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Why Do Stomachs Growl?

A almost empty juice carton will be noisier than a full one.
An illustration of a human stomach.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Stomachs growl because of the physiological processes involved in digesting food and pushing it through the intestinal tract. The stomach is an incredibly muscular organ that frequently contracts itself to help circulate digestive juices. When the stomach is empty, these juices slosh around with the gases generated during the process of digestion, generating a distinctive growling noise; the noise is also caused by the walls of the stomach coming into contact with each other.

The issue of growling stomachs was of such interest to the Greeks that they developed a word to describe it: borborygmi, which means “growlings.” Individuals may occasionally hear medical professionals talking about borborygmi as a more polite term for growling stomachs. As a general rule, these sounds are not a cause for concern, because it is simply part of the natural digestive process. The stomach never fully ceases its digestive work; in fact, digestive juices continue to work even after death.

Intestines also growl, although people may not hear it because the soft tissue of the body muffles the sound from the outside. Growling in the intestines is also caused by digestive processes, as the body slowly pushes food and waste material to its eventual end destination. If a person puts his or her head close enough to the stomach of another person or animal, it's often pretty easy to hear the growling.

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Often, stomachs growl when people are hungry, because their stomachs are empty. A growling stomach does not always mean that someone is hungry, however — it just means that the stomach is empty or relatively empty. For example, the stomach can growl in the middle of the night as it processes the food a person ate during the day, but people don't realize this because they are asleep.

There are some situations in which growling is a sign of a health problem. People with irritable bowel disease, for example, often experience noisy stomachs along with a host of unpleasant symptoms, including cramps. If the stomach growls a lot, or a person experiences extreme cramping or other gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, he or she may want to see a medical professional to make sure that everything is well with the digestive system.

It can help for people to think of the stomach as a carton of juice; if someone shakes a full carton of juice, he will hear minimal sounds, whereas a carton that is almost empty will be quite noisy.

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Discuss this Article

anon355559
Post 11
StarJo
Post 10

It can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between your stomach growling and your intestines growling. Sometimes, you can only tell by what happens afterward.

I have had many bouts of painful cramps and diarrhea in my life, and with the cramps comes loud growling. The louder and more persistent the growls, the more explosive the diarrhea will be.

However, if I suspect the growling is coming from my stomach, I will eat a snack. That usually stops the growling altogether.

giddion
Post 9

Sometimes, my stomach will growl before I am about to be sick. I have had food poisoning before, and I remember hearing a loud growling noise before becoming extremely nauseated and eventually vomiting.

Now, when I hear that noise, I always worry that I'm about to be sick. If I don't start feeling green right away, though, I usually don't vomit.

lighth0se33
Post 8

@healthy4life – What's really embarrassing to me is when my intestines emit a loud growl. I know that it isn't flatulence, but I also know it isn't coming from my stomach, because it makes an even louder and more astonishing sound.

I always pretend that it was my stomach that just growled if other people are around. I don't want to try to explain intestinal growling to them, because they will just think I'm making up excuses to cover for a loud fart.

I wish that my intestines were quieter as they went about their business! I don't know what to do to quiet them down.

healthy4life
Post 7

My stomach gurgles during the morning hours more than at other times of the day. I eat breakfast, but I never eat a big one, because I'm just not in the mood for food that early.

It can be embarrassing when my stomach really gets on a loud growling kick. There have been times when my boss or coworkers have commented on how I must be hungry because of the noise, but I'm really not.

heath925
Post 5

I've always wondered what causes a stomach to growl. I feel like my stomach always growls when I'm really hungry, but I've also noticed it at times when I'm not hungry at all. I never quite understood that.

I guess it's just the sound of my stomach doing it's job. Perhaps I should be worried if the growling stops. Could it be a sign that a stomach is not functioning properly, if it never growls?

upnorth31
Post 4

That's crazy that the digestive juices keep working even after death! I wonder how many people have been freaked out by hearing the stomach of a deceased person growl. I imagine it would be a bit unnerving!

I wonder why this happens? Why do digestive juices need to keep working when a person is no longer alive?

desertdunes
Post 2

The stomach walls touch each other? I always thought it was more of a round water balloon shape. Is the inside of the stomach rough or something, is that what makes the noise when it touches?

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