Stomach Noises: What's Causing That Sound?

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Man with Indigestion
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It’s happened to everyone: You’re sitting in a crowded conference room for an important business meeting when suddenly your stomach emits a loud, embarrassing gurgling sound. With luck, everyone else laughed (because it’s happened to them, too). What causes stomach noise like this? What brings on growling sounds in the stomach?

Fortunately, stomach noise rarely is cause for medical concern—especially without other symptoms. Occasionally, though, stomach sounds indicate a condition that should be treated. Learn when you should seek medical advice for stomach gurgles and other digestive sounds.

Why Your Stomach Growls

Whatever you call those stomach noises—gurgling, growling, rumbling—they’re perfectly normal. Everyone’s digestive system becomes noisy at certain times. These digestive sounds (medically called “borborygmi”) occur due to the movement of food solids, liquids and gas within the stomach and intestines.

When you’re hungry, the stomach may contract more frequently and cause stomach acids to splash around, resulting in that familiar growl. After eating, your stomach and intestines will contract to mix food contents with enzymes and other fluids to break down the food products into usable nutrition—and all that squeezing and mixing can cause belly rumbles too. Lastly, your digestive system will rhythmically contract to move digested food through the intestines and out the other end. And, you guessed it, that causes gurgling too.

In most cases, this natural burbling and gurgling of the stomach and digestive tract is normal. It occurs in everyone. But if your stomach noise becomes more frequent or is accompanied by other symptoms, then you should see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

When to See a Doctor for Stomach Sounds

Sometimes, stomach noise is a cause for concern. If you experience increased stomach growling or gurgling with any of these symptoms, see a healthcare provider to find out what’s causing that noise:

  • Excessive gas
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash
  • Pain

Changes in stomach or bowel sounds can indicate a condition like celiac disease or colon cancer, so don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you’re concerned about that excessively growling stomach.

By the way, decreased stomach and bowel sounds also can indicate a health condition that needs attention. If your stomach goes quiet in conjunction with these symptoms, see a doctor:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Severe abdominal pain, especially if it comes on suddenly
  • Vomiting after eating

Common Treatments for Stomach Noise

If your doctor determines your growling stomach results from a condition like celiac disease, then you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan to manage this lifelong condition. But if your tummy rumbles result from something more benign, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), then your healthcare provider might simply recommend you take an antacid pill regularly or make changes to your diet.

Remember that stomach growls are completely normal and happen in everyone. Sometimes eating a small snack will cure the problem temporarily. But don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if additional symptoms accompany your stomach gurgles.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 21
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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