We’ve all been there before: You’re sitting in class during an important test and, to your utter shame and horror, your stomach suddenly betrays you, letting out a rip-roaring growl loud enough to wake the dead and turn all eyes accusingly upon you. But why do stomachs growl when we’re hungry—or even when we aren’t? Let’s look into the details of this embarrassing bodily function.
Don’t Blame Your Stomach
It turns out that a rumbling tummy is your stomach’s method of letting you know you’re hungry. However, while eating does sometimes put an end to the growling, the real culprit behind the noise is your intestines.
Known as borborygmi, the noise that seemingly emanates from your stomach is actually gas moving back and forth in the intestines. Whether you’re hungry or not, this happens fairly often. However, the sound intensifies when your stomach is empty. The gas still moves around after you eat—but it’s harder to hear at that point.
Another theory is that putting calories in your system forces your digestive muscles to focus on breaking down new material instead of moving air around inside your intestines.
How Can I Stop It?
There are a few things you can do to help control your overly noisy intestines.
Activity in the intestines often increases after about two hours without food, so eating small, regular meals throughout the day may help distract your system from making so much racket.
Carbonated drinks send little pockets of air straight into your stomach, so cutting down on those will help halt the noise.
Grabbing a bite of something that contains fat or insoluble fiber (like popcorn or chocolate) can help keep your gut busy for an hour or two. It’s a good habit to follow before entering your morning meeting!
Your body won’t pass around much air if there’s not much in there to begin with. If your stomach growls excessively compared to most people, you probably ingest higher amounts of air than normal, which then gets moved around in your stomach. Try eating slower, avoid talking and eating at the same time, and limit your gum-chewing habit. You’ll thank yourself later when you can finally get through a meeting without the shame of noisy intestines.