Why does my stomach rumble?

Borborygmi. The word itself sounds like the sound your stomach makes when it rumbles. Despite its onomatopoeic tendency, the word borborygmi comes from the Greek "borboryzein," which means "to rumble." Borborygmi is the medical term for stomach rumbling.


Peristalsis, the muscular contractions that move food along the digestive tract, is the most common cause of borborygmi. As food travels through the stomach, small intestine and large intestine, it breaks down and gas is produced. The sound you hear is the food and gas being pushed through your body through peristalsis. Such bowel sounds are completely normal. In fact, the absence of bowels sounds can indicate that your digestive tract is not working properly.


When it's been a while since you last ate, your hypothalamus sends a signal that tells you you're hungry. When that signal reaches your stomach and intestines, muscle contractions increase and digestive fluids are released. This is when your stomach rumbles. Your body is getting ready for its next meal. Sometimes this process can be triggered simply by the smell or sight of food, even if you've just eaten.


Sometimes stomach rumbling is caused by something other than normal food digestion. Irritable bowel syndrome causes abdominal pain, altered bowel habits and abdominal distension in addition to stomach rumbling. Functional dyspepsia can cause excess stomach growling due to nerve and muscle dysfunction in the digestive tract. Stomach noises can accompany aerophagia or chronic belching caused commonly by anxiety. Lactose intolerance can cause excess gas and, consequently, louder bowel sounds. Disorders of carbohydrate malabsorption, such as coeliac disease and short bowel syndrome, are caused by the body's inability to process certain foods and can result in stomach rumbling in addition to many other symptoms.


You can prevent or decrease normal borborygmi by eating several smaller meals during the day. Decrease the amount of carbonated beverages you drink to avoid adding gas to your digestive system. Drink plenty of water to keep your digestive tract lubricated properly. Avoid foods such as cabbage, broccoli and beans that cause gas.


If rumbling is accompanied by severe pain or discomfort or you notice significantly altered bowel habits, you should consult a physician to ensure that nothing more serious is causing your abdominal issues.

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About the Author

Catherine M. Albano has worked in various forms of publishing for more than 24 years as an art trainee, magazine production editor, composition and layout specialist, and project editor. She has written articles for various websites and graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, concentration in writing.