoothie recipes that help promote good poops.

—Liivi Hess

Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.

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Sources:
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM197205042861804
http://www.livescience.com/36689-poop-health-signs-disease-infection.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9299672
http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v98/n4/abs/ajg2003199a.html
http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8995945

About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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5 comments

  1. Going Gluten-Free without the appropriate advice from a registered dietitian is NOT a good idea! Any form of dietary restriction can result in more problems rather than less. As a registered dietitian myself who specialises in these types of diets I have to comment that it is absolutely vital to get good advice. Failure to do so can lead to serious long-term problems such as magnesium deficiency, etc. This may contribute to heart problems, diabetes, and so on. Any advice to omit foods should also state what to take instead! Hence why ‘blanket advice’ like this is not helpful. Also, if someone does have coeliac disease and has not been properly tested for it, self-restriction may mask the symptoms leading to worse longer-term problems and potentially bowel cancer. SO, MY ADVICE? SEE A REGISTERED NUTRITION PROFESSIONAL WHO SPECIALISES IN GLUTEN-FREE BEFORE ATTEMPTING IT! Dietary treatments should be as individual as drug treatments. (p.s. 35 years+ experience in both hospital and community nutrition). p.s.s. Floating poops have many causes. Coeliac disease is probably NOT the most likely one.

  2. Diane Stephenson

    Thank you for this article. I have read and been told both about the floating and the sinking type and they tend to contradict one another. You have brought some good insight into this post by looking at all aspects of it. If I listened to other sources I would have to believe there must be something wrong. But by reading your checklist, it seems I am perfectly healthy in this area. Thanks again for the balanced information.

  3. I would imagine that, in a healthy individual, the amount of daily elimination events would (or at least, could) be based on the number of meals eaten per day…NO?
    If someone e.g. practices intermittent fasting, and only eats two significant meals per day, one would think they’d pass stool twice per day.
    But others follow the “many small meals per day” ideology – to say that those folks should not eliminate more than 3X per day seems a bit short-sighted: does the resulting poop from one meal wait for the next one to “catch up”, because they’re not supposed to go more than 3X per day…?
    Somethin’ to think about…

  4. It would appear to me that POLITICIANS ELIMINATE more than any other SUB-SPECIES in the UNITED STATES.FLOATER vs. SINKER does not enter the conversation. The most ELIMATING STATES would LIKE:Y BE NEW YORK and CALIFORNIA as they have the most RADICAL RASCALS in the COUNTRY… LOVE TALKING SH#T.

  5. Quite a “crappy” article don’t you think? 😉

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