Why Does the Stomach Growl When Hungry or Full?

Stomach growls are common conditions that every person must have experienced a number of times in his/her lifetime. Though it is common, it is often unknown to many what actually causes this growling sound in stomach.

The growling sound that comes from the stomach is often associated with hunger. It is commonly believed that when you are hungry, your stomach makes the growling noises. However, this is not the complete scenario. Your stomach may make noises even when it is completely full or when you are not hungry at all. In fact, it is not always that the stomach makes the growling sounds, but the small intestines. Since an empty stomach makes the sounds seem louder, hunger is often thought to be the cause behind the growling sounds.

Why Does the Stomach Growl When Hungry or Full?

The growling sound coming from the stomach or the small intestines is a perfectly normal phenomenon. It is basically caused by the contractions of muscles of your stomach and the small intestinal wall. This happens in the presence of gas or liquid. The muscle contractions are known as peristalsis.

The body secretes about eight litres or two gallons of liquids that are rich in various enzymes. The liquid or solid food that we eat gets mixed with this enzyme-rich liquid in the small intestine. Usually, these liquids move smoothly through the small intestine. However, when there are air gaps or gases generated from this within the intestine, it creates the noises.

The air may have come through the mouth while swallowing the food or it may even be the gases that are generated by the fermentation of the undigested foods. These gases can be anything such as carbon di-oxide or hydrogen or any other gas that the bacterial fermentation produces.

The peristalsis occurs about 3 times in the stomach. This means that the muscular contractions occur 3 times in a minute in the stomach, in which the churned food and liquid gradually move downwards through the digestive tract. When it moves to the small intestine, the peristalsis occurs about 12 times in a minute. The sounds that we hear are caused by these peristalsis movements along with the churned foods.

These growling sounds may occur at any point of time inside the body cavity, through the digestive passage either when hungry or even when full. However, the sounds are loudest, when they come from the empty stomach. These sounds can even be inaudible, but that does not mean that the sounds are not being generated. It is absolutely normal to have these growling sounds in your stomach. In fact, if the sounds are not generated, it should indicate a medical emergency situation. While the sounds are often inaudible to bare ears, the doctor or nurse would be able to hear them by using a stethoscope.

Why Does it Seem that your Stomach is Growling When You are Hungry?

As already mentioned, many people think that the cause of the stomach growling sounds is hunger. The fact is that even when your stomach is empty, the peristalsis or the muscle contractions continue. It lets the mucus and the left over foods in the stomach and intestine to pass down. It is a natural process through which your body cleans out the digestive tract. Since there is no food or liquid to pass along with the peristalsis movement, the sounds are louder and it is believed that hunger is causing the sounds.

Is there Something to be Worried About Stomach Growls?

Is there Something to be Worried About Stomach Growls?

Growling stomach or intestines are absolutely common and natural and there is nothing to be worried about. If a person never experienced these sounds, this could, in fact, indicate that there is something wrong with the digestive system. However, in some conditions, the growling sounds are louder than usual. These include –

In all these cases, there is an increased muscle contraction or peristalsis. In case of diarrhoea, fluid and gas accumulate with the stool and this increases the sound during muscle contractions.

How to Get Rid of Stomach Growling Sounds?

If you want to get rid of the stomach growling sounds to avoid any sort of embarrassment during a formal situation or public appearance, it is always a best idea to have your stomach full. This is because, with full stomach, the growling sound will seem to be less. For that you can always switch to the habit of eating multiple small meals, instead of sticking to a few larger meals. This will have your stomach always full, minimizing the growling sounds. Apart from that, you can –

  • Eat a lot of fermented foods like curd, yogurt etc. to help the food get digested faster.
  • Drink probiotic drinks to assist the digestion of what you eat.
  • Keep the windows open so that the fresh air can come or spend some time at the garden or in the muddy areas. The more you are exposed to the nature, the more you are likely to welcome good bacteria and viruses that will help you to digest food faster and enhance your immunity.

On the other hand, try and avoid chlorinated water, processed foods etc. as much as possible as they only destroy the stomach environment and don’t allow the bacteria to grow and thereby, even the good bacteria and viruses are killed. Using antibacterial soap and foods that are inorganic and commercially grown using too much of pesticides, are not ideal for a healthy digestion. Since, to minimize the growling sounds, having healthy digestion is a must.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2017

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