You may have mucus in your stool because of something you ate. But poop that’s regularly frothy may indicate that your body isn’t absorbing fat effectively. This can happen with some chronic conditions.

You may occasionally experience foam or froth in your stool. If it’s due to something you ate, the symptom typically resolves on its own when you stop eating that food. If it occurs often or with other symptoms, it may indicate an underlying health condition.

Doctors use a chart called the Bristol Stool Chart to categorize different types of stools and what they mean.

Keep reading to learn more about what causes this symptom and what it could mean for your health.

Your poop may appear foamy if there’s too much fat or mucus in your stool.

Mucus can look like foam or be found with foam in the stool. Some mucus is normal. It helps you pass the feces and protects your intestines. But too much mucus also can happen with certain health conditions.

Fat malabsorption can lead to steatorrhea, also called fatty stool. Instead of passing through your intestines normally, fats either aren’t absorbed or not digested properly. Additional symptoms of fat malabsorption can include:

  • oily stool
  • pale or clay-colored stool
  • stool that may be bulky and smell foul
  • floating stool

Steatorrhea can occur with digestive issues, including:

If your symptoms are caused by something you ate, they should clear up once you’ve stopped eating that food. If your symptoms occur frequently, they could be caused by a health condition.

Health conditions that can cause foamy stool include:

1. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder caused by the immune system. When people with celiac disease eat food containing gluten, their immune system reacts and damages the lining of their small intestine. It also can cause fat malabsorption and lead to foamy stools.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. It may also be in some processed foods to improve texture and promote moisture retention.

Was this helpful?

Celiac disease runs in families. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 in 100 people worldwide have the condition, though many are undiagnosed.

More than 250 symptoms are associated with celiac disease. Symptoms vary widely and are different for adults and children.

Common symptoms in adults can include:

Common symptoms in children can include:

Doctors typically diagnose celiac disease with a blood test and a biopsy of your small intestine.

Treatment includes completely eliminating gluten from your diet. If untreated, celiac disease can lead to chronic health conditions.

Learn more about who is at risk for celiac disease here.

2. Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the intestines. This means that the intestine has no structural abnormalities, yet it doesn’t function properly. There are four subtypes of IBS based on stool consistency.

About 10% to 15% of people have IBS, and it’s more common in people assigned female at birth than in people assigned male at birth.

Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes the disorder, but it’s likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. These factors may affect the speed with which stool passes through your digestive tract and how your brain and gut work together.

IBS symptoms can include:

  • cramping and pain
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • bloating
  • gas and belching
  • fatigue
  • white mucus in the stool
  • urgent need to pass a stool

Treatment for IBS can involve dietary changes. These may include:

A doctor may also recommend other treatments that may include:

Learn more about the subtypes of IBS here.

3. Giardiasis

Giardia lamblia is a microscopic parasite that causes an infection of the small intestine called giardiasis.

You can get the infection by consuming water or uncooked food contaminated with the parasite or by swimming in contaminated water. It can also spread from person to person (or pet to person), usually by exposure to infected feces.

Symptoms of giardiasis can include:

Giardiasis usually goes away without treatment within about 4 weeks. A doctor may recommend staying hydrated to prevent dehydration.

If it lasts longer, a doctor may confirm you have the infection by testing a sample of your stool. They may prescribe an antibiotic.

4. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas’s role is to release enzymes to help digest food and regulate your blood sugar levels. In people who have pancreatitis, the enzymes that aid digestion begin to digest the pancreas instead of sugars.

Pancreatitis can be an acute event that heals in days, or it can be a chronic condition.

Both types often require a hospital stay, during which you’ll fast under medical supervision or possibly have surgery. People with chronic pancreatitis may experience fat malabsorption and fatty stools.

People between the ages of 30 and 40 are at higher risk of developing acute and chronic pancreatitis, and both are more common in people assigned male at birth.

Most cases of acute pancreatitis occur due to gallstones. Chronic pancreatitis may develop due to many factors, including:

  • heavy alcohol use
  • smoking cigarettes
  • genetic disorders of the pancreas

Symptoms of pancreatitis can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • steatorrhea or fatty stool
  • pain in your upper abdomen that may spread to your back or get worse after eating
  • weight loss

If your foamy stool lasts longer than a few days, you may want to let a doctor know.

The examinations and tests used to make a diagnosis may vary on your symptoms and health history.

Symptoms you should always report promptly include:

  • mucus or blood in your stool
  • diarrhea lasting more than 2 days or 24 hours for a child
  • a fever of 101.5˚F (38.6˚C) or greater or 100.4˚F (3˚C) for a child
  • sudden or persistent pain

Most of the time, foamy stool may clear up on its own in a few days.

If it persists or you experience warning symptoms like stool mucus or blood, you should talk with a doctor. You may have an underlying condition that requires treatment.

You may temporarily have foamy poop from something you ate. But if it occurs often or with other symptoms like pain, it may indicate an underlying health condition.