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What Causes Intestinal Gurgling?

Do your intestines make too much noise? Find out what causes gurgling intestines and what you can do about it.

Can people hear you coming by the sounds your intestines make? Some people become concerned when they experience intestinal gurgling – believing it’s a sign of a serious disease. The official medical name for intestinal gurgling is borborygmus – a term that belies the often benign nature of this symptom. What causes borborygmus and what can you do about it?

What is Borborygmus?

Borborygmus is the rumbling, gurgling sound your intestines make as they move gas and air through the digestive tract. For some people these gurgling sounds can be loud enough to cause social embarrassment – especially if they occur in a quiet room full of people. Gurgling intestines can be brought on by hunger – as the brain signals the intestines to contract in anticipation of food. Although borborygmus is a completely normal phenomenon, excessive gurgling that’s associated with bloating, burping, nausea, or a change in bowel habits may indicate a digestive problem. 

Gurgling Intestines: Not So Normal Causes of Borborygmus

Excessive intestinal gurgling after a meal may be a sign that food isn’t being completely digested or that too much air is being swallowed during a meal. Some anxious people habitually swallow air when they eat which leads to abdominal bloating and intestinal gurgling. Another common cause is food intolerance. Some people can’t completely digest certain sugars such as the lactose found in milk – so they stay in the intestines where bacteria feed on them and produce gas. This can lead to constant gurgling, bloating, and flatulence. In some cases, borborygmus is due to celiac disease – an inflammatory condition where the intestines are sensitive to the wheat protein gluten.

Intestinal Gurgling: Could It Be Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome is another common cause of persistent intestinal gurgling. Although no one’s sure exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome, it involves disorderly contractions of the intestines that may be partially triggered by stress. When the intestines contract in an uncoordinated manner, it’s easy to see how it could lead to intestinal gurgling.

Is There a Way to Soothe Gurgling Intestines?

When intestinal gurgling is caused by hunger – eating a snack helps. When eating, it’s important to chew slowly to reduce air swallowing which could make the problem worse. Avoid drinking liquids with meals – especially carbonated beverages – which increases the amount of air that enters the digestive tract. Keep a food dairy and try to associate the symptoms with specific foods to see if the gurgling could be caused by a food intolerance. Certain foods such as sugar alcohols, wheat, onions, coffee, and large doses of fiber can make borborygmus worse. Most importantly, if the problem persists, see a doctor to rule out celiac disease and other more serious causes of intestinal gurgling.

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  1. Absolutely great article!

  2. useful information….

  3. I have noticed the noise for a few weeks now – glad to hear it is not as serious as I thought

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