Weird bodily noises are embarrassing, but they’re also natural and rarely a sign that anything is wrong. Your body is an incredibly efficient machine and, like all working things, it occasionally creaks and gurgles. Gurgly stomach noises have several different causes, but mostly they are just your digestive system doing its job. Loud stomach gurgles that don’t stop may be a sign of something more serious, so if they are continuous enough to be uncomfortable, consult your doctor to isolate the cause.
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Your stomach is a hollow organ that is shaped like the letter “J”. Adult stomachs generally weigh approximately 4.5 oz. and can hold 4 to 8 pints of food. The stomach’s job is to use the 2.5 quarts of water, hydrochloric acid and pepsin -- an enzyme that breaks down proteins -- to digest your food into a paste. This paste, called chyme, is then passed through the duodenum and into your excretory system.
Normal Functioning Noises
Your stomach stays just as busy between meals. According to the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, the glands that line your stomach go into action every three to four hours whether you eat anything or not. Smelling food, seeing images of it or even just thinking about food can start the release of gastric juices. The movement of your stomach walls and the juices being excreted creates growling and gurgling noises.
Hunger is activated by signals sent from your digestive system to your hypothalamus. These signals release hormones that stimulate the secretion of gastric juices and get the muscles in your stomach walls moving. This can make your stomach gurgle.
Eating certain foods like beans, cabbage and melon can cause gurgles because your stomach lacks a necessary enzyme to break down the sugars they contain. According to the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, the natural bacteria in your stomach reacts with these sugars, creating carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane gasses, which can rumble around uncomfortablly before escaping. Once the food in your stomach has been broken down into chyme, it must pass through your duodenum and into your intestinal tract. This requires muscle contractions, which can cause gurgles.
More Serious Causes
Prolonged stomach gurgling can be a sign of something more serious than hunger or gas, like irritable bowel syndrome, also called IBS which generally presents with other symptoms like excess gas, diarrhea, bloating and cramping. Occasional rumbles in your tummy are normal, but if you have gurgles accompanied by other symptoms, you should consult your doctor.