Stomach Growling: 5 Common Causes & What to Do

Medical review: Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
June 2022

Stomach noises are normal and often happen after eating a meal. This gurgling occurs due to contraction of the intestinal walls passing food along the digestive system.

Besides that, stomach noises can also be a sign of hunger. The increase in the levels of the hormone responsible for the hunger sensation can also cause the intestines and stomach to contract, resulting in stomach noises.

However, when stomach gurgling comes with other symptoms such as pain or significant bloating, it can also indicate a health problem like an infection, inflammation, or constipation. In these cases, it is important to see a doctor to identify the cause and start appropriate treatment.

The main causes of stomach noises are:

1. Hunger

Hunger is one of the most common causes of stomach noises. When we feel hungry, there is an increase in specific substances in the brain that signal hunger cues and cause contraction of the bowels and stomach. This results in gurgling sounds.

What to do: When hunger is the cause of stomach rumbling, the best thing to do is to eat something. Choose healthy foods that are rich in fiber to encourage bowel movements and easy digestion.

2. Gas

If there is a larger proportion of gas to liquid passing through the digestive system, this will also lead to stomach gurgling. Certain foods may also cause more gas and bloating.

What to do: It’s important to avoid eating too many foods that can cause gas, like beans or cabbage. These foods ferment a lot during the digestive process and increase the quantity of gas produced, which leads to rumbling noises. Read more about home remedies for gas that you can try to get rid of stomach noises.

3. Infections and gastrointestinal inflammation

Stomach rumbling sounds can also happen due to bowel infections or inflammation, especially in people with a history of Crohn’s disease. In these cases, other accompanying symptoms are expected, such as pain and discomfort, malaise, nausea or diarrhea.

What to do: If gurgling combined with other symptoms emerge in the presence of intestinal infection or inflammation, proceed to the emergency department so that dehydration, nutritional deficiencies and other complications can be prevented. Additionally, it’s important to rest, follow a healthy diet, and use medication only if indicated by a doctor.

4. Bowel obstruction

Bowel obstruction can also lead to stomach noises due to increased peristaltic movement in the intestines. This increased movement occurs to help with liquid and gas that are unable to pass through a blocked intestine, and results in stomach gurgling. 

A bowel obstruction is a very serious condition that can be caused by worms, intestinal endometriosis, inflammatory diseases or hernias. In these cases, other symptoms will accompany stomach rumbling, such as abdominal pain, strong cramps, lack of appetite and nausea. 

What to do: Treatment for bowel obstruction depends on the initial cause of the obstruction. Regardless, treatment should be completed in a hospital setting to prevent complications.

5. Hernia

A hernia occurs when part of the intestine protrudes out of the abdominal wall. Hernias can cause constipation, and therefore stomach rumbles. In addition, other symptoms may arise, such as pain, swelling, redness, nausea, and vomiting.  

What to do: If you detect a hernia, you should see a surgeon immediately for assessment. Depending on the severity, surgery will be considered. Surgical intervention can prevent further complications, such as strangulation of an abdominal organ (which leads to a decrease in blood flow in the location and, consequently, necrosis).

When to go to the doctor

You should see a doctor if you have other symptoms, such as:

  • Pain;
  • Significant bloating or swelling;
  • Fever;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Frequent diarrhea or constipation;
  • Blood in stool;
  • Rapid weight loss with no apparent cause.

Depending on the symptoms, the doctor may order exams such as CT scan, endoscopy or blood tests, so that the cause can be identified and the most appropriate treatment can be started.

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em June de 2022. Medical review por Dr. Clarisse Bezerra - Family Doctor, em December de 2020.

References

  • INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR GASTROINTESTINAL DISORDERS. A Noisy Tummy: What Does it Mean?. Available on: <https://www.iffgd.org/symptoms-causes/abdominal-noises.html>. Access in 28 Jan 2020
  • AHIMA, Rexford S.; ANTWI, Daniel A. Brain regulation of appetite and satiety. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. Vol 37. 4 ed; 811–823, 2008
Medical review:
Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
Dr. Bezerra possesses a medical degree and specializes in family medicine. She is licensed to practice under CRM-CE licence #16976.