Although normal stool is typically solid and gray, a number of variations may occur. Foamy or sparkling stool is usually diarrhea-like, and can tend to contain bubbles. It may also appear sticky, or may contain mucus.
Foamy stools are often the result of a reaction to other foods. When that is the case, with time and hydration it will be an isolated event and will resolve.
Shoamy stool, however, may also signify an underlying medical condition. Read on for more detail on the causes and treatments, and when to see a doctor.
The five most common causes of foamy stool include:
The infection of bacteria, parasites, or viruses may invade the gastrointestinal tract and produce gas bubbles, making stool appear foamy.
Giardia-parasite is a common cause of infection. An individual can become infected with contaminated water or food after consumption. For example, they may also come in contact with polluted water while swimming.
Some Infection signs include:
- stomach cramping
- unexplained weight loss
It can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks for symptoms of an infection to resolve.
2. Irritable bowel syndrome
Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can have mucus in their stool which may make the stool look foamy.
Other IBS signs include:
3. Malabsorption disorder
This is called malabsorption disorder when the body can not efficiently absorb or use nutrients in the food.
One specific condition involving malabsorption is celiac disease. It includes a person with an allergic reaction to gluten intake, resulting in inflammation of the intestines, and other gastrointestinal symptoms such as changes in stools.
Similar symptoms may cause dietary intolerances to certain foods. Such foodstuffs include:
- sugar alcohols, such as mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol
Upon consuming a certain type of food a person may have foamy stool. We can feel bloated or nauseous, too.
4. Abdominal surgeries
Abdominal surgery may have an effect on digestion. Which can require surgery to remove a part of the big or small intestine.
Surgeries may cause short-term bowel syndrome, leading to persistent diarrhea and foamy stools. When the body recovers, this condition may be temporary and overcome.
However, if a person has this syndrome on a long-term basis, a doctor will typically prescribe supplements to ensure sufficient nutrition for the patient.
Pancreatitis may be severe or chronic. It impedes an individual’s ability to digest fats.
This disease, particularly in the upper abdominal area, can cause severe pain, and can spread back pain.
Pancreatitis causes include gallstones, history of heavy alcohol abuse, pancreatic cancer or genetic defects affecting the pancreas.
Besides foamy stools, pancreatitis is also associated with the following symptoms.
- rapid heart rate
- swollen abdomen
Pancreatitis may require admission to a hospital for treatment
Foamy poop in babies
Frothy or foamy stool is especially common in children, and is typically not a cause of concern.
Foamy stool in babies is also a indication that the lactose, a sugar found in breast milk, is getting overwhelmed.
Breast milk contains two components: foremilk and hindmilk. For many minutes, premilk is coming out when the baby starts feeding. Richer and thicker hindmilk follows on.
Foremilk has less nutrients than hindmilk and if a baby receives too much foremilk, they won’t be able to fully absorb lactose, which can cause changes in stools.
If a baby still has foamy stools, breast-feeding for at least 20 minutes on one side before moving to the other might be a good idea. That will ensure that enough hindmilk is given to the infant.
Treatments for foamy stool depend on the cause at the source.
A doctor can recommend removing foods that frequently cause intolerances. This can help decide whether one or more of those foods was responsible for the symptom.
If an person is diagnosed with IBS, a physician or dietitian may help establish a diet plan that will reduce symptoms. A individual may want to avoid gas-causing foods, as well as fried foods.
Keeping a dietary diary can be helpful in deciding which foods contribute to IBS symptoms.
A individual can use electrolyte powder to make drinks which are rehydrated.
Pancreatitis is usually treated with pain medicine and intravenous fluids. In certain cases it may be appropriate to take antibiotics. Although this is rare, if a person has chronic pancreatitis a doctor can suggest surgery.
When to see a doctor
If a person has more than two occasions of foamy stool, they should see a doctor.
If any of the symptoms below follow foamy stool seek urgent medical attention:
- a temperature higher than 100.4°F
- bloody stool
- severe abdominal pain
- severe diarrhea that occurs for more than 2 days
A doctor may diagnose the symptoms of a person, and prescribe tests to determine the underlying cause.
Although foamy stool may be a problem, a dietary change may be all that’s needed to reduce the amount of mucus that causes the symptom.
If foamy stool indicates a more serious illness, such as pancreatitis, a doctor may provide treatment, and prescribe pain relief and prevention measures.