Are those rumbling, gurgling sounds in your stomach a sign of hunger, indigestion, or something more serious? Eva Alsheik, M.D., a gastroenterologist with the Henry Ford Health System, frequently hears these questions from her patients.
“These noises are normal, as long as they are not accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms, such as pain, nausea, excessive swelling, bloating, diarrhea or constipation,” he says.
Reading: Why is my stomach making noises
here dr. alsheik explains what causes these stomach noises, ways to reduce stomach noises and minimize discomfort, and when you should see a doctor for a medical evaluation.
what causes stomach rumbling?
rumblings made by the stomach, called borborygmi, are normal intestinal sounds that occur during the digestive process.
“The smooth muscles lining the intestine contract and squeeze food and gas through 30 feet of the small intestine and large intestine. this process, called peristalsis, creates stomach noises,” says dr. alsheik says. “Even when you can’t easily hear these noises, your doctor can listen to this digestive activity with a stethoscope.”
dr. alsheik educates patients about factors that can increase stomach rumbling and cause mild discomfort during digestion. These causes include:
- dairy products: About 65% of people are lactose intolerant, which means they have difficulty digesting lactose, the main sugar carbohydrate in dairy products.
- Legumes: Foods such as beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts have carbohydrates that are difficult for some people to digest.
- Cruciferous vegetables: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and other green leafy vegetables can be more difficult for the digestive system to break down.
- artificial sweeteners: diet carbonated beverages and sugar-free gum and candy that contain artificial sugars, such as sorbitol and fructose, can be more difficult to digest.
Each day, you swallow air as it moves through your digestive tract. you swallow more air when you sip from a straw, drink a carbonated beverage, or smoke.
excessive growth of bacteria
We all have millions of healthy bacteria in our intestines that help break down and absorb the food we eat. this process releases hydrogen and methane gases, which can cause increased bowel sounds, bloating, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. If you have an overgrowth of unfavorable bacteria (called gut dysbiosis), those bowel sounds can be more severe.
anxiety can affect your digestion. For example, you may wake up in the morning with an upset stomach, causing you to worry about how to handle your daily tasks and activities. this increased stress can cause more gastrointestinal symptoms.
“Now more than ever, people are attuned to how the food they eat affects their digestion. however, it is important to look at all the factors that may be contributing to digestive problems,” says dr. sheik.
how to reduce stomach noises
dr. alsheik suggests these steps to calm stomach rumbling and ease mild indigestion:
- change your diet: avoid or reduce portions of foods that cause excessive stomach rumbling or upset.
- natural remedies: consider add ginger chews, mint-flavored foods, or cinnamon to your diet to help calm digestive noises.
- add probiotics: to improve the number of friendly bacteria in your gut , you can try an over-the-counter probiotic. or you can eat foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha.
- manage stress: meditation and breathing exercises are some of the ways you can reduce stress before it builds up and causes more serious digestive problems.
when to see a doctor
It is important to pay attention to your body and recognize when you may need medical attention.
dr. alsheik recommends seeing a doctor if he has bothersome stomach noises along with any of these symptoms:
- high-pitched stomach rumbling
- abdominal pain
“These symptoms can be signs of a wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders, such as intestinal obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease, a malabsorption disorder (such as celiac disease), or a motility disorder, which is when someone has digestive problems because nerves or muscles of the intestine do not work in a coordinated way,” says dr. sheik.
For more information about gastrointestinal care or to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.
dr. eva alsheik is a gastroenterologist and director of the motility disorders center at henry ford. She sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus.