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Understanding Stomach Churning: Causes and Treatment Options

What is Stomach Churning?

Stomach churning is a feeling of discomfort felt in the abdominal region that might occur alongside nausea and any other digestive symptoms. It is a temporary symptom but sometimes may indicate an underlying condition.

Stomach churning leads to:

  • Tightness
  • Knots
  • Gurgling or bubbling sound
  • Pain and cramps

It gives a sensation as if the stomach is tied or there are butterflies in the stomach.

There are a variety of conditions that can lead to stomach churning. Some may be less serious while others might need medical attention.

Causes of Stomach Churning

Stomach churning has numerous causes, which include the following.


Indigestion also known as dyspepsia leads to discomfort in the upper abdominal region. The symptoms of dyspepsia are(1) :

A person can suffer from dyspepsia after eating spicy or greasy food, smoking, stress, and drinking excess caffeinated beverages. Recurrent dyspepsia can be due to underlying medical conditions including:

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety may lead to stomach symptoms. There is believed to be a connection between the brain and the gut. During stress, stress hormones are released by the body. These hormones can get into the digestive tract and cause the following symptoms.

Premenstrual Syndrome

Females are known to feel a range of symptoms a week before menses. These are known as premenstrual symptoms. According to the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecology, the common symptoms include (2):

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and constipation

The exact cause of the premenstrual symptom is unclear but hormones during the menstrual cycle may be the reason for its occurrence.


During pregnancy hormonal imbalance may lead to digestive issues (3). In later stages of pregnancy, the growing size of the fetus and womb can put pressure on the abdominal cavity. The problems with digestive health occurring during pregnancy may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn and acid reflux
  • Nausea and vomiting

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is a common illness occurring after consuming contaminated food and drinks. The most common cause of food poisoning is the infestation of harmful viruses and bacteria in the gut (4).

Anyone can get food poisoning and the symptoms may range from mild to severe. It can take several hours even days to show up after consumption of contaminated food.

The common symptoms presented by people suffering from food poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Feeling like stomach churning
  • Diarrhea that may be bloody
  • Fever

If someone has a high fever or very high temperature along with dehydration, or blood in stool, should consult a doctor.

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu is an infection of the intestine caused by the virus. Norovirus is known as the most common cause of gastroenteritis in adults and rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children (5, 6).

The symptoms presented by a person with gastroenteritis include:

  • Stomach churning
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fever

A person may experience dehydration due to excessive diarrhea and vomiting and as soon as the signs of dehydration are noticed, prompt medical help should be taken.

Lactose Intolerance

Intolerance to lactose can lead to stomach churning. People with lactose intolerance may experience digestive symptoms on consuming anything containing lactose.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Growling and rumbling in the stomach
  • Bloating and gas
  • Abdominal pain and cramping


There are a few medications that may lead to digestive symptoms including stomach churning. These include laxatives, certain antibiotics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.

Treatment of Stomach Churning

A person should speak with a doctor if they experience stomach churning frequently or if this symptom does not improve.

The treatment for stomach churning may involve treating the underlying condition. There are a few lifestyle changes that can be adopted by people to prevent or alleviate stomach churning, these include:

  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding food that triggers symptoms
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Practicing good food hygiene
  • Consuming ginger as it protects against digestive symptoms
  • Taking probiotics
  • Taking antacids

Stomach churning is a symptom of many conditions. It can lead to temporary discomfort. A person experiencing this symptom frequently should see a doctor to know the cause and get treated for it.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 25, 2023

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