7 Reasons Why Poop disintegrates in Water & When to Worry.
Our content is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice by your doctor. Use for informational purposes only.
The stool is the end product of what you eat. So, its color, consistency, and smell are variable from day to day. Not every poop change is due to a disease.
Poop that disintegrates or breaks down in water can be due to either non-disease conditions such as dietary changes or diseases such as food intolerance, IBS, celiac diseases, infections, or medications.
In most cases, no need to worry about disintegrating poop unless you have other symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood in stool, weight loss, nausea, or vomiting.
In this article, I will detail the possible causes of poop disintegrating in water. Keep reading.
1. Dietary changes.
Your poop is formed mainly from your food waste. So, its color, smell, and consistency vary greatly depending on what you eat.
All of us are subjected to normal variation based on what we eat. These poop changes are especially prevalent when we over-consume certain foods or drinks.
For example, eating too many apples may give you loose stool that breaks down or disintegrates in water. Apples contain sorbitol and fructose, which have laxative effects when eaten in excess.
Changes in your stool don’t necessarily mean you have intolerance or allergy to these foods. The reason for poop changes is consuming these foods or drinks in large amounts that can alter the poop form.
However, you should suspect food intolerance if diarrhea or stool changes occur after consuming small to moderate amounts of these foods.
Common foods associated with a mushy stool that disintegrates easily in water (when consumed in excess):
- A large fatty meal.
- Consuming too much milk, ice cream, yogurt, or other dairy products.
- Eating too much fructose or sorbitol-containing fruits such as apples and bananas.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- coffee and caffeinated drinks
- Sugar substitutes such as aspartame.
- Garlic and onion.
- Broccoli and cauliflower.
- Spicy food.
Learn more about foods that may cause loose stool or diarrhea that disintegrates in toilet water.
2. Lactose Intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is a condition caused by a deficiency in the lactase enzyme in your digestive system leading to difficulty digesting lactose (found in milk and other dairy products).
As a result, lactose remains in your digestive system, acted upon by bacteria, producing excess gas, loose stool, or diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance is more common than you think. As we become adults, many of us lose the ability to digest lactose sugar due to a gradual decline in the enzyme in our digestive system (reference).
This phenomenon of losing the ability to digest lactose when we become adults is called lactose non-persistence or primary lactose deficiency, which affects up to 100% of certain populations (see the table below).
As a result, we may experience loose stool or diarrhea that dissolves in water after we consume milk or dairy products (even in moderation).
Symptoms of lactose intolerance:
- Abdominal pain.
- Distension and excessive passing of gas.
- Diarrhea may or may not be present.
- The stool often becomes watery, bulky, offensive, and yellowish and may disintegrate in toilet water.
- In children, the stools are bulky, frothy, and watery. Vomiting is common among adolescents with lactose intolerance.
3. Other forms of food intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is the most common form of food intolerance. However, several other foods and food constituents can also cause intolerance symptoms. Prevalence studies estimate that about one in every five people (20%) have a food intolerance (reference.
Diarrhea from food intolerance is accompanied by mild gastrointestinal symptoms (such as colics, bloating, and nausea). In some mild cases, it can also present with unexplained diarrhea with no other symptoms.
Common forms of food intolerances:
- Lactose intolerance (explained above).
- Fructose intolerance: a sugar present in most types of fruits and honey.
- FODMAP intolerance.
- Amines intolerance.
- Caffeine intolerance.
- Alcohol intolerance.
- Salicylates intolerance.
Learn more about types of food intolerance.
Keeping a food journal to record the pattern of your explained diarrhea and its relation to food is important.
The diagnosis of food intolerance is challenging. The similarities in symptoms and the variability in the severity make it more difficult to define food intolerance.
Always consult your doctor if you are unsure about the cause of unexplained diarrhea and its relation to food.
Too many drugs can cause loose stool or diarrhea. Changes in stool consistency due to a new or chronic medication can make your stool disintegrate in water.
