We’ve all probably had moments where our stomachs make the sounds of a dying whale, usually at the worst possible times. Sometimes in a meeting, sometimes when you’re lying in bed, and sometimes just after you’ve had lunch. Since we were small, we’ve all been told that your stomach gurgling is a sign that you’re hungry and that you should eat. But what about all the times your stomach gurgles after you just ate.
If it happens once or twice a week, you might probably brush it off. But what should you do when it happens every day? Is there something wrong with your stomach? Should you see a doctor? Could it be a symptom of something serious? How do you stop these annoying sounds?
Your stomach gurgles are perfectly normal. These sounds are called borborygmic, and yes, they can be a signal from your stomach to eat. But it can also be caused slow digestion or incomplete digestion, which explains why it happens after eating. You can easily prevent this by drinking water, chewing your food well, and eating on a regular schedule.
Borborygmic – What’s that?
Originating from the Greek language, borborygmic means rumbling around. The movements of the contents inside your bowels make these noises as they journey through your intestines. The air and fluids inside your intestines collide, and as a result, you hear the gurgling noises.
To understand how borborygmic works, let’s take a quick look at how the food travels through your body. Once you eat something, you chew it, swallow it, and it travels to your stomach. Here it’s churned and made into a liquid state so that it can flow to your small intestine.
Your small intestine releases enzymes to absorb this liquid mixture into your body. This causes muscle contractions in the walls of your intestines to help with the food digestion and move food forwards through the intestine, which leads to borborygmic.
But after a couple of hours, your brain signals your stomach to start this process again. This time your stomach is empty, making the sounds much louder and noticeable since there isn’t anything in the stomach to dampen the noise. This, of course, is a signal that it’s time to eat.
Controlling the gurgles – Dos and don’ts
Now that we know why our stomach makes these gurgling sounds, it’s time we find out what we can do to prevent it. Unfortunately, as you grow older, these stomach rumblings may get worse, as confirmed by a study in 1974, but here are some good tips that you can follow to reduce these rumbling noises.
- Do drink water continuously throughout the day. This not only makes your stomach full but also helps with digestion. Once the water fills your stomach, the gurgling is much less likely to occur.
- Don’t drink a lot of water at once. Drinking water is always good, but if you drink a lot at once instead of a little throughout the day, you might end up with an even louder gurgle.
- Do eat slower. Eating slower means that the food does not pile up in the stomach but has more time to travel through your intestine. Like the water tip, having a smooth flow of food rather than a sudden amount helps with digestion.
- Do eat more often. Most people are used to only having 3 large meals a day, but it can be much better for you to have 6 small meals. The steady stream of nutrition makes digestion much more comfortable, increases metabolism, and prevents borborygmic.
- Don’t skip meals. This is always a bad idea that might lead to gastritis and various other problems. But this also leads to an empty stomach, which we now know is the leading cause of stomach gurgles.
- Do eat on a regular schedule. Your body likes patterns. That’s why it’s easier to do something the more you do it. The alarm clock inside your body signals when it’s time to eat. Eating on time makes sure that there is food in your stomach when your small intestine is ready to digest.
- Do chew thoroughly. Chewing your food is a part of digestion. The better it’s chewed, the less work for your stomach. By making it easier on your stomach, you reduce the number of muscle contractions required. Thorough chewing also reduces the amount of air swallowed while eating, which reduces the chances of indigestion.
- Do pay attention to your diet. Fructose and other sugar replacements can cause poor digestion for some people. Keeping an eye on the food you eat before sudden gurgles can help you figure out if a particular food is causing indigestion. Some vegetables such as beans and broccoli, while healthy, can be hard to digest.
- Do take a walk after eating. This can help your stomach digest the food much faster.
- Don’t eat oily food such as french fries and chips. Some biscuits can do the trick if you’re looking for a light snack.
Other reasons your stomach might gurgle
Other than the more common reasons that cause your stomach to make rumbling or gurgling sounds, here are a couple of unlikely reasons, along with what to do.
A Bowel Obstruction
As the name suggests, this means that something is stuck in your intestines. This can cause your stomach to gurgle often, but it’s always accompanied by other symptoms. Nausea, stomach cramps, and constipation will be a good indication that you have a bowel obstruction.
If you do feel a combination of the above symptoms, it might be a good idea to get your stomach looked at by a doctor.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The symptoms of IBS differ from person to person. You might only feel mild cramps and stomach rumbles for a couple of weeks, while another person might have severe pain that lasts for months.
A study conducted by Dr. Sood showed that up to 20% of all people in western and developed countries have experienced IBS at some point.
The list of symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Stomach gurgles
The above study also concluded that it is difficult to identify IBS via these symptoms alone as different people experience IBS differently.
While there is no cure for IBS, it’s always a good idea to get it checked out, especially if the symptoms have been there for a few days or start to get severe. Below are some home remedies that can help you cope with IBS.
- Regular exercise
- Smaller meals
- Less caffeine
- Avoiding spicy or oily food.
By now, you might have noticed that most of the dos and don’ts you see are similar when it comes to your stomach health. So following them will show you a definite improvement even if you’re not too sure what you have.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Also known as GERD, this disease is a somewhat serious matter where surgery is even required at times. GERD occurs when your stomach moves out of place and moves towards your esophagus.
The esophagus is the long tube connecting your mouth to the stomach, and when GERD occurs, the esophagus weakens, making the stomach contents sometimes go up from the stomach instead of down towards the intestines.
This complication is always followed by symptoms such as coughing, vomiting, heartburn, and breathing problems. GERD itself can be a symptom of a hernia.
If you feel any of the above symptoms contact your doctor immediately to get your stomach looked at.
Looking back on our article, we see that your stomach gurgling and rumbling is nothing for you to worry about. It can be a sign from your stomach saying it’s time to eat or a simple sign of healthy digestion. But regardless of whether you have a stomach disease or not, these suggestions like taking a walk, eating regularly, drinking water, and chewing slowly, can only increase the quality of your life.
Now that you know how to prevent your stomach from embarrassing you in public, it’s time you make these positive changes for your long-term stomach health as well as your day-to-day life.