Why does the stomach growl when we are hungry?

This sound’s so familiar: a gurgling, rumbling, roaring deep in the pit of our stomach. Sometimes, it is a faint rumbling when we get close to lunchtime, or when you smell something delicious from your mother’s cooking. Other times, this growling sound embarrasses you while sitting quietly in the middle of a closed-door meeting.

This growling sound has been an attention-grabber for the people of ancient times, including the Greeks. Later on, the Greeks came up with a rather interesting name for it: “borborygmi,” which means, “rumbling.” What a clever onomatopoeia to put the rumbling sound into words!

Borborygmi is a natural phenomenon. This rumbling involves muscular activities in the stomach and small intestine. Our gastrointestinal tract is a hollow tube that runs from the mouth to anus, with walls that are primarily composed of layers of smooth muscles. When the walls are activated, it squeezes the tract’s contents to mix and move food, fluids, and gas through the stomach and small intestines, thus producing a rumbling noise. (click here for more details)

The rumbling sound in the stomach can be associated with hunger. We can also hear this sound hours after eating, even at night while you’re sleeping. However, it’s possible that the rumbling is noticed to be louder at night when you’re in a quiet environment with no other noise to conceal the sound. There are other contributing causes to borborygmi like incomplete digestion, slow digestion, or ingestion of certain foods. (click here for more details)

There are many ways to stop your stomach from growling. If you’re stuck in the middle of traffic and can’t grab food to stop your complaining tummy, drinking water can help prevent it. Water can improve digestion and, at the same time, fill your stomach and soothe some of the hunger reactions. You should not be drinking water consistently, though, or you’ll end up with a gurgling sound instead of the growling.

If your stomach always seems to growl at the 10 am meeting even though you ate earlier, make sure you eat slower during breakfast. Eating slow will help in better food digestion that prevents stomach growling.

Eating more regularly is another solution for chronic stomach growling. If your body starts automatically prompting that it is eating time before you’re ready for a meal, you may need to eat more often. Many people benefit from improved digestion and metabolism by eating four to six meals a day than three large meals.

It is better and safer to chew your food slowly and thoroughly when eating. Slowly chewing prevents you from swallowing air, thus preventing gas and indigestion. Pulverizing each bite gives your stomach a much lesser work to do, making digestion much easier.

Avoid gas-triggering foods like beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Avoiding these foods can significantly reduce indigestion and stomach growling caused by the gas moving through the intestines.

High acid foods like citrus, tomatoes, some sodas, and coffee can contribute to the grumbling noise, so reducing them in your diet can also help prevent it. It is also recommended to skip greasy foods like potato chips because they are more likely to cause gas or indigestion.

Overeating gives hard work for our digestive system. That’s why we notice more gurgling sound following Thanksgiving or New Year’s meal. You can easily avoid overeating by focusing on smaller portions more regularly throughout the day and eating at a slower phase.

Walking after eating helps in digestion as it moves food through your stomach and intestines efficiently. Studies have shown that walking right after a meal, and even a short walk can significantly speed up gastric emptying (the stomach sending food into the intestines). However, we should remember that this doesn’t apply to intense exercise.

Anxiety can slow down gastric emptying, obstructing the digestion process, and keeps your stomach rumbling. If you’re anxious, try deep breathing to calm and reduce the physical side effects like stomach rumbling.

Too much sugar, particularly fructose and sucrose, can cause diarrhea and flatulence, increasing intestinal noise. By reducing excess sugar in your diet, you also prevent a noisy stomach.

You might not like having borborygmi, but it is normal. Whether you’re hungry, digesting loudly, or having indigestion, keep these tips in mind to reduce and prevent stomach growling. Consulting a doctor may be helpful if you’re experiencing frequent stomach growling, abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea.