Why does my stomach grumble when I'm hungry?

26 July 2016

Question

Why does my stomach grumble (physically and noisily) when I am hungry?

Answer

Lucka Bibic asked Dr Rashini Raj from Medical Trinity Center in New York for an answer to this noisy question...

Rashini - Stomach rumbling or growling as we call it can be very common and quite normal in most cases. What's happening here is your digestive tract is a hollow tube that moves food and drink along. When you have a mixture of liquid, food, gas, moving along through the intestine, that can cause noises - sometimes quite loud.

Now when we're hungry our brain sends signals to our stomach to secrete juices (so that's a liquid). It also sends signals to our intestine to start contracting, moving those juices and air along and because this hollow tube is empty at this moment, the noises are more amplified and you might hear them more.

Lucka - Roger that Doc! What if these loud stomach noises come to the point that it's quite embarrassing?

Rashini - Now if you're hearing more noises than usual when you're hungry or any time during the day, and it's something different from your normal pattern, you may want to have this investigated with a doctor. Because, occasionally, increased bowel sounds as we call them are noises from your intestine, could be a sign that you're not digesting your food properly. If you're not digesting food properly, more gas can be released and then this can cause more noises being generated when the muscles of the intestinal wall are contracting and causing what we call peristalsis, which the motion of food and liquid being moved along the hollow tube of your digestive tract.

Lucka - So either feel the stomach or give your belly the room to process and break down your food properly. Is there any other way to quiet the beast?

Rashini - Certain foods can produce more gas which, in turn, can produce louder noises. Things like beans, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, foods or drinks that contain lactose, gluten or wheat for certain people. These may also cause more stomach rumbling so, if you're having an issue, you may want to try cutting out some of these foods and see if you notice a difference. Even something as simple as chewing gum causes you to swallow more air which then, in your intestine, can cause more noisy peristalsis.

Lucka - But no worries, there's always a silver lining to everything! Right Rashini?

Rashini - In general, stomach rumbling is generally nothing to worry about. You may be consuming a few more gassy foods than you should be and you might want to try cutting down on these if the stomach rumbling is really bothering you. But, for the most part, it's a normal, healthy part of digestion so just don't worry about it too much.

Lucka - Thanks Rashini. Next week we will be answering Tony's question:

If you could slice the Earth in half and leave the inner and outer core intact, like cutting an avocado - what would it look like from space? Kat - From the human stomach to the belly of the earth, if you think you know the answer to this one then send it in to chris at naked scientists dot com, tweet at naked scientists or get stuck in on our forum, naked scientists dot com forward slash forum.

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