Stomach growling (AKA borborygmus) is a rumbling in your abdomen that happens when food, fluid, or gas make its way through your stomach and/or small intestine. These borborygmi are often accompanied by other symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.
Most people experience stomach growling every so often. Your body might be telling you that you are hungry. Or it could be a more dangerous underlying cause.
Your digestive tract follows a two hour cycle, even on an empty stomach. Peristalsis is a natural process where a series of digestive muscle contractions bring food, fluid, and gas through your gastrointestinal tract. Peristalsis is normal, but it can contribute to rumbling noises.
Why does stomach growling happen?
What does it mean if you have hyperactive bowel sounds? “Hyperactive bowel sounds” is another term for stomach growling and borborygmi.
There are many reasons for hyperactive bowel sounds. Here are the most common causes for stomach growling:
- Slow or incomplete digestion
- Anxiety, stress
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies (such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intestinal blockage
- Eating too quickly
- Eating gassy foods
- Eating acidic foods
What does it mean when my stomach growls but I’m not hungry?
You may have eaten too quickly or at an abnormal time if your stomach growls even when you’re not hungry. Non-hungry stomach growling can also be a result of anxiety or stress.
If you experience intestinal noises at the same time as other symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation, it is more likely the rumbling sounds are a result of IBS, food allergies, intestinal blockage, or intestinal infection.
Is a rumbling stomach a sign of colon cancer?
Colon cancer can make your tummy gurgle.
If your stomach growling is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should go to the doctor right away:
- Blood in your stool
- Excess gas
- Nausea, vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Unintended weight loss
11 Ways to Stop Your Stomach from Growling
Stomach growling is often your body signaling that you are hungry or have low blood sugar.
So, eat away!
Even eating a (healthy) snack can muffle grumbling or altogether stop stomach noises.
2. Eat and chew slowly
Eating more slowly helps you digest food better, which stops stomach grumbling before it even begins. The enzymes in your mouth will start to break down food before you even swallow, this is a very important step.
To make this work, chew more slowly (don’t just spend more time between bites). Slower chewing ensures slower eating, but thorough chewing also decreases the amount of air you swallow. This decreases the amount of gas in your stomach, reducing the risk of stomach growling.
3. Don’t eat too much
Don’t worry, not all of these solutions are eating changes. But overeating is another problem you want to avoid.
Eating too much can trigger digestive problems, including increased stomach growling.
4. Drink water
In the case of stomach growling, water helps the digestive process along and fills your stomach.
However, drinking big gulps of water can result in stomach grumbling. To prevent this, drink small amounts of water throughout the day. It’s best to try and drink water in between meals and less during meals since this will allow digestive enzymes to work better.
5. Relieve stress
Stress and anxiety are major causes of stomach growling, as well as diarrhea and digestive distress.
Meditation and yoga are always great ways to relieve stress and center your focus.
A full night’s sleep (7-8 hours) is also important to stress management. Get higher quality sleep by turning off technology an hour or two before bedtime (because of blue light emissions) In addition, wearing blue light blocker glasses at night after the sun goes down helps your body adjust to a restful state.
Going outside and spending time in green spaces has been shown to reduce anxiety.
The importance of stress and anxiety management cannot be understated. Chronic stress and anxiety are the root causes of many diseases, such as some that result in stomach growling.
6. Eat less gassy food
Some foods result in more gas production than others, so reducing your intake of gassy foods can stop stomach growling. You probably thought of beans, but there are some surprising gassy foods:
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli, cauliflower
- Dairy products
- Carbonated sodas
7. Eat less acidic food
Acidic foods (like fruits, spicy foods, and caffeinated beverages) may contribute to stomach growling.
What else is there to say? Avoid acidic foods if stomach grumbling is a persistent problem.
8. Eat less sugar
Consuming sugar can trigger diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach growling, particularly fructose and even sugar alcohols like erythritol and sorbitol (sugar-free sweeteners).
9. Drink less alcohol
Alcoholic beverages irritate your gastrointestinal tract, which may trigger stomach growling.
Alcohol can result in inflammation of your stomach, another potential trigger of stomach growling.
Large amounts of alcohol can slow the emptying of your stomach. This may lead to stomach pain and — you guessed it — stomach grumbling.
10. Take a walk
Taking a walk after you eat makes your stomach empty faster and helps the digestive process along.
15 minutes after eating, take a slow and relaxing 20-minute walk. Research indicates this may even help lower blood sugar (though this study was performed on diabetes patients).
Staying active is important to overall health, but particularly digestive health.
11. Test for food intolerances
If you are experiencing persistent stomach growling, maybe now is the time for you to figure out if you have a food allergy or food intolerance.
Are your abdominal sounds caused by IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common medical condition that often goes untreated by conventional doctors. IBS may cause stomach growling or other abdominal sounds.
Common symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal sounds (growling, etc.)
- Diarrhea or constipation
When to Call Your Doctor
Stomach growling is usually a very normal thing. But some concurrent symptoms should prompt a visit to the doctor’s office right away.
Visit your doctor for testing right away if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Blood in your stool
- Persistent constipation
- Persistent diarrhea
- Constant abdominal pain
Diagnosing Abnormal Stomach Growling
To diagnose persistent or abnormal grumbling in your stomach or small/large intestine, your doctor or gastroenterologist will probably ask about:
- Other concurrent symptoms
- Medical history
- Family history
If he/she suspects anything out of the ordinary, he/she will order further testing. For example, blood in your stool and a family history of cancer could indicate colon cancer, so the doctor might order imaging tests or a biopsy.
At PrimeHealth, we would test for a few more underlying causes than your typical doctor, including SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) — which could lead to IBS and stomach grumbling. We would also likely conduct a full functional stool analysis to assess for infections, parasites, irregularities in your gut microbiome and other problems in digestion.
With all the potential causes, a growling stomach affects millions of Americans. It is important to find out the cause of your stomach rumbling, so you and/or your doctor can figure out how to treat it.
A little gurgling in your stomach is normal. Usually, it means something harmless. But it is good to understand when to go to the doctor.
If you experience persistent stomach noises, consider scheduling a free phone consultation. We treat patients with digestive system disorders all the time. At PrimeHealth, we empower patients and work with them to figure out a treatment plan that works for them.
— Medically reviewed by Soyona Rafatjah, MD. on June 9, 2020
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