If you ever find yourself asking, “Why is my stomach gurgling?” these seven factors may provide the reasons.
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In this article:
- Too Much Gas
- Lactose Intolerance
- Gluten Sensitivity
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Growth
What Causes Stomach Gurgling? 7 Potential Explanations
Let’s start with the simplest: you’re experiencing stomach gurgling because you’re hungry. What you may not know is the mechanism behind it.
Also known as borborygmus (or borborygmi, in the plural), it translates to the rumbling, the noise you hear can come from either the stomach or the gut (intestines).
It happens because of a muscular activity called peristalsis. The gastrointestinal tract, which runs from the mouth to the anus, has a wall composed of smooth muscles.
To move the food through different stages of digestion, it needs to contract, and it’s this contraction that produces the growl.
If you can still hear your stomach gurgling after eating, it’s possible you’re suffering from indigestion or dyspepsia. As its name suggests, it is a medical condition characterized by abnormal digestion of food and nutrients.
Indigestion can occur for many reasons such as stomach ulcers and sleep deprivation. One of the leading causes is eating food too fast.
The entire digestive process can take as long as 72 hours. It takes about six hours for food to go through the mouth and into the stomach and more to convert some of them into waste and the others into nutrients.
Eating fast can then force the gastrointestinal tract to work more quickly or harder, especially if you consumed hard-to-digest foods.
Note: Indigestion is not heartburn, which happens when the stomach acids move up to the esophagus. It’s possible, however, for both to occur at the same time.
3. Too Much Gas
What’s the story behind stomach gurgling and gas? Why is there air in the tummy or the intestines in the first place?
Every time you eat, you can’t help but also swallow air; and because your stomach tends to function like a balloon, it can also accumulate there. It explains why bloating can also occur with gurgling.
Meanwhile, the different activities of your gut microbiome will produce gas as a by-product. When air passes through the gastrointestinal walls, it can produce growling.
What is gut microbiome? It refers to the community of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that reside in the intestines.
4. Lactose Intolerance
You may also have a gurgling stomach because you’re lactose intolerant. In other words, your body doesn’t work well in digesting dairy-based products such as milk (which contains a sugar called lactose) and cheese.
To digest lactose properly, you need to have enough lactase, an enzyme. The problem is some don’t even when they reach adulthood.
If you’re lactose intolerant, the small intestines have a hard time breaking carbohydrates down, so you develop nutrient malabsorption.
The food also goes to the colon, where the bacteria there will eventually ferment it. During this process, the intestinal tract produces gases such as hydrogen and methane.
This gas then leads to stomach gurgling. Keep in mind, however, a tummy growl is not enough proof you are lactose intolerant.
Other symptoms include stomach cramping, bloating, and vomiting. A combination of these signs may appear every time you consume dairy.
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5. Gluten Sensitivity
What is gluten? It is a type of protein found in wheat. It is elastic, which makes it a common ingredient in bread and pastries.
The problem with gluten is not everyone may have the ability to break the protein down completely once it reaches the digestive tract. The peptides, or the amino acids that make the protein, can end up penetrating the intestinal walls.
Once it happens, it can activate the immune system, forcing it to attack the intestinal lining. In the process, a person highly intolerant to gluten may develop celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition characterized by abdominal pain, stomach gurgling, vomiting, and diarrhea as soon as the person eats anything with gluten.
Even when you don’t have celiac disease, you may still show similar symptoms if you are allergic to wheat.
Others may also have non-celiac sensitivity. They still develop the signs, but they don’t have damage to their intestinal lining unlike those with the diagnosed condition.
Following a gluten-free diet may be essential even if you don’t have celiac disease to reduce or prevent the digestive symptoms.
6. Small Intestinal Bacterial Growth
Also known as SIBO, it is a serious medical condition affecting the gut. It means some microorganisms that should be in the colon end up in the small intestines.
This can interfere with the delicate balance necessary in the gut flora. It’s possible some types of bacteria will multiply faster, beating the others.
The imbalance can then lead to all sorts of problems including the production of gas that causes stomach gurgling.
Like other conditions on the list, a growling tummy doesn’t immediately mean SIBO. Other symptoms to watch out for are diarrhea, cramps, feeling of fullness, and bloating.
To receive an official diagnosis, the doctor may perform a breath test, which determines the presence of gas such as methane and hydrogen.
Another option is a colonoscopy. It involves inserting a flexible thin instrument with a camera into the colon to see the organ’s condition in real-time.
Fortunately, you can learn how to how to stop stomach gurgling and diarrhea. These include maintaining a healthy diet and following your doctor’s orders when taking antibiotics.
Thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism may also cause a gurgling stomach due to its association with SIBO. In a 2007 study, researchers recruited 50 patients with overt hypothyroidism due to autoimmune thyroiditis.
These participants also underwent a glucose breathing test to help assess SIBO. The results suggested more than 25 of them with hypothyroidism were also positive with SIBO.
Studies showed thyroid dysfunction can affect gut motility or the contractions of the muscles in the intestines. Hypothyroidism, for instance, can delay gastric emptying, which should move microbes from the small intestines to the colon, where they should be.
Treating a thyroid problem is not easy, and it needs regular monitoring and guidance from an endocrinologist. You can enhance its function, however, with supplements such as Thyroid Support System.
It works directly with the thyroid hormones, helping convert inactive thyroxine to active triiodothyronine (T3). This way, it can reduce the symptoms associated with the disorder.
Learn more about why your stomach is gurgling in this video from BRIGHT SIDE:
Can you hear your stomach gurgling? Don’t panic right away.
It’s possible you’re just hungry or have a lot of gas, which you can expel by belching or flatulence.
If it happens more often than it should, along with other gastrointestinal symptoms, go see a doctor. Your physician can help identify any underlying causes so you can get the right treatment right away and silence your tummy.
How do you deal with stomach growling? Share your tips in the comments section below!