Why does your stomach always rumble?

Hannah Braye
Photo credit: Diy13 - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

If you’re regularly interrupted by the sound of your own rumbling stomach, you might be wondering what on earth is going on down there. Rest assured, these noises are completely normal, but they can sometimes cause embarrassment – especially if your tummy pipes up in the middle of a silent classroom or work meeting!

But what causes these noises, is there anything you can do about them – and could it be a sign of anything more serious? Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult offers her expert advice on rumbling stomachs:

What is stomach rumbling?

Rumbling from the digestive system (known as borborygmi) doesn't only come from the stomach – just as often, it can be heard coming from the small intestine. Its origin involves activity of the smooth muscle, which lines the stomach and small intestine. When the walls are activated in a series of contractions (known as peristalsis) to mix and propel food, gas, air and fluids through the digestive tract, it generates a rumbling noise. Such bowel sounds are most often a normal occurrence and aren’t generally any cause for concern.

How to stop stomach rumbling

While a rumbling stomach is perfectly natural, it can of course be a tad embarrassing. As everybody experiences it, it’s an easy one to laugh off, but if you’d like to reduce the gurgles, there are a few things you can try with may help:

✔️ Take time over your food, eat more mindfully and chew your food well.

✔️ Avoid using straws, which can cause you to swallow more air.

✔️ As hunger can initiate stomach rumbling and make it louder, try eating smaller meals or snacks more regularly.

✔️ Slowly sipping on a glass of water to help fill the stomach may also be helpful.

Stomach rumbling and food intolerance

Rumbling noises are completely natural and usually nothing to worry about. Therefore there is no need for the majority of people to cut food groups out of their diet. However, for some individuals, incomplete digestion of food can lead to excess gas in the intestine, which may be a contributing factor to borborygmi.

Often this may be due to incomplete digestion of carbohydrate-containing foods, including:

  • Milk and other dairy products - lactose intolerance
  • Gluten - protein in wheat, barley and rye
  • Certain fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes
  • High-fibre whole grains

Avoiding foods that you have identified as triggering your symptoms before important work or social events may therefore help reduce embarrassment.

Stomach rumbling and hunger

Think your stomach only rumbles when you’re hungry? Not so. Stomach rumbling can occur at any time, on an empty or full stomach. The rate and force of peristalsis typically increases in the presence of food, and also after the stomach and small intestines have been empty for approximately two hours.

Growling is more commonly associated with hunger, however, because it is typically louder when the stomach and intestines are empty – the organs' contents don't muffle the noise. The noises can persist for up to 20 minutes at a time and may recur every hour until food is consumed.

Why do stomachs rumble?

Bowel sounds that accompany digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or other symptoms such as bloating, excess gas, diarrhoea, constipation, reflux, food intolerances or feelings of fullness may indicate there is an imbalance in the digestive tract. This may need to be investigated by a healthcare practitioner, in order to rule out any more serious underlying causes.

Investigation and treatment should be personalised for optimal results, so working with a registered nutrition practitioner is a good idea. They will be able to investigate a variety of factors that may be contributing to your symptoms, such as sub-optimal stomach acid, digestive enzyme or bile secretion, dysbiosis (an imbalance of micro-organisms in the gut), gut hyper-permeability (leaky gut) and hidden food intolerances.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed below, the following advice may help:

• Bloating

Stomach bloating can often be a sign of an imbalance in the micro-organisms in the gut. Generally speaking, more beneficial species produce a lot less (if any) gas when fermenting fibre, whereas more pathogenic, unfriendly species produce a lot more gas.

Supporting a healthy microbial balance by regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, live yoghurt and miso, is recommended, as well as taking a good-quality live bacteria supplement.

Bloating may also indicate sub-optimal levels of digestive enzymes or stomach acid needed to properly digest foods. To increase levels naturally, concentrate on mindful eating and reducing stress levels, and consider taking a broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplement at the start of each meal.

• Irritable bowel syndrome

An imbalance of micro-organisms is also common in those suffering with IBS. Live bacteria supplements have been shown to potentially reduce rumbling and gurgling noises in those with the condition while also improving overall IBS symptom severity. For example, the 14 strains in Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formulation were recently used in the largest-ever double-blind randomised controlled trial of live bacteria supplements in IBS patients ever-conducted.

The study in 400 people found that Bio-Kult significantly improved overall symptom severity in IBS patients and was well tolerated. Abdominal pain and frequency reduced by an average of 69 per cent and 34 per cent of participants were completely symptom-free at the end of the four month trial.

• Constipation

Many constipation sufferers respond well to a high-fibre diet, plenty of fluids and increased physical activity, so these should be your first steps. High-fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain rice, oats, flaxseeds, prunes, beans and pulses increase both the frequency and quantity of bowel movements, speed up transit time, decrease the absorption of toxins from the stool and appear to be a preventative factor in several diseases.

Aiming for two portions of fruit and at least five portions of vegetables a day, switching to whole grains and incorporating a portion of beans or pulses into your diet every day is a good start. However, when increasing fibre in your diet its best to do it gradually, as rapid increases can sometimes exacerbate digestive symptoms.

• Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is often a sign of an infection or an overgrowth of un-beneficial species in the gut. In fact, many people develop on-going diarrhoea after a nasty bout of food poisoning or stomach bug (known as post-infectious IBS).

Beneficial species of bacteria in the gut play an important role protecting against pathogens by competing for space and nutrients, regulating the pH and secreting anti-microbial substances. Fermented foods and a good-quality live bacteria supplement is therefore recommended.

As those with fast transit times may not be absorbing as many nutrients from their food, a digestive enzyme supplement may also be beneficial. It’s also important for those with diarrhoea to stay well hydrated, to replace lost fluids.

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