Floating poo
January 21, 2004 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Caught between two stools. Sorry if this lowers the tone but over the years I've heard various bits of advice in the media concerning relative bouyancy of human waste and its implications for health. Can anyone provide something definitive about whether one's output should float or sink? What is the cause of the different behaviours?
posted by biffa to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
From my limited knowledge of GI phys, stools should sink--that means that the colon has removed enough water from the stool. However, "normal" stools may float if filled with methane gas (made from bacteria in the colon). On another grossout note, a professor once said that we have enough bacteria in our GI systems to fill a shotglass.
posted by gramcracker at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2004

To contradict, my doctor told me that stools should float and have the consistency of toothpaste. He said that if your stools sink it indicates you're not getting enough fiber.
posted by emptybowl at 8:44 AM on January 21, 2004

Floaters are from too much fat in the diet, not lack of fiber. Hard stool is from not drinking enough water.
posted by Goofyy at 9:42 AM on January 21, 2004

In my experience Goofyy is correct. I even recall a joke my dieting aunt made to her brother: "He acts like his shit don't float."
posted by terrapin at 10:53 AM on January 21, 2004

All the advice I have ever read (and personal experience) suggests that the most important thing is that the consistency is smooth and creamy enough to allow it to come out easily... ie the toothpaste analogy.

In tandem with this, I find that poo with the right consistency does not sink. Heavy, sinking stools seem to be painful to excrete and should be avoided.
posted by skylar at 11:10 AM on January 21, 2004

Medline. They say this is related to poor absorbtion of nutrients (feeding the bacteria = gas) or excessive gas (gas). Pretty much, Gas.
posted by daver at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2004

FWIW, my doctor told me stool should be similar to a sausage, i.e. oblong and firm. He said it didn't really matter if sunk or not.
posted by haqspan at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2004

I always though that when it comes to taking the Browns to the Superbowl, you should mix sports analogies and try to make every pitch a sinker.

My doctor told me this was done through fiber intake and exercise, and he was much less euphemistic.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:13 PM on January 21, 2004

Wow, a lot of people talk poo with their doctors...
posted by agregoli at 1:38 PM on January 21, 2004

If we were all in Germany, our toilets would have a nice little shelf safely above the waterline that our stool would fall onto, to aid in that careful post-evacuation inspection which is so essential to monitoring health.

So from an international perspective, obsessing about why or whether it sinks or floats is really not so bad. And a lot less stinky.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2004

Wow, a lot of people talk poo with their doctors...

My discussion was really about excessive flatus. The poo was secondary. It was, uh, for a friend.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2004

taking the Browns to the Superbowl

Best. Pooping euphamism. Ever.
posted by contessa at 3:03 PM on January 21, 2004

Forget Medline and go straight to the source -- Vice Magazine's Guide to Shit.

It confirms many of the statements made here, but it's a *reliable* source that can be quoted at dinner parties.
posted by zpousman at 4:42 PM on January 21, 2004

I seem to recall that there is some discussion about this -- though not from a medical perspective -- in The RE/search Guide to Bodily Fluids. There is also The Poop Report.
posted by jessamyn at 5:25 PM on January 21, 2004

Thanks all, I'd always heard that sinkers were bad as it meant not enough fibre, so its a relief to know its actually healthy. Thanks to zpousman for the link, if anyone wants to be sickened today go to the guide link and look under 'itchy anus'.
posted by biffa at 5:14 AM on January 22, 2004

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