HEALTH

Why Does Our Stomach Grumble?

It can happen on a full or empty stomach.

14/08/2017 8:45 PM AEST | Updated 14/08/2017 8:45 PM AEST

Hi, stomach! Yes, we hear you grumbling away down there.

Stomach grumbles are something we've all experienced at some stage or another and despite us always blaming our talking tummies on hunger, sometimes we hear our insides gurgling straight after we've eaten. Why?

Nutritionist Dr Bill Sukala told HuffPost Australia our stomach sounds don't necessarily mean we're hungry.

"Grumbling sounds in our stomachs and intestines are called 'borborygmus', and they are completely normal and can occur on a full or empty stomach," Sukala said.

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A talking tummy doesn't necessarily means you're hungry.

"Some people might think, 'Hey, I'm not hungry, how can my stomach be grumbling when I've just eaten?' -- but just because two things happen together or at the same time does not always mean one caused the other."

As it turns out, our stomach sounds are actually an indication that our intestines are processing our food. When we eat, our stomach muscles contract to allow food to pass through our digestive system in a process called 'peristalsis'.

"These sounds are created when the muscles of our gastrointestinal tract contract and push food, fluids and air through our systems," Sukala said.

"They aid in breaking down the food and help facilitate digestion."

According to Professor John Furness, Head of the Digestive Physiology and Nutrition Laboratories at the Florey Institute and the University of Melbourne, most stomach contractions begin roughly two hours after a person has eaten.

"In healthy people, a considerable time after a meal (about 90-120 minutes), if you have not eaten again, a contraction will move down the small intestine and clear, or partly clear the contents, pushing them towards the large intestine," Furness said.

"These moving contractions, called the migrating myoelectric complex (MMC), are thought to prevent bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine."

Furness explains although this process occurs some time after you've eaten, it doesn't create a sense of hunger.

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Most of the time your tummy isn't trying to tell you anything important.

"Because the MMC occurs hours after a meal, it may be at the same time that you experience hunger, but it is not the sole cause of hunger," Furness said.

In saying that, Sukala explains stomach rumbles can act as a reminder that it may be time to eat again.

"If the stomach and intestines have been empty for a while, it can sometimes stimulate the nervous system to cause the gastrointestinal tract to grumble," Sukala said.

"It's possibly as a friendly reminder saying, 'Hey, I could do with a bite to eat down here'."

Are there ways to stop our tummy grumbling?

Even though stomach growling doesn't generally indicate a health problem (if it's accompanied by vomiting, it might be time to visit your doctor) there are some things we can do to stop our noisy insides from driving us crazy.

Drinking water can not only act as a 'full' mechanism, helping our tummies feel full and reducing the hunger feeling, water also takes longer to travel through your digestive system, keeping your talking tummy at bay for longer.

Eating small snacks regularly will also help train your digestive system to contract more often.

Lastly, if you're noticing your stomach grumbling more that it should, try avoiding gas-inducing foods such as broccoli, or alcohol that lead to hiccoughing, burping and inevitably, stomach grumbling.

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