Everyone knows it. You are sitting in a crowded room, it is very quiet and suddenly a deafening, rumbling sound that strongly resembles a grunt comes from your stomach. Something that can make you feel quite uncomfortable at that moment. But where does that sound come from? And can a growling stomach be dangerous? Professor of Gastrointestinal Diseases Danny De Looze explains.
Many people suffer from it, especially towards noon: a rumbling stomach. “In the first place, it is important to know that it is not only the stomach that starts to growl,” says doctor Danny De Looze, professor of stomach and intestinal diseases at UZ Gent. “The sound also comes from the gut. We therefore speak of upper abdominal burden in this case, it is all related.”
When you start to get hungry, the grunt can get even louder, but it’s not the main cause
Danny De Looze
So we don’t just have a grumbling stomach, but also a grumbling gut. Where does that grunt come from? “The muscles in the stomach and intestines are actually in constant motion to knead the food that enters them, mix them with digestive juices and push them along.” This is also known as intestinal peristalsis. “Your body does this all day long, even when there’s no food left in it, when it’s been a while since you’ve eaten anything. Normally you don’t hear about that process, but if there is only air and moisture such as gastric mucus in your stomach and intestines, that is the case.” You then hear a kind of growling or roaring sound that effectively resembles a grunt. “When you start to get hungry, the gastrointestinal system becomes even more active, so that you will hear that grunting sound even more quickly. Yet hunger is not the main cause of a growling upper stomach.”
Is anyone really bothered by it?
“A growling stomach is a very normal phenomenon,” reassures De Looze. “You don’t have to do anything about it. If your stomach is growling, it’s not necessarily a sign that you need to eat something. Except if that grunting coincides with dinner time and you haven’t eaten anything for a while, then yes. “You can also consider the sound as a good sign. If your stomach is growling, it means that you probably haven’t eaten too much in between.”
Although De Looze likes to draw attention to one exception: when the rumbling in the stomach starts to feel unpleasant, you have to pay attention. “For example, you shouldn’t have a burning pain.” If this is the case, then there may be an inflammation of the stomach or irritation of the gastric mucosa. When that irritation persists, it can even lead to a kind of crater in the stomach wall, or an ulcer. So pay attention, but no reason to panic with all that grunting.
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