Ever interrupted a meeting with a loud stomach rumble? Or heard sounds in there like a blocked drain is being cleared?

Whilst it can be embarrassing, stomach noises aren’t normally anything to worry about, it’s often just food and liquid moving through your digestion.

Three causes of tummy rumbling (medically referred to as Borborygmi) are explored below.

1. Normal digestion can create noise

When food hits our stomach there is a muscle contraction that helps to break the food down.

Your stomach acid and digestive enzymes can also add to the abdominal noises. This is because the chemical breakdown of food in your gut creates gas and more fluids as the food gets smaller. 

The movement and breakdown of food through the bowel may lead to noises that are audible outside your body. 

I had a client who thought she was always hungry, she would get such a noisy digestion. However, when we tried the low FODMAP diet and reduced down the amount of gas and bubbling in her bowel, she found her symptoms of hunger improved. 


white person wearing grey t shirt and jeans hands crossed over intestines

2. A stomach rumble don’t always mean hunger

Noisy digestion isn’t always a symptom of being hungry. When the stomach hasn’t had any food for an hour or two your Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) gets to work to clean the gut. 

This is your internal intestinal housekeeper which sweeps away debris from the insides of the small bowel. This gets rid of old bacteria, cells and old food but it only kicks in when you haven’t eaten for around two hours. When your tummy rumbles and your digestive tract is empty the sounds will be louder.

This action of the MMC can make a bit of gurgling and doesn’t necessarily indicate hunger, or digestive issues. You can read more about the MMC and how it affects digestion.

When you hear this noise notice whether you feel hungry, and eat if you do!

3. Malabsorption of food can lead to stomach rumbling

If you don’t break down your food effectively then excess gas can be created by your gut microbes in the small or large intestine. This may be accompanied by symptoms like bloating, pain or cramps. In people with IBS, this malabsorption is often down to partially broken down carbohydrates or sugars.

People with IBS typically have issues with breaking down foods and so have increased gas, bloating and water in the bowel.

  • People sensitive to sugars, like fructose, or sweeteners like sorbitol / xylitol, or those with lactose intolerance may experience gurgling noises throughout your bowel.
  • Beans commonly cause excess gas which can be linked to a noisy abdominal rumble.

Stomach rumbling and IBS

People with IBS often experience more stomach rumbles than other people, which can be embarrassing.

  • If you have IBS-C (tendency to constipation) then the slow bowel transit time can lead to more time to ferment foods in the intestines. This can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria in the bowel which cause gas and bloating. A slow digestion might be the cause of your noisy bowel. Read more Tips for Constipation 
  • If you have IBS-D (tendency to diarrhoea) loud stomach rumbles may be down to increased water and gas. This is likely to be down to a bacterial imbalance in the digestive system. Some people have IBS after a bacterial infection (post-infectious IBS).

A noisy digestion is a common occurrence in SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) where bacteria are fermenting foods in the small bowel causing excess gas and bloating. The symptoms of SIBO are very similar to the symptoms of IBS. 

Certain foods increase stomach rumbles

Alcohol, fizzy drinks, vegetables like cabbage, or sprouts can lead to symptoms of gurgling in some people. 

Most of the time a gurgling tummy is nothing to worry about, but see your doctor if you’re worried about your symptoms.

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

I help people with IBS and SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • develop better digestion and more energy

Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme

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