We’ve all been there before, sitting in a quiet room, minding our own business, when a loud, grumbling noise echoes from our stomach. While it might be a little embarrassing, isn’t a rumbling tummy normal? Or is it a sign of something wrong?
Most people believe that an overactive, grumbling stomach is just a sign of hunger. This is partially true—a hungry tummy is likely to grumble, gurgle and rumble. However, hunger isn’t always the only reason your stomach might be making sounds.
Causes of stomach grumbling
Stomach grumbling—also known as borborygmic—might come from the stomach or the small intestines and is usually caused by excessive gas or food moving through the digestive system. Typically, these sounds are completely normal, but in some occasions, they might indicate a larger problem.
- Digestion: Normal, everyday digestion is often the cause of a grumbling tummy. When you eat, your body works through a process of muscular contractions to squeeze and move food and enzymes through the digestive system. This process, called peristalsis, can cause occasional sounds.
- Hunger: Hunger is also a major culprit of stomach growling. When your blood sugar is low, and the stomach can’t get the nutrients it needs, it can trigger a release in your brain to begin peristalsis even when no food is present, resulting in the grumbling. These grumblings may be consistent (up to a few times every hour) until you eat. Additionally, these grumbles might be louder than normal since no food is present to muffle the sounds.
- Excess air: Having too much air in your intestines can also cause stomach growling. If you eat too fast or swallow a lot of air, or if your body produces gas from improperly absorbed food, you’ll have some gas build-up in your intestines that will move around until it’s eventually passed.
- Stomach problems: A grumbling tummy isn’t always merely harmless digestion. It can sometimes indicate larger underlying problems like food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or intestinal blockages. Normally, the grumbling will be accompanied by pain, diarrhea, vomiting or fever when there’s a larger issue.
Halting the grumble
Listening to a grumbling tummy isn’t always fun, nor is feeling it. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to get it to settle down:
- Eat: Since a growling stomach is often indicative of hunger, think about when you had your last meal, then try eating something. A snack may also help suppress the growling, both by giving the stomach what it needs and by muffling any grumbling sounds.
- Drink water: If eating isn’t an option, try drinking water. Water helps with normal digestive systems, which can quell the grumbling if it is due to indigestion. It also can fill the stomach, muffling the sounds.
- Chew slowly: To avoid a bunch of air in your intestines, chew thoroughly and slowly. Not only will this help you swallow less air, it will help make the digestion process even easier for your stomach and intestines by breaking down food more initially.
- Avoid gassy foods: A lot of foods are notorious for producing excess gas in the intestines, which will move back and forth causing grumbling. Limit your intake of these foods, including beans, fruits, grains and carbonated beverages. Additionally, stay away from foods you have a known intolerance to, such as those with gluten or lactose.
- Take supplements: Taking certain supplements can help promote healthy digestion and cut back on indigestion and gas production. Having a healthier intestine can reduce the loud rumbling.
- Get moving: Walking or doing a low-intensity activity after eating can actually help speed up your digestive process, cutting back on the amount of time your stomach has to make loud rumbling sounds.
- See a doctor: If you are experiencing pain or other symptoms such as bleeding, fevers, nausea, diarrhea, pain or others alongside a consistently grumbling tummy, visit a doctor as soon as possible. You may have a larger issue occurring in your intestines that will need to be addressed right away, before it’s able to get worse.
Growling stomachs and intestines are pretty normal in everyone, no matter your age or sex. Next time you hear a low gurgle, don’t fret! Try some of the techniques listed above to muffle or stop the sounds, as well as to promote a healthy digestive tract as a whole.