Jump to Topics

Why does your stomach grumble?

Why does your stomach grumble?

The stomach growls when it pushes the food through for digestion but if the growling is accompanied by other symptoms, the stomach or the intestine may be asking for help

stomach growling

A growling stomach is seldom selective. All of us have had more than a fair share of it and continue to do so. Moreover, it is unpredictable, very untimely, most uncooperative and let’s face it, there is nothing we can do to muffle the sound that is potentially audible to everyone around but smile ruefully.

The ancient Greeks seem to have taken the grumbling with a pinch of humour as well and have come up with a rather interesting name for it – borborygmi. It was probably an onomatopoeic attempt to have a word for the untimely rumbling sounds which is now its official medical term.

“I work as a beautician and during facials, when my tummy rumbles, I’m sure it is audible to the client,” says Sharon Shongmit who runs a salon in Bengaluru and has been living with a noisy tummy for many years. “Initially the growling happened only when I was hungry but lately, it happens anytime throughout the day,” complains the 26-year-old beautician.

Rahul Shah an operation in charge with a courier firm based out of Pune, jokes about how he has been asked multiple times if he has skipped his lunch or is hungry by his boss due to the untimely growls from his stomach.

“Although it’s all in good faith with my boss, the rumbling does get a little embarrassing when I’m dealing with people out of my organisation,” says Shah.

Do Shongmit, Shah, and many others who face a similar problem have a reason to worry?

What does it mean when your tummy gurgles a lot?

Dr Sandeep R Sharma, consultant – interventional and medical gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, explains that the growling sounds occur when gas, fluids or digestive juices are pushed through the stomach or either of the intestines along with food. “The food cannot move forward on its own. The muscular action of the walls within the stomach and the intestines propel the food along the digestive tract and produces the growling sound in most people,” he points out.

Shruthi Bhargavi a senior dietitian with Apollo 24/7 Hyderabad, says that contracting and squeezing food and gas through the intestines is called peristalsis and could be a result of hunger, stress and swallowing of excessive air. During hunger, the brain conveys to the stomach to release an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin that instructs the stomach and intestines to contract and cause peculiar sounds.

A significant reason Dr Sharma cites for exaggerated growls is the accumulation of gas in the tummy which according to him can be a result of carbonated drinks, a sugar-rich diet that includes non-digestible sugars like fructose and sorbitol, protein-rich foods like beans and sprouts, and consumption of dairy and wheat products by people who are gluten and lactose intolerant. However, he says that only 20 per cent of the gas comes from food and around 80 per cent of the intestinal gas is due to the air that is swallowed. “That explains why people with anxiety who tend to swallow more air than usual also have pronounced sounds,” Dr Sharma says.

Deficiency could also be a reason for stomach growling. Dr K S Harshith, consultant, internal medicine, Aster RV hospital Bengaluru says growling is a naturally intermittent sound produced by the increased activity of the intestines generally due to a mild deficiency of lactobacillus (bacteria that helps in digestion). Apart from this, he says that there could be other reasons too.

“Increased intestinal motility (gastro-intestinal refluxes) during food poisoning, gastroenteritis and infection of the intestines can also lead to exaggerated sounds,” says Dr Harshith, who does not rule out volvulus or the rotation of the intestine as one of the causes too.


Why do we hiccup?

Tinnitus makes people yearn for sound of silence

Is it safe to crack our knuckles?

When should you be worried about stomach grumble?

Though Dr Sharma says that most borborygmi are harmless and don’t need medical attention, he says that the sounds can’t be ignored every time. “If they (the growling sounds) are associated with other symptoms like diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal pain, it is a cause for concern,” he says and adds that it could be an indication of bowel obstruction, lactose intolerance and other GI problems.

According to Dr Harshith, abdominal distension is more of an indicator of an underlying gastric issue than growling. But if the growling sounds are associated with loose motions and vomiting it could be an indication of food poisoning and if symptoms like abdominal distension, constipation or vomiting are present with a rumbling stomach, they could point toward an intestinal obstruction which can prolong for weeks.

Growling, not the same for everyone

“Everyone’s stomach growls, but most people cannot hear it,” says Dr Sharma.

Interestingly he adds that the growls are more pronounced in people with a leaner build as sound travels better through their body than in people who have layers of fat.

How to soothe a stomach grumble

 Bhargavi suggests changes in diet by beginning to avoid foods that the digestive system takes longer to break down. “Foods like peas, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, alcohol, sugars like sorbitol and fructose, and acidic foods like coffee and citrus, can be avoided,” she says.

She recommends adding ginger chews, peppermint-flavoured foods or cinnamon to the diet to help calm digestive noises.

According to the senior dietitian, over-the-counter probiotics or foods rich in probiotics, such as yoghurt, buttermilk, kefir (thin yoghurt or fermented milk), kimchi (fermented vegetables) and kombucha (sweetened black tea) can be consumed to improve the number of favourable bacteria in the gut.

Dr Sharma stresses reducing dairy products, refined carbohydrates and carbonated drinks from the diet. Speaking on lifestyle changes, he says eating at frequent intervals and not staying hungry for long periods help calm a noisy tummy.

Not forgetting about stress, Bhargavi considers meditation and breathing exercises as some of the ways by which stress can be managed before it escalates and causes more serious digestive problems.

Dr Harshith rounds up by recommending treating gastritis first to reduce stomach growling significantly.

Shongmit has tried cutting down on foods like corn, cabbage and coffee from her diet which she feels upset her stomach. “I have noticed a significant reduction in the rumblings, but just when I feel things are under control, my stomach shows me who’s the boss!” she laughs.

Share Your Experience/Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Physical activity improves the quality as well as duration of sleep. But exercising too close to bedtime is not advisable
While what causes Bell’s palsy is unknown, use of modern medicine along with holistic approaches could offer quick relief
CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. According to American Heart Association, immediate CPR can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest. Keeping the blood flow active, even partially, extends the opportunity for a successful resuscitation once trained medical staff arrive on site. It is an important lifesaving first-aid tool that can be performed by anyone.




Opt-in To Our Daily Newsletter

* Please check your Spam folder for the Opt-in confirmation mail
We use cookies to customize your user experience, view our policy here

Your feedback has been submitted successfully.

The Happiest Health team will reach out to you at the earliest