Why Does Your Stomach Growl When You’re Hungry?

There is an important meeting that you have to attend this morning, but since you partied a bit too hard last night, you’re almost certainly going to be late for the meeting. Therefore, you get ready in 10 minutes flat, and in order to reach the office on time, you have no choice but to skip breakfast. You look dapper in that suit, and are somehow able to look like the most attentive person in the meeting, despite the raging hangover. The meeting is set to last for an hour, so surely you can manage to look attentive that long and retain the confidence of your boss.

Well…despite your best intentions, your stomach is not pleased with the choices that you made in those early morning hours.

Although you’re able to fake interest and attention in the meeting, your stomach also wants its share of attention. Just when the boss is beginning to discuss an important presentation, your stomach decides to teach you a lesson for what you’ve done to it. It starts to growl angrily, and the whole office knows that it’s hungry.

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At some point in our lives, all of us have been in a situation where our stomach has growled and embarrassed us in front of other people. The growling of our stomach has been a subject of interest for scientists for many years. In fact, two thousand years ago, the Greeks had a special name for it: borborygmi.

Clearly, this is a universal problem, but why do our stomachs make this growling sound, and does it only make this sound when we’re hungry?

How Food is Passed Through the Digestive System

The sound of growling may seem to be coming from your throat, but in truth, the rumbling and growling sound comes from your stomach and small intestines. Stomach growling is most commonly associated with hunger, but in truth, your stomach growls all the time – not just when you’re hungry.

Your digestive system is essentially a long tube that extends from your mouth to your anus. The process through which the body gets food is through waves of muscle contraction, which continuously push the food downwards. This process is called peristalsis.

Why Does Your Stomach Growl?

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In addition to the food and liquid that moves through the digestive system, gas and air also make their way into the mix. These pockets of gas and air are the reason that your stomach growls. The sound from the gas and air is produced in the stomach all the time, but it is much louder when there is no food in your body. When your body has food inside, most of the sound is absorbed by the food; therefore, the growling sound is very low and hardly noticeable, unless someone’s head happens to be pressed against your belly!

Why is the Growling Louder When You’re Hungry?

When your stomach feels hungry, it sends a signal to your brain to get your digestive system working again. Your body is an incredible machine, and this is your body’s way of cleaning up your system by making sure that no food or any other material is accumulated anywhere in the stomach or small intestine.

When the muscle contraction gets going again, and if your stomach is empty, the pockets of gas and air bubbles make a louder noise, as there is no food inside to absorb the noise. This noise that you (and others) hear is the stomach growling, which is your stomach’s way of telling you that it’s hungry and needs to be fed.

In other words, if you don’t want your stomach to growl so loudly, you should eat short meals from time to time in order to keep some amount of food in your stomach throughout the day. The digestive system’s functioning is very complex, and it needs an appropriate intake of food to function normally (and remain quiet). To keep your stomach from interrupting conversations, meetings, and silent train journeys, do your best not to skip any meals!

References

  1. Stomach rumble – Wikipedia
  2. Peristalsis – Wikipedia
  3. Tufts News
  4. Veterans Affairs – My Healthevet
  5. Medline Plus
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About the Author:

Ashwin Vinod has a B.Tech in Electronics and Communications from APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Trivandrum (India). He likes to watch movies, reading fiction novels and surf the internet.

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