Gurgling Stomach

 What is Gurgling Stomach?

The process of digestion involves usage of certain enzymes to break down proteins in food and make it into a paste called chime. It passes into the excretory system through the duodenum accompanied by movement of the stomach walls. The stomach produces certain gastric juices that aid in the digestion. This action is performed at an interval of every 3 to 4 hours, irrespective of whether there is food in the stomach or not. This movement of the stomach walls and the release of gastric juices produce a gurgling sound which is also known as borborygmus in medical terms.

Gurgling – is it good or bad?

When the muscle coat of the intestines has little or no contraction, it may seem that they have ‘gone to sleep’; such a condition is known as ileus. It may be caused due to injuries in the back or any other part of the body, bed rest, narcotics, surgery, medication, etc. It results in constipation. Therefore, gurgling noise is good because a silent abdomen may be an indicator of constipation. However, constant gurgling accompanied by pain or discomfort can be a cause of concern

Following are some of the Hypoactive and hyperactive sounds produced by the gut and their respective indications:

  • The noise produced when there is a reduction in the functioning of the intestine is known as hypoactive sound. It can only be heard by the person who experiences the condition.
  • Loud sounds produced shortly after eating, by the stomach are known as hyperactive sounds. The sound is loud enough to be heard by others too.

What are the causes of Gurgling Stomach?

  • Digestion: Food travels from one place to the other within the digestive and excretory systems of the body. The contraction of muscles inside the stomach and small intestine moves the contents in the gastro intestinal tract and is known as peristalsis. Certain noises are then produced while food, air and fluid move within the digestive system.
  • Poor digestion: The small intestine may have difficulty in absorbing certain substances such as fructose and artificial sweeteners containing sugar alcohols. Thus intestinal noise may be observed in such cases. Moreover, people who suffer from celiac disease or lactose intolerance are more likely to have increased intestinal gurgling.
  • Hunger: Mostly hunger is accorded as the cause of a rumbling stomach, but it may not always be the reason. However, a noisy stomach continues to rumble with the movement of its walls and the release of gastric juices even if the individual thinks of, smells or sees food rather than actually eating it. The sound produced is louder when the stomach and intestines are empty as the sound is not muffled due to the presence of other contents.
  • Serious problems: Other serious health issues such as Food intolerance, bacterial growth in the intestine and distention of the abdomen may also have gurgling tummy as a possible symptom. Conditions like diarrhea, excess gas, cramping, bloating may accompany irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Nervousness: The nerve sends signals to the stomach whenever an individual experiences anxiety or nervousness. The muscles in the stomach may contract resulting in the production of gurgling noise. People who are anxious or upset may also experience such noises as it is in close relation to their psychological state of mind.
  • Lack of sleep: Long working hours and unhealthy habits have led people to compromise their sleeping time in order to indulge in other activities. This prevents them from getting the required 6 to 7 hours of sleep causing digestive problems accompanied by gurgling in the stomach.
  • Eating habits: Swallowing air while drinking or talking, eating in a hurry, consuming heavy meals with little or no exercise can result in the production of gurgling noise from the stomach. Habits like smoking, drinking through a straw, chewing gum, having carbonated drinks, etc. can lead to this health condition.
  • GERD (Acid Reflux): Stomach gurgling along with a burning sensation may be experienced when various acids and stomach enzymes are forced into the food pipe. It is known as Gastro esophageal reflux disease in which people are advised to consume food frequently in small meals rather than having large meals with long time gaps.
  • Other causes: Excessive stomach sounds may also be produced in case of hernia, serious infections, low levels of potassium in blood or block in bowel movement.

Symptoms of Gurgling Stomach

The following are the gas noises produced by the stomach hinting towards the condition of a gurgling stomach:

  • Growling
  • High pitched sound
  • Rumbling
  • Sound resembling a deflated balloon

The sounds produced by the stomach or intestines can be a sign that the digestive system is performing its functions normally. However, there are certain symptoms that accompany these loud gurgling noises indicating an underlying health problem. They include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stools with blood
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Excess gas
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Feeling full/bloating
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Headache
  • Belching
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Flatulence – accumulation of gas in the alimentary canal
  • Vomiting
  • Alteration in bowel habits for at least five weeks

Tests for Gurgling Stomach

  • Examination of stools for presence of blood
  • Checking for abdominal pain
  • Checking for diarrhea or constipation
  • Checking for bleeding from rectum
  • Abdominal Ct scan
  • Abdominal X-ray
  • Endoscopy to examine the stomach and intestines
  • Blood tests to check for organ damage, infection or inflammation
  • Checking for presence of other symptoms
  • Examination for abdominal distention
  • Checking for presence of excessive gas or absence of gas

How to stop Stomach Growling?

  • Balanced intake of water: Drinking clean and healthy water at regular intervals prevents the stomach from producing noise. Presence of germs and bacteria can cause an infection in the intestines. However, drinking excessive water can also cause gurgling stomach as the water produces noise while moving.
  • Eating smaller meals: Eating in smaller quantities enables the stomach to digest food properly. It prevents the chances of straining the stomach while trying to digest large meals.
  • Eating at regular intervals: An empty stomach is also capable of producing loud noises due to the presence of air and the movement of gastric juices in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, to avoid a rumbling stomach, it is advisable to have small meals at regular intervals.
  • Have adequate sleeps: An adult requires up to 6-7 hours of sleep daily. This is necessary as it allows the body to rest and gives time for the food to be digested properly.
  • Avoid tight clothes: Wearing tight clothes may slow down the process of digestion by obstructing the gastrointestinal tract. This may also lead to gurgling stomach.
  • Cultivate healthy eating habits: Proper eating habits will help in the reduction of stomach gurgling. Eating slowly and chewing the food properly prevents the presence of too much air in the digestive system. Avoiding smoking, alcohol, carbohydrates and fats, carbonated drinks, sugary and starchy food.
  • Maintain good hygiene: Habits such as washing one’s hands before meals, keeping food and water covered promotes good health and avoids contamination due to bacteria and other disease causing germs.
  • Stress management: Stress affects bowel movement, hence people must try to de-stress by meditating, praying, relaxing, etc.
  • Herbal tea: Having chamomile and peppermint tea speeds up the process of digestion and has a soothing sensation on the stomach.
  • Changes in lifestyle
    • Consumption of acidic foods must be reduced
    • Exercise regularly
    • Join yoga or meditation classes to manage stress
    • Increase consumption of diets rich in fiber
    • Reduce intake of beverages such as tea & coffee that increase gas formation
  • Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications depending on the condition of the individual.
    • Alosetron may be prescribed to relax the colon
    • Lubiprostone is prescribed to ease bowel movements by increasing secretion of fluids in the small intestine
    • Omprezol of high strength can also be prescribed to reduce high acidity levels along with other anti diarrheal medicines.
  • Surgery: Serious symptoms such as abdominal cramps and rectal bleeding must be examined as soon as possible. In some rare cases, surgery may be required to remove intestinal blockage. This is necessary to prevent any further complication.

When to visit a doctor?

As mentioned earlier, gurgling stomach is quite normal, as food and fluids move along the digestive system. However, under certain circumstances where the stomach is growling all the time and is accompanied by lower abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea, it may imply that the person might be suffering from some serious illness. In such cases medical expertise is required to diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly.

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