A rumbling stomach can be an irksome issue -- and downright embarrassing in certain situations. The most well-known cause of a rumbling stomach is hunger. But your stomach -- along with your intestines -- can make these noises at any time, even if you just ate a hearty meal. Understand the causes of a rumbling stomach so that you know how to interpret and respond to this bodily noise.
Your stomach rumbles to signal to you that it is empty and needs food. According to gastroenterologist Michael F. Picco of the Mayo Clinic, your digestive system releases "hormone-like substances" to tell your brain it is time to eat. Your brain sends the message to your stomach and intestines, which releases acids that can cause your stomach to rumble. So, a rumbling stomach is often just a hunger sign and not indicative of a problem.
You might notice that your stomach rumbles after you eat. In this case, the noises emanating from your stomach aren't a sign of hunger. Instead, they indicate that your body is digesting the food. Digestion isn't always noisy, but for some people, you might hear some rumbling coming from the stomach, depending on what you ate. This rumbling, again, is normal.
A less common cause of a rumbling stomach is irritable bowel syndrome. This condition is marked by abdominal discomfort, bloating, cramping, constipation and diarrhea. The abdominal discomfort and digestive issues associated with IBS can sometimes cause a rumbling stomach. IBS is less frequently the cause of a rumbling stomach, but a noisy stomach in conjunction with other IBS symptoms calls for an appointment with your doctor.
A rumbling stomach as a hunger cue or digestion symptom is common. You can reduce the frequency of your rumbling stomach by eating smaller meals more frequently. Keeping some food in your stomach, rather than letting it get empty, will reduce the noise that your stomach makes. If your stomach rumbling is related to IBS, your doctor can prescribe a medication or suggest fiber supplements or laxatives to aid in digestion.