It is quite common for many of us to have gurgling sound from the stomach. Variety of activities like breakdown of molecules, absorption of nutrients and removal of waste particles take place in the abdomen every day. But there are sounds that are embarrassing causing discomfort for the person. Gurgling stomach is one such sounds that may occur in the abdomen or small intestine. One cannot ignore that getting such noise from the stomach is normal all the time. It can be indicative of underlying medical problem like irritable bowel syndrome or any other gastrointestinal disorder.
Gurgling Stomach Symptoms :
Often gurgling stomach noise is made not from the stomach but from the intestine. It can be the sound of gurgling, rumbling and growling. Sometimes, the intensity of sound varies producing high pitched noise causing embarrassment. For some people it can cause additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, frequent watery stool, constipation and excess of gas which can be a matter of concern needing medical attention. You can ignore the gurgling stomach if you are getting it occasionally after eating or drinking. But if it is a daily routine you need to check with your GP.
The stomach of human body is more or less resembles the letter “J”. It begins with the end of esophagus as thin tube like structure and proceeds as a hollow organ and ending with small tube that gets connected with the small intestine. As many of you think stomach will not remain silent when you are not eating/drinking anything. It swings into action for every 3-4 hours even if you stay on fasting. The major function of the stomach is to work on the indigested food particles, secreting enzymes for breakdown of foods and converting it to a fine paste called chyme. The final product of chyme is deposited into the small intestine for further digestion and absorption. Seeing foodstuffs, smelling it and just thinking about your favorite item can make your stomach to secrete several gastric juices. The walls of the stomach move up and down when these juices and enzymes are being produced making gurgling noise.
How Do You Feel Hungry?
Your digestive system activates some signals which are sent to hypothalamus of the brain and perceived as hunger. When your stomach remains empty for hours together it makes gurgling noise which is nothing but movement of muscles of the stomach. Brain observes certain changes in the hormone levels of the abdomen making you to feel hungry.
Gurgling Stomach Causes :
- Diet – Eating acidic foods like cabbage and beans can produce noise resembling gurgling stomach. Your abdomen may not have the required enzyme or chemical to breakdown such foods. Bacteria present in the stomach will act on any food substance producing gases like CO2, hydrogen and methane. This can also produce rumbling sound.
- Movement Of Food – The abdominal sounds like gurgling and rumbling noises are produced when the food particles along with air moves here and there in the stomach. Walls of the abdomen contract to facilitate mixing of food and squeezing it to a paste which can be subsequently passed into the small intestine. This is known as peristalsis which can be a cause for gurgling stomach. Movement of food can take place even after many hours of eating and also during night when you are asleep. Abdomen is busy round the clock and it does not take rest like you and me.
- Feeling Hungry – As said already, when a person feels hungry it can produce sound that look like gurgling stomach. Certain hormones are released from the stomach sending signals to the brain which tells you that you are hungry and it is time for you eat something.
- Overactive Stomach – Sometimes your stomach becomes overactive due to high intake of alcohol or due to heightened stress. Anxiety and stressful movements can seriously upset your digestive system, causing gurgling stomach and diarrhea.
- Block Inside The Intestine – If there is any ulcer or tumor inside the intestine at the point of intersection, food particles may not be able to pass into the intestine freely. This can be a reason for gurgling stomach. But this condition would cause other warning signs like severe constipation, stomach pain, and bloating feeling.
- Accumulation Of Gases – Due to the intake of certain kinds of foods your abdomen may produce excess of gas making louder bowel sounds. Drinking carbonated drinks can lead to excess of gas formation in the abdomen, creating gurgling stomach.
Sound With Other Symptoms :
Gurgling noise from the stomach for long period is a matter of concern. It can be due to more serious causes like irritable bowel syndrome or any kind of gastrointestinal problem. Often there would be other signs like nausea, dizziness, excess of gas, bloating sensation, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Your appetite may decrease drastically and you may have headache and disturbed sleep also. For some people bloating feeling will resolve automatically during night but reappear the next morning with full vigor. This can be due to IBS which needs evaluation and treatment.
Hypoactive and Hyperactive Sounds :
- Hypoactive sound is one that is produced when the intestinal function has reduced. The noise can be felt or heard only by the concerned person.
- Hyperactive sound is one in which loud sounds is produced by the stomach making others to turn their head. Often hyperactive sounds are produced shortly after eating.
Other Causes :
Gurgling stomach can also be caused due to trauma, shock, anxiety, serious infection or hernia. Low levels of potassium in blood can produce gurgling stomach noise. Sometimes, if there is any block in the bowel movement it can produce unwanted noise.
Your doctor will first listen to the symptoms and order for several tests including blood culture for checking any serious infection and endoscopy. Imaging tests like X-ray or CT scan can also be done for identifying any tumor inside.
Getting noise occasionally from your stomach needs no treatment. It is enough if you take antacids from Walgreens or Prilosec etc. This would help in relieving you from the gurgling stomach noise. Normally you don’t need any treatment for bowel sounds that are heard once in a while. The only thing you have to do is limit the intake of acidic foods and include plenty of fiber and water. People living with lactose allergy should totally avoid milk and its related products. Eat slowly after chewing the food properly. Avoid talking while eating since you may swallow air along with food causing more of gastric problem.
- Prescription Medications :
Based on the symptoms and nature of problem your doctor may prescribe suitable drugs. If you are found to have IBS your doctor may prescribe Alosetron for relaxing the colon movement or Lubiprostone which increases secretion of fluids in the small intestine thus making bowel movements easy. Further you will be given instructions to make dietary changes, avoiding gluten, acidic foods and use fiber supplements like Citrucel and other anti-diarrheal medications. In case of high acidity suitable doses of omeprazole of high strength will be prescribed.
- Surgery :
In rare cases surgery is done for removing intestinal blockage and repair. Don’t hesitate to seek prompt medical attention if you have serious symptoms like rectal bleeding, and severe abdominal cramps. You will be given emergency treatment to prevent any complications.
Lifestyle Changes :
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fiber.
- Get quality sleep at night.
- Reduce acidic foods.
- Eat little amount of foods at frequent intervals of time.
- Reduce coffee, tea and other beverages that increase gas formation.
- Do regular exercises.
- Manage stress by joining yoga and meditation classes.
- Quit smoking and drinking. If that is not possible limit the intake.
Hearing noises of gurgling stomach once in a while is quite common. But if it continues for long-term and is presenting additional signs like abdominal cramps, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation you need to check with your GP quickly since it can be warning signs of serious problem inside. Once the cause of gurgling stomach is found the symptoms can be managed and treated fully.