Stomach Growling and Bowel Cancer: When to Seek Immediate Care

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Advocating for your bowel health rests on your awareness of concerning symptoms and their potential connections to medical issues, such as bowel cancer. 

Higher frequency and louder bowel sounds, especially when accompanied by bloody stool or pain, may be bowel cancer symptoms. When I have encountered such symptoms in a patient at PrimeHealth, I recommend an urgent colonoscopy. 

The rumbling noises emanating from your belly, scientifically termed “borborygmus,” result from the intricate workings of your digestive system. This symphony of sounds occurs as food, liquids, and gas navigates through your stomach and small intestine. 

These gurgles are often accompanied by various symptoms, including bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Stomach growling is a common occurrence, and many people experience it from time to time.

In this article, I’ll explore the possible connections between stomach growling and bowel cancer to help you understand when it’s time to seek medical advice.

Colorado residents, our holistic doctors at PrimeHealth are ready to help you investigate the underlying cause of your stomach issues.

Is Stomach Growling a Sign of Colon Cancer?

While a rumbling stomach is usually a sign of hunger, it can occasionally be a potential indicator of an underlying health issue, such as bowel cancer. There are certain abnormal, loud, gurgling noises that healthcare providers like myself may recognize as cancer warning signs, especially if a patient also reports black, tarry stools or excessive pain.

Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer, can manifest with stomach growling as a warning sign. If your abdominal sounds are accompanied by the following symptoms, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical advice from a gastroenterologist or your healthcare provider:

  • Blood in your stool
  • Excess gas
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fevers

Common Causes of Stomach Growling

Stomach growling primarily results from the movement of food, liquids, and air throughout your digestive system. Hunger can trigger these sounds as the hormone ghrelin induces stomach contractions. 

Other common causes of stomach growling and hyperactive bowel sounds include:

  • Slow or Incomplete Digestion: Difficulty digesting food can lead to stomach growling.
  • Indigestion: Poor digestion can result in discomfort and gurgling noises.
  • Hunger: As mentioned earlier, an empty stomach can lead to growling sounds.
  • Anxiety and Stress: Emotional factors can influence stomach sounds.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, including stomach growling.
  • Food Allergies: Conditions like celiac disease or lactose intolerance can trigger stomach discomfort and growling.
  • Infection: Gastrointestinal infections may lead to increased bowel sounds.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including growling sounds.
  • Intestinal Blockage: Physical obstructions in the intestines can result in gurgling noises.
  • Cancer: While not the most common cause, bowel cancer is a serious condition that can be associated with stomach growling.
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Risk Factors for Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer impacts the large intestine and rectum, unfortunately going undiagnosed for a long time in many cases. A comprehensive understanding of an individual’s medical history, including family history, previous polyps, and genetic factors, is crucial for assessing their risk of developing bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk increases with age, especially for those over 50.
  • Family history: Having close relatives with colorectal cancer can raise your risk.
  • Personal history: A history of colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, or previous colorectal cancer increases the risk.
  • Genetics: Specific genetic mutations, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), can elevate the risk.
  • Diet: A high intake of red and processed meats, low fiber intake, and excessive alcohol consumption may contribute to several types of cancer.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity is associated with a higher risk and overall lower well-being.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Smoking is a risk factor for various cancers, including colorectal cancer.
  • Diabetes: People with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk.
  • Certain conditions: Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are associated with a higher risk.

I’m not a cancer specialist, but it’s my job to recognize warning signs of various cancer types in my primary care patients and direct them to the appropriate specialist for a cancer diagnosis. In many cases, understanding your history of various medical conditions and unexpected health symptoms can be the difference between early diagnosis and late-stage disease.

12 Tips to Address Stomach Growling

If you’re experiencing stomach growling and are not hungry, several strategies can help alleviate these noises. Here are 11 tips to consider:

  • Eat: If you’re hungry, have a meal or a healthy snack to curb growling.
  • Eat and chew slowly: Chew your food slowly to aid digestion and reduce the potential for stomach growling.
  • Don’t overeat: Avoid overeating, which can lead to digestive discomfort and growling.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water between meals to aid digestion, but avoid large gulps to prevent excess air intake.
  • Relieve stress: Manage stress through meditation, yoga, and quality sleep to reduce stomach noises. Eat in a relaxed environment. 
  • Monitor gassy foods: Be mindful of foods that cause gas and try to reduce their consumption.
  • Limit acidic foods: Acidic foods can stimulate stomach acid production, potentially leading to growling noises.
  • Reduce sugar intake: Excessive sugar can lead to digestive issues, including stomach growling. Reducing sugar intake may be enough to resolve mild symptoms.
  • Moderate alcohol: Alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, contributing to stomach growling.
  • Take a walk: A post-meal walk can aid digestion and reduce stomach growling.
  • Test for food intolerances: Consider food intolerance tests to identify potential triggers for stomach noises.
  • Get stool testing done to assess the presence of blood in your stool: Small amounts of blood in your stool may not be visible to the naked eye, but would be picked up on stool analysis testing. Even if just a small amount of blood is found on a stool test, we refer to gastroenterology for a colonoscopy to rule out cancer or other serious illnesses.


What are the first symptoms of bowel cancer?

The first signs of stomach or bowel cancer may include persistent abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, blood in stool, unexplained weight loss, or discomfort after eating. Early detection and medical consultation are crucial for addressing potential symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Stage 1 colon cancer?

Stage 1 colon cancer may not exhibit noticeable symptoms in its early stages. However, if any symptoms do occur, they could include minor changes in bowel movements, such as occasional constipation or diarrhea, cramping, and minor blood in the stool.

How is colon cancer diagnosed?

Colon cancer is typically diagnosed through a combination of methods, including colonoscopy, where a flexible tube with a camera is used to examine the colon via the rectum, and other tests like CT scans, biopsies, and blood tests. 

Most people should begin getting regular colon cancer screenings beginning at 45 years old, which include a colonoscopy.

What does a cancer screening include for bowel cancer?

A cancer screening is a medical test or examination aimed at detecting cancer at an early stage, often before any signs of bowel cancer appear. Common cancer screenings include colonoscopies for colorectal cancer.

When to Seek Urgent Care

Stomach growling is typically a normal part of digestion unless it is accompanied by blood in your stool, nausea, vomiting, persistent constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, or constant abdominal pain. In those cases, there may be other issues with your digestive tract that cause gurgling sounds.

If those concerning symptoms are present, I strongly advise consulting your healthcare provider to seek a diagnosis. If blood and severe pain are present, I would even recommend seeking immediate care where further tests can rule out any underlying health issues, including bowel cancer or bowel obstruction.

Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the prognosis of gastrointestinal conditions. If you’re experiencing worrisome symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult your primary care provider for a thorough evaluation and peace of mind. 

Our holistic doctors at PrimeHealth in Colorado can develop an individualized plan to address your stomach issues at their root cause.


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