The room was quiet, the soothing music was between songs and the heater had kicked off, then it happened…borborygmi.
Commonly known as stomach growling.
It has probably happened to you, your stomach growled at the most inappropriate time. You don’t know it’s coming, one moment you are a normal human and the next your stomach is growling like a demon dog.
Growling or Rumbling
Stomach growling is commonly heard and associated with hunger and an empty stomach, but it can occur at any time, on an empty or full stomach. The stomach isn’t the only place that growls, the intestines also get in on the noise making.
Growling is most often linked with hunger because it is louder when the stomach and intestines are empty. There is nothing in there to muffle the noise.
The Greeks gave the noise a name. Borborygmi. Pronounced BOR-boh-RIG-mee. It is the rumbling sound caused by the movement of food, liquids, digestive juices and air through your intestines. Borborygmi actually translates as “rumbling.”
When the muscles of the stomach and small intestine squeeze their contents through the system it generates a rumbling noise. The rate and force of the squeezing typically increases when there is food in it, but the activity also increases after the stomach and small intestine have been empty for approximately two hours.
Receptors in the walls of the stomach sense the absence of food and send a signal to cause hunger contractions. Those contractions produce vibrations and the rumbling noise associated with hunger. Hunger contractions may continue for 10-20 minutes once they start, and then repeat every one to two hours until you eat.
How Much is Too Much?
Although noisy stomach growling may be uncomfortable or even embarrassing, it is a sign that your intestines are working well. Those noises can also be a clue to something bigger going on.
People who swallow a lot of air from eating too fast or talking while eating may have more rumblings than others.
Poor digestion can cause an increase in growling. Food sensitivities such as lactose or wheat intolerances often cause more intestinal noise. A food intolerance can cause gas, flatulence and distention of the abdomen. I can personally attest to how much noise that makes!
Sugarless gum and diet soda contain sugar alcohols that can be difficult for the intestines to absorb, causing more gurgling than usual.
Stomach growling is normal. Stomach growling with other symptoms should not be ignored. If you have excessive growling with abdominal pain, cramping, nausea or vomiting you should seek medical attention.
What You Can Do Naturally
- Drink water: Water aids the digestion as well as filling the stomach to muffle the sound of growling. Sip water slowly throughout the day. Drinking a large amount quickly can increase gurgling sounds.
- Avoid carbonated drinks: Drinking a lot of carbonated beverages can cause a buildup of gas in the intestines.
- Eat something: When the stomach is left empty it will growl to signal a desire for food. Eating a small meal or snack lowers the volume and lessens the noise.
- Get active: Going for a walk after meals has been proven to aid the digestive process by speeding up the rate at which the stomach empties. Faster emptying can reduce stomach rumbling.
- Avoid food and drinks that cause gas: If a certain food causes you to have an abundance of intestinal gas, avoid it.
- Eat mindfully: Chewing food properly reduces the amount of air that is swallowed. Being mindful while eating helps our digestion to work more efficiently.
The most important thing is to know what normal and healthy growling is for you. Pay attention to your body in sickness and in health.