Many people experience “stomach growling” after eating. Also known as borborygmi, it is the sound of muscle contractions and gas formation in the digestive system as food passes through the intestines.
While noises from the gut can be embarrassing in some instances, they are entirely normal. A noisy gut by itself does not indicate a health problem. However, a very noisy or completely silent gut may be a cause for concern.
This article outlines the causes of noisy digestion and lists some treatments and home remedies that may help reduce noise from the gut. It also provides advice on when to see a doctor.
The medical term for stomach rumbling is borborygmi. However, it is not the stomach that makes these sounds. Instead, it is the intestines.
Borborygmi occurs as a result of digestion. The digestive process is a noisy one that involves muscle contractions, gas formation, and movement of food and liquids through up to 30 feet of intestines.
People typically hear rumbling or gurgling as food exits the stomach and enters the small intestine. This is due to the small intestine using peristalsis, or muscle contractions, to move the food along.
As the food leaves the small intestine, it passes into the large intestine, or bowel. Gurgling noises may continue as the bowel absorbs water and nutrients and continues to push the food along. The bowel also produces gas bubbles, which can create a rumbling sound as they make their way through the digestive tract.
Borborygmi is a natural side effect of the complex digestive process. It may produce the following sounds:
- high pitched squeaks
- low pitched gurgling or growling noises
- sounds of churning or sloshing liquids
All of these variations can be normal if a person feels fine and does not have other symptoms, such as abdominal pain.
Intestinal sounds are usually a sign of normal, healthy digestion. As such, a person cannot avoid them altogether.
However, if a person is bothered by the sound of their intestines, they can take steps to quieten the digestive process. This article outlines some examples below.
Avoiding certain foods
Certain foods and drinks can increase intestinal gas and associated borborygmi in some people. People should try to identify any foods that trigger noisy digestion and avoid those foods where possible. Some common culprits include:
- Dairy and dairy products: Dairy products contain the sugar lactose, which can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea in people who are lactose intolerant. According to the National Institutes of Health, around 65% of the world population have difficulty digesting lactose after infancy.
- Beans: Beans contain certain carbohydrates that some people have difficulty digesting. Soaking the beans for several hours before cooking may help reduce this problem. Alternatively, a person can simply avoid eating beans at times when stomach rumbling is likely to be a concern.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cabbage are examples of cruciferous vegetables. The high fiber and high sulfur content of these vegetables can contribute to excess gas production.
- Carbonated drinks: A carbonated drink may invite air into the intestines, leading to noisy digestion, and possibly excess gas.
- Fructose: This sugar is found naturally in some fruits, vegetables, and wheat. It is also present in many sweetened drinks and processed foods. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), it can cause a noisy gut.
- Sorbitol: This is a different type of fruit sugar. Food manufacturers often add it to sugar-free candies and gums. Like fructose, sorbitol may cause a noisy gut.
Some herbs have a soothing effect on the muscles of the digestive tract. As such, they may help to quiet the gut. Some examples include:
The above herbs are available as supplements that people can take after eating. Alternatively, a person can try adding the herbs to hot water to make a herbal tea and drinking this after meals.
A person should talk to their doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Some supplements can cause side effects or may interact with certain medications.
Most of the time, stomach noises are not a cause for concern. However, people who experience any of the signs and symptoms below should see a doctor.
A person should see a doctor if they frequently experience borborygmi along with any of the following symptoms:
The above symptoms could indicate a digestive health issue that requires medical attention.
Very noisy intestines
According to the IFFGD, very noisy intestines can sometimes be a sign of a food intolerance or a nutrient absorption issue. For instance, people who have lactose intolerance or celiac disease may have excess hydrogen and fluids in the gut. This can increase intestinal contractions and associated borborygmi.
In rare cases, very loud or high pitched intestinal sounds could indicate a blockage in the gut. The sounds are due to the intestines contracting aggressively to try and force solids and liquids past the blockage. Other potential symptoms of an intestinal blockage include:
- severe abdominal cramps and pain
- a feeling of fulness or swelling in the belly
- inability to pass gas
- inability to pass stool
If a person experiences the above symptoms, they should contact a doctor immediately or seek emergency medical care.
A lack of intestinal sounds can also indicate a complete intestinal blockage or a rupture, both of which are life threatening. If a person has abdominal pain and their doctor cannot hear any intestinal sounds through a stethoscope, this is a medical emergency.
It can also happen if a person swallows a non-food item. Intestinal growths, known as colon polyps, can also grow and cause a blockage. Colon polyps can be benign, precancerous, or cancerous.
Bowel sounds, or borborygmi, are a normal part of digestion for most people. They are not usually a sign of a digestive health problem.
If a person finds the sounds embarrassing, they can try eliminating foods that promote gas and bloating or are difficult to digest.
Unusual bowel sounds, or lack of them, combined with abdominal pain could be a sign of a severe medical problem. If a person experiences such symptoms, they should seek medical attention right away.