Stomach churning is an uncomfortable sensation that may occur with gurgling, nausea, and other symptoms. Anxiety, indigestion, pregnancy, and irritable bowel syndrome are just some possible causes.

This article describes what stomach churning feels like, if it is normal, and 11 possible causes.

We also explain when to see a doctor and provide some tips for treating and preventing stomach churning.

An x ray showing someone's ribcage and abdomen, butterflies have been artfully super imposed onto the abdominal area to indicate stomach churningShare on Pinterest
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Stomach churning is a feeling of discomfort in a person’s abdominal area. A person may feel uneasy and experience the following gastrointestinal symptoms in their abdomen:

People may use other terms to describe this unsettling sensation. They may describe it as “bubbling or bubbly guts”, as if their “stomach tied in knots,” or they have “butterflies in the stomach”.

Stomach churning vs. stomach growling

Stomach churning often refers to feelings of discomfort, whereas complaints of stomach growling are typically due to sound alone.

The stomach and intestines naturally produce sound during digestion and other processes. It is typically the result of food moving through the digestive system or in the case of hunger, muscle contractions changing, moving air or liquid through voids.

Stomach churning has a variety of potential causes. These include conditions such as indigestion, which can have less serious causes, and other conditions requiring urgent medical attention.

Anyone concerned about their symptoms should speak with a healthcare professional.

Below, some potential causes of stomach-churning are explained in further detail.


Indigestion, or dyspepsia, refers to pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen.

Other symptoms of indigestion can include:

Indigestion may occur after eating too much or too quickly, but can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, or gastritis.

Stress and anxiety

The gut and brain share many of the same nerve connections. For this reason, stress and anxiety can significantly affect the digestive system.

When a person feels stressed or anxious, their body releases stress hormones.

Some of these hormones enter the digestive tract, where they can lead to the following symptoms and conditions:

Premenstrual syndrome

Many people have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), meaning they experience a range of symptoms the week before their period.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, common symptoms of PMS include:

Researchers are unclear exactly what causes PMS, but changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle may play a role.


Digestive issues may occur during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes inside a person’s body. In the later stages of pregnancy, the enlarging womb and fetus can also place more pressure on the abdominal cavity.

Digestive problems that can occur during pregnancy include:

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is a common illness that affects people who have consumed contaminated foods or beverages. The most common causes of food poisoning are harmful bacteria and viruses. Other causes include certain parasites, molds, and chemicals.

Common symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • indigestion
  • abdominal pain and cramps
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea or bloody diarrhea
  • fever

Viral gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis, which people often refer to as “stomach flu,” is a viral infection of the intestines.

The most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in adults is norovirus, which accounts for 19–21 million cases of the illness each year in the United States.

General symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include:

Food intolerances

Stomach churning can sometimes be a symptom of food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance.

Other common intolerances include gluten, nightshade vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables.

Symptoms of food intolerances can include:

  • bloating and gas
  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • stomach growling or rumbling sounds
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea or loose, foul-smelling stools

Celiac disease

People with celiac disease experience digestive symptoms after eating products containing gluten. Gluten is a protein that occurs mainly in wheat, barley, and rye.

The symptoms of celiac disease can vary between people. However, some common digestive symptoms of this condition include:

  • abdominal pain or cramping
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bloating and gas
  • persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • pale, fatty, or foul-smelling stools


IBS is a disorder that affects the function of the bowel. Between 10 – 15% of people in the U.S. have IBS. Experts do not know what causes IBS, but they believe that it may be due to the increased sensitivity of the bowels.

Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • abdominal pain or discomfort
  • bloating
  • diarrhea or constipation

Intestinal obstruction

An intestinal obstruction is a blockage within the small or large intestine that can prevent digested food and waste products from passing through.

Symptoms of an obstruction include:

  • bloating and swelling in the abdomen
  • severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • loud gurgling sounds from the abdomen
  • inability to pass gas
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting


Some medications can cause digestive symptoms, such as stomach churning, as a side effect. These include:

People should speak with a doctor if they experience stomach churning that worsens, does not improve, or reoccurs.

It is also advisable to seek medical attention if stomach churning accompanies other concerning symptoms, including:

  • intense pain
  • severe dehydration
  • severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • blood in vomit or stools
  • unexplained weight loss
  • high fever

The treatment for a churning stomach depends on its underlying cause. However, some steps that people can take to help prevent or alleviate stomach churning include:

The following are answers to commonly asked questions about stomach churning.

How do I stop my stomach from churning?

While treatment depends on the underlying cause, people can manage their symptoms by reducing stress levels, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, taking antacids, and consuming ginger.

Why is my stomach gurgling but not sick?

A range of things can cause stomach gurgling when a person is not sick. Examples include anxiety, pregnancy, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Is stomach gurgling serious?

No, stomach gurgling is not always serious. It can be a normal and temporary symptom of indigestion or pre menstrual syndrome. However, in some cases, it may be a sign of more serious cnditions like celiac disease.

There are many possible causes of stomach churning, including indigestion, stress and anxiety, and taking certain medications.

Stomach churning often only causes temporary discomfort before resolving without treatment. However, this symptom can sometimes indicate an underlying health issue.

People with persistent or recurrent stomach churning should see a doctor, especially if it occurs alongside severe or concerning symptoms.

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