Stool is not always the same. The texture, color, and smell vary—and sometimes they can even swim. When is this no longer normal?
The most important things at a glance
Stool, also called feces in medicine, is the end product of the digestive process in the intestines. Depending on your diet, the appearance and amount of your bowel movements will vary from day to day.
Normal stools consist mostly of water and intestinal secretions. The solid part consists of undigested food residues as well as cells of the intestinal mucosa and microorganisms of the intestinal flora. It is yellowish to brown and has a somewhat soft consistency. However, some factors can affect stool quality.
Harmless causes of floating stool
Due to the solid components of stool, it usually has a higher density than water – so it sinks into the water when you go to the toilet. However, some factors can affect the density of stools, causing them to float or even float in water. This is usually for harmless reasons, such as:
- The fiber: If it is high in light plant fiber, such as vegetables or whole grains, it may make the stool buoyant.
- Gastrointestinal gases: Normal bacteria in the intestinal flora form harmless digestive gas, which can appear as temporary bloating or gas bubbles in the stool. Here too, the reason for this can be the increased fiber content of the food. They serve as food for intestinal bacteria.
- fatAfter a high-fat meal, not all of the fat molecules may be absorbed through the intestines. High-fat stools are less dense and thus can float.
Pathological causes of floating stool
The causes of floating stool aren’t always harmless. Some diseases can also hide:
- intolerance: If nutrients such as lactose cannot be digested properly due to an enzyme deficiency, this can lead to increased gas formation by bacteria in the large intestine. This intolerance can manifest as bloating or gas bubbles in the stool. This gives the droppings buoyancy.
- gastrointestinal infectionGrowth of the wrong bacteria in the small intestine can disrupt fat digestion or increase gas formation. Both can cause the chair to float.
- Celiac diseaseGluten: In this chronic disease, the immune system mistakenly reacts to the gluten protein found in wheat and related grains. This causes inflammation in the small intestine, which damages the cells there. The fat and other nutrients from the food pulp cannot then be properly absorbed. In this way, more fat is excreted in the stool.
- Inflammatory bowel diseasesOther inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease can also lead to impaired fat absorption through damage to the intestinal wall. The result here, too, is a higher percentage of fat, and possibly floating stools.
- pancreatitisWhen the pancreas becomes inflamed, the cells responsible for producing digestive enzymes can die. If these enzymes are deficient, the digestion of fats is particularly disrupted. The result: the stool contains an excessive amount of fat and therefore floats.
- Pancreas cancerAlso, when the pancreas is damaged by cancer cells, there can be a deficiency of digestive enzymes and excess fat in the stool.
- Cystic fibrosis: With this metabolic disease, body secretions are very sticky. This not only harms the lungs but also the digestive system, especially the pancreas. clogged with thick mucus. As a result, digestive enzymes are no longer released into the small intestine in sufficient amounts and the digestion of fats is restricted.
In particular, if abnormal bowel movements occur frequently or in combination with other symptoms such as abdominal pain or diarrhoea, you should be examined by a doctor.
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