Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and More

A rumbling stomach is often a natural occurrence. But frequent, unusually loud sounds or the lack of abdominal sounds may indicate an underlying health condition.

Stomach and bowel sounds, also known as borborygmi, refer to noises made within the small and large intestines, usually during digestion.

Because the intestines are hollow chambers, sounds that emanate from them during digestion are often similar to the sounds of water moving through pipes.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes and treatments for bowel sounds when they get out of hand.

Abdominal noises like stomach “growling” are usually a sign of digestion. This refers to the movement of food, liquids, digestive juices, and air through your intestines.

Enzyme-rich fluids in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract help break down the foods and beverages you consume each day, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.

The intestinal walls contract and relax in a wave-like rhythm to mix and squeeze the food through the intestines so it can be digested. This process is known as peristalsis and could cause abdominal noises like stomach growling. It can occur several hours after eating and even at night when you’re trying to sleep.

Stomach growling is often an internal signal that the body is hungry or wants food.

When you’re hungry, hormone-like substances in the brain activate the desire to eat. These then send signals to the intestines and stomach. As a result, the muscles in your digestive system contract and cause these sounds.

Abdominal sounds may either be classified as normal, hypoactive, or hyperactive.

Hypoactive bowel sounds

Hypoactive bowel sounds are when your bowel noises have a different tone or they’re quieter and less frequent than normal. This is a sign that the activity in your intestine has slowed down. It usually happens when you’re sleeping.

Some other causes of hypoactive bowel sounds may include:

  • drugs that can slow your digestion and elimination, such as codeine
  • coming off of general anesthesia
  • radiation to the abdomen
  • spinal anesthesia, such as epidural
  • abdominal surgery

Hypoactive bowel sounds may be a sign of reduced digestion activity, which could cause constipation.

Hyperactive bowel sounds

Hyperactive bowel sounds are louder noises related to greater intestinal activity. These may occur after eating or when you have diarrhea.

It’s important to note that frequent hyperactive bowel sounds may indicate an underlying health condition that could require medical treatment. These may include:

Hyperactive bowel sounds may also be a sign of dumping syndrome.

If your stomach growls occasionally around lunchtime or after a big meal, it’s a sign that your digestive system is working as it should.

However, frequent experiences of hyperactive or hypoactive bowel sounds along with other abnormal symptoms may indicate a medical problem. These symptoms may include:

In some cases, hypoactive and hyperactive abdominal sounds that are accompanied by these symptoms may indicate the following health conditions:

  • paralytic ileus, which is a problem with the nerves connected to the intestines
  • blocked blood vessels that are preventing the intestines from getting proper blood flow
  • bowel obstruction, which can be caused by a hernia, tumor, adhesions, or other conditions

Speak with a healthcare professional if you experience changes around the volume and occurrence of your bowel noises, or if abnormal abdominal sounds occur with other symptoms.

A doctor will first talk to you about your family medical history and ask some questions about the frequency and severity of your symptoms. They will most likely use a stethoscope to listen for any abnormal bowel sounds. This step is called auscultation.

They may also perform additional tests, including:

Bowel obstructions typically produce very loud, high-pitched sounds that can often be heard without using a stethoscope. These will typically co-occur with severe pain in the stomach, bloating, and a lack of bowel movement.

Normal stomach growling doesn’t require any treatment.

However, some lifestyle and dietary changes may help stop stomach growling, including:

It’s important to avoid trigger foods if you’re living with a food intolerance, such as lactose, gluten, and histamine intolerance. Eating these foods may cause symptoms like uncomfortable stomach growling.

If you’re living with a health condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you may need medication to help treat the underlying cause and provide symptom relief.

In some cases, you may require surgery to remove obstructions.

Is it good for your stomach to growl?

Stomach growling is completely normal. Most of the time, it’s a sign that your digestive system is working or that you’re hungry. That said, if you notice changes in the frequency, sound, and tone of your abdominal sounds, speak with a healthcare professional. This may be a sign of an underlying health condition.

What is your stomach trying to tell you when it growls?

A stomach growl may be a sign of hunger or that your digestive system is in the process of digesting food.

Why does my stomach growl at night?

Your stomach may growl at night because it’s digesting the foods you ate for dinner. Or, if you haven’t eaten for a while, it may be a sign that you’re hungry.

Stomach growling is often a normal sound that indicates your digestive system is working. However, sometimes it may indicate a health condition that could require medical treatment.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional if your stomach growling persists, doesn’t get better, or is accompanied by other symptoms. Certain complications may be life-threatening if left untreated.

Listening to your body is the best way to keep yourself safe and healthy.

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