Why Is My Poop Foamy?

The appearance of your poop can be a great indicator of your health. Color, texture, the presence of blood, or the frequency of your bowel movements can help determine if there is an infection, digestive issue, or an underlying health condition.

One characteristic to look out for is the appearance of foamy poop or bubbles in your stool, which can be caused by a number of reasons. Learn more about possible causes of foamy poop, as well as how to prevent it and what treatment options are available.

Toilet

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Causes in Adults and Children

Foamy poop can be caused by an increased amount of fat or mucus passed in the stool. This is referred to as steatorrhea.

Steatorrhea is a key symptom of fat malabsorption, which means the body does not fully absorb certain fats. When this occurs, the fat content in the stool may increase, which can produce stools that may appear:

  • Frothy
  • Greasy
  • Pale
  • Gray
  • Bulky
  • Watery
  • Foul-smelling
  • Large in volume

Steatorrhea produces stools that contain a lot of undigested fat. Because of this, the stool may be difficult to flush as it can stick to the sides of the toilet or even float on the top of the water.

Foamy stools due to steatorrhea can be caused by a number of medical conditions, including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Giardiasis
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cystic fibrosis

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body's own immune system launches an attack when gluten is ingested. This can cause damage to the small intestine.

In celiac disease, the body may not fully absorb nutrients leading to diarrhea, as well as steatorrhea.

People with celiac disease may experience a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to:

  • Stools that are foul-smelling
  • Stools that are frothy or greasy
  • Stools that are difficult to flush
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Fatigue

How common is celiac disease?

It is estimated that roughly 2 million people in the U.S. are living with celiac disease, but many people live undiagnosed.


Giardiasis

Giardiasis is a disease caused by a parasite known as Giardia duodenalis, often called Giardia. If a person is infected with Giardia, the parasites inhabit the intestines and the stool. It is spread by:

  • Consuming food or water contaminated with Giardia parasites
  • Travel in areas of poor sanitation
  • Close contact with a person infected
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth
  • Sexual contact with someone who has or recently has had Giardia

Giardia can cause a variety of other gastrointestinal symptoms, including:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Greasy stool
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Nausea
  • Stools that float
  • Foul-smelling stool

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation in the pancreas that worsens over time. The disease makes it difficult for the body to properly digest food or make pancreatic hormones.

In chronic pancreatitis, the body does not produce the necessary amount of pancreatic enzymes to digest food. This causes a lack of proper nutrient absorption and may cause steatorrhea, which can lead to frothy stools.

Other changes in stool due to chronic pancreatitis include diarrhea and clay-colored or stool pale stool.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a disease that causes the body to produce thick mucus that can affect the lungs, pancreas, and digestive system. This mucus can sometimes be passed through the stool and create foamy or frothy poop.

Causes in Babies

Babies who are breastfed may produce frothy poop that is bright green in color.

This is not a cause for concern as it typically suggests the baby is getting too much foremilk, or the milk that comes at the beginning of a feeding.

It can also be due to the mother swapping from breast to breast during a feed.

Breastfeeding from one breast at a time until that breast is drained ensures the baby is getting the hindmilk as well.

Treatment

Treatment options for foamy stools will vary based on the underlying cause. For instance, if you have celiac disease, you'll need to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. This will typically result in an improvement in symptoms like foamy poop.

If you have giardiasis, there are a number of prescription medications that can be used to treat the condition. A medical professional will be able to advise the most appropriate treatment for you.

Additional treatment options may also involve supplements to address malabsorption and malnutrition.

Prevention

Preventing frothy stools can be complicated as prevention methods will depend heavily on the underlying cause.

  • Celiac disease: Celiac disease itself can't be prevented, but adhering to a strict gluten-free diet may help prevent some symptoms and may reduce any further damage to the body.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: Some lifestyle choices that can help reduce symptoms and control chronic pancreatitis include avoiding alcohol or smoking, and following the dietary recommendations of your doctor. This may include a low-fat, high-protein, high-calorie diet that includes fat-soluble vitamin supplements.
  • Giardiasis: There are a number of ways to prevent giardiasis like avoiding food or drink that may be contaminated, practicing safe sex, and not swallowing water found in pools, hot tubs, or untreated swimming areas like lakes or rivers.
  • Cystic fibrosis: This is an inherited condition and cannot be prevented, but following the treatment plan devised by your doctor will assist in reducing symptom severity. Taking enzymes can help with the digestion of food, which may help prevent frothy stools.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have consistently frothy stools you may have an issue with proper absorption within the digestive tract. This can warrant a visit to your healthcare provider as long-term complications from malabsorption include:

Summary

Foamy poop is typically the result of an increased amount of fat in the stool. This can be caused by a number of conditions including celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, giardiasis, and cystic fibrosis. In babies, foamy poop can be related to breastfeeding. Treatment specific to the cause of your foamy stools will alleviate most gastrointestinal symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

If you notice changes in your stool like foamy or frothy poop, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional. They will be able to help you determine the cause of your foamy stool and provide you with treatment and prevention options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does healthy poop float or sink?

    Some people may find their poop floats while others notice their poop sinks. Floating poo is not always a cause for concern but may indicate:

    • Pancreatitis
    • Too much gas, usually related to diet
    • Malabsorption
    • A gastrointestinal infection
  • Is foamy poop normal in babies?

    Parents may notice their breastfed baby has bright green, foamy poop. This may be due to the baby getting too much foremilk during a feed. This is the milk that comes out at the beginning of a feeding, and the resulting foamy stool can be resolved by feeding from one breast until it drains during a feeding.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parasites - Giardia.

  6. The National Pancreas Foundation. About chronic pancreatitis.

  7. The National Pancreas Foundation. Chronic pancreatitis causes and symptoms.

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  9. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for celiac disease.

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  12. MedlinePlus. Malabsorption.