More than 700 drugs can induce loose stool or diarrhea as a side effect. Check your list of drugs if you are taking medications for chronic diseases such as Diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or any other chronic disease.
Also, remember any recent medications (even if taken for a short period) as they may also cause disintegrating stool.
- Metformin: It is a widely used anti-diabetes medication and is considered the first-line therapy for new cases. Metformin-induced diarrhea is a very frequent side effect of the drug. Check your anti-diabetes tables, as they can be the source of unexplained diarrhea.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotic-associated diarrhea is a frequent side effect of taking antibiotics. Antibiotics cause the death of beneficial microbes inside your gut, disturbing digestion and allowing other harmful organisms to grow. Common antibiotics to cause such conditions are Penicillin, cephalosporins, and clindamycin antibiotics.
- Gastritis and GERD medications: – Proton Pump Inhibitors such as Esomeprazole (Nexium), Pantoprazole (Protonix), and Omeprazole (Prilosec). – H2 blockers such as Famotidine and Ranitidine (Zantac).
- Cancer chemotherapy:
- Immunosuppressive medications: These medications treat immune-mediated diseases such as Systemic Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura, and others. Examples include Mycophenolate and Methotrexate.
- Furosemide (Lasix): A famous diuretic medication is used in various diseases, especially in people with heart disease.
- Chronic laxative abuse:
Your digestive system is one of the most vulnerable systems to psychological stress. The motility of your stomach, intestine, and colon is largely controlled by the nervous system.
For instance, many functional gastrointestinal diseases (such as IBS) are directly linked to psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, and chronic stress.
Periods of stress may increase the motility of your intestine and colon. For instance, Many of us get diarrhea or frequent bowel movements during periods of stress, such as exams.
This condition may become recurrent in people with chronic psychological stress leading to abnormal stools (As loose poop that dissolves or disintegrates and floats on the surface of the toilet water.
Other effects of stress on the gut:
- Chronic or recurrent heartburn.
- Indigestion (functional dyspepsia).
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Chronic or recurrent abdominal pain.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
6. Celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a relatively common disease affecting about 1% of people worldwide (reference).
In celiac disease, your small intestine becomes allergic to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barely). When you eat gluten, your intestine becomes severely inflamed, leading to malabsorption and stool changes, including abnormal stools that disintegrate in toilet water.
Symptoms of celiac disease:
- Chronic diarrhea or loose stool (stool is often yellowish, bulky, offensive, floats on water, and easily dissolves in water like sand).
- Sometimes, constipation also occurs.
- Bloating and gas.
- Nausea, loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Anemia (can be severe if left untreated).
- Abdominal pain.
- In rare cases, it can cause constipation.
Learn more about stool changes in celiac disease.
7. Others (less common):
- SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial overgrowth).
- Chronic digestive system infections include chronic giardiasis, clostridium difficile infection, etc.
- Bile acid diarrhea.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Colorectal cancer.
- Mesenteric ischemia.
- Chronic pancreatitis.
- Thyroid gland disease (hyperthyroidism).
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Radiation colitis.
- Neuroendocrinal tumors such as carcinoid tumors.
- Rare intestinal diseases include Whipple disease, tropical sprue, and short bowel syndrome.
- Addison’s disease.
When (and when NOT) to worry?
Occasional loose stool that may dissolve in the toilet watery or disintegrates rapidly like sand without other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, is often due to dietary or lifestyle changes.
The disintegrating stool is not a cause of concern as long as it is temporary and not associated with other worrisome features such as abdominal pain or blood in the stool.
However, you should also talk to your doctor if you persistently have abnormal stools for a long period.
See a doctor if you have:
- Persistently loose stool for several weeks or months.
- Severe diarrhea.
- Bloody stool.
- Significant abdominal pain.
- Intense nausea or vomiting.
- Unexplained weight loss.