Why do some stools float and others sink?

Scientific reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-22626-x “width=”800” height=”530″/>
Illustration showing the role of intestinal bacterial influence in fecal flotation in rats. Illustration created with BioRender.com. attributed to him: Scientific reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-22626-x

A team of Mayo Clinic researchers has solved the mystery of why some people find their bowel movements float while others find they sink to the bottom of the toilet. In their paper published in the journal Scientific reportsthe group describes their accidental discovery of the answer.

Before the 1970s, scientists believed that stool either sinks or floats depending on how much fat is in it. Experiments have shown that this is not the case. Instead, experiments in healthy humans showed that the difference was due to the amount of gas in a given stool sample. But the question remains: Why does fecal matter from some people tend to be more gassy, ​​and therefore more buoyant, than others?

In this new effort, researchers have been studying the microbiomes of several lab mice, sterilizing the guts of some of them as a way to isolate differences in digestion and overall health related to different bacteria. As the experiments continued, the researchers noticed that none of the stool samples produced by the sterilized mice floated. In mice, half of the samples are usually floaters.

This indicated that the floating stool was related to the makeup of the gut microbiome. Next, the researchers collected stool samples from healthy mice that were not part of the original study, but which produced floaters, and injected the substance into the guts of the sterilized mice. They found that all of the test mice began producing floaters. The researchers emphasize that this indicates that the reason why some faecal material floats is due to the nature of the bacteria in the intestine – some produce more gas than others.

The researchers weren’t able to isolate the bacteria that produce more gas, but they note that Bacteroides ovatus has previously been found to produce more flatulence in human patients. Logic suggests that it is likely one of the culprits responsible for the formation of floaters in humans, and possibly in lab rats. The team suggests that more work will need to be done to confirm their suspicions and to find other bacteria involved in producing more of the gas, and thus the floaters.

more information:
Syed Muhammad Mushir Alam et al., The genesis of faecal flotation is causally related to intestinal bacterial colonization in mice, Scientific reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-22626-x

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the quote: Why some feces float and others sink (2022, November 18) Retrieved November 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-feces.html

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