Growling stomach

Stomach noises (also known as borborygmi) are very common and can tell you that your gastrointestinal (GI) tract needs some attention. For most people, their stomach growls to tell them that they’re hungry, and it is resolved upon eating. However, there are other reasons you may hear stomach noises, and some may be more concerning than others.

Keep reading to learn about why our stomachs make noise, what they mean and what to do about them. Use this step-by-step guide below if you have been noticing abnormal stomach noises.

Why does your stomach growl?

To understand why our stomach might be growling, let’s first talk about the anatomy of our GI tract. While we may point to our torso and refer to it as our “stomach,” our abdominal area contains our esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum (among many other organs).

Depending on where you feel or hear the rumbling, there are specific reasons as to why our “stomachs” grumble:

  • Hunger
  • Smell or thought of food
  • Normal digestion
  • Air bubbles in our stomach (that may produce a belch)
  • Liquid, solids or air tumbling through our small intestine
  • Gas bubbles in our colon (that may lead to flatulence)
  • Stool in our colon or rectum (may be hard, solid, soft or watery)

As you can see, many of these “stomach” noise causes are actually common occurrences. However, there is a point where these causes are cause for concern. More about that in step 5! Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to identify and deal with stomach noises.

Step 1: Are you hungry? Then eat!

When was the last time that you ate? As mentioned above, our stomachs will usually growl when we are hungry. These noises are often accompanied by a sensation of hunger. Your stomach will start to grumble and secrete stomach acid if you haven’t eaten for a while. For most people, once they start eating, their hunger stomach noises go away. In general, try to avoid waiting several hours between meals, otherwise you may become ravenous and overeat.

If you have trouble with remembering to eat, then strive to eat every 4 hours while awake. You can eat meals or convenient snacks like nutritional shakes, snack bars and fresh fruit. Make your own snack stash or try this pre-made snack pack for convenient snacking!

Step 2: Identify the location of the stomach noises.

Next time you hear stomach noises, take your finger and try to pinpoint exactly where you feel or hear the rumbling. Doing this can help you better determine what is causing your stomach noises. Move on to step 3 to help you put all of this information together.

Step 3: Look for other signs in relation to the stomach noises.

Once you know the location of your stomach noises, work through this chart and answer these questions:

Location of stomach noisesQuestions to ask yourselfAdditional signs to watch out for
Esophageal area (chest) and/or stomach· Do I have a history of heartburn?

· Did I have a really large meal?

· Did I eat a fatty meal?

· Was there a lot of liquid in my most recent meal?

· Does my stomach feel really full even hours after eating?

· Was my food cooked and handled properly?
·      Belching

·      Regurgitating food

·      Heartburn

·      Nausea

·      Vomiting

·      Gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying)
Small intestine (middle abdomen)·      Do I have a history of gallbladder issues?

·      Do I have a history of pancreatic issues?

·      Did I eat something that I know doesn’t sit well with me (for those with a food intolerance, food sensitivity or food allergy)?
·      Unintentional weight loss

·      Abdominal pain

·      Abnormally smelly or oily stools

·      Diarrhea
Colon (lower abdomen)· When was my last bowel movement?

· Do I have issues with high FODMAP foods?

· Do I take probiotics (or have I recently changed my probiotic routine)?
      Diarrhea

·      Excessive flatulence

·      Change in bowel habits

·      Lower abdominal pain

Step 4: Try home remedies for certain symptoms.

As you will read in step 5, there are certain bowel issues that must be handled by medical professionals, however, you can sometimes try certain over-the-counter products or home remedies to treat mild GI upset. Be sure to ask your doctor about using over-the-counter medicines, especially if you have other medical conditions.

GI symptomProduct or remedy to try (consult your doctor before use)
Heartburn·      Antacids (i.e. Ranitidine, Prevacid)

·      Avoid drinking liquids during your meals

·      Limit alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods
Nausea· Antiemetics (i.e. Dramamine, Pepto-Bismol)

· Peppermint tea

· Ginger tea or ginger candy like Tummydrops

· Carbonated beverage

· Small meals

· Avoid drinking liquids during your meals
Vomiting·      Small meals

·      Staying hydrated
Bloat, flatulence or gas bubbles·      Movement or exercise

·      Low FODMAP diet

·      Staying hydrated

·      Increasing fiber intake
Diarrhea·      BRAT diet (temporary diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast until symptoms subside)

·      Staying hydrated

·      Antidiarrheals (i.e. Imodium)

·      Limit alcohol, caffeine and sugar alcohols

This is not an exhaustive list of home remedies for stomach noises and other symptoms. For a more personalized list, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian.

Step 5: See your doctor if GI symptoms persist.

Chronic GI symptoms may indicate an underlying condition such as celiac disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or an inability to digest certain nutrients. Also, if you experience vomiting or diarrhea that does not get better after a few days, then call your doctor. Take extra precaution with the elderly, babies and children. Bleeding in the GI tract and bowel obstructions can be medical emergencies, and you should be seen right away.

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