A doctor's listening to a patient's bowel sounds using a stethoscope
A stomach rumble, also known as a bowel sound or peristaltic sound, is a rumbling, growling or gurgling noise produced by movement of the contents of the gastro-intestinal tract as they are propelled through the small intestine by a series of muscle contractions called peristalsis. A doctor can listen to these intestinal noises with a stethoscope but they may be loud enough to be heard with bare ears and are known as stomach rumble or borborygmus (pronounced /ˌbɔrbəˈrɪɡməs/; plural borborygmi) as the fluid and gas moves forward in the intestines (in the vicinity of but not actually within the stomach). The lack of bowel sounds is indicative of ileus, intestinal obstruction, or some other serious pathology.
The scientific name borborygmus is related to the 16th-century French word borborygme, itself from Latin, ultimately from Ancient Greek βορβορυγμός (borborygmós). The Greeks probably onomatopoetically coined the word.
Other causes of stomach rumbles:
Incomplete digestion of food can lead to excess gas in the intestine. In humans, this can be due to incomplete digestion of carbohydrate-containing foods, including milk and other dairy products (lactose intolerance or the use of α-glucosidase inhibitors by diabetics), gluten (protein in wheat, barley, and rye) (coeliac disease), fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, and high-fiber whole grains. In rare instances, excessive abdominal noise may be a sign of digestive disease, especially when accompanied by abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation. Some examples of diseases that may be associated with this symptom include carcinoid neoplasm and coeliac sprue.
Louder rumbles may occur when one is hungry. Around two hours after the stomach has been emptied, it sends signals to the brain, which tells the digestive muscles to restart peristalsis in a wave called the migrating motor complex. Food left behind after the first cycle is swept up, and the vibrations of the empty stomach cause hunger. Appetite plays a big role in this situation. Peristalsis recurs about every hour, and one's appetite may cause 10- to 20-minute food cravings.
Stomach rumbles can form further along the gastrointestinal system when air is swallowed while talking, eating, and drinking. This phenomenon occurs in most people and is typical.
Diseases and conditions
Celiac disease is a condition that prevents the small intestine from absorbing parts of food that are needed to stay healthy. Consuming food containing gluten is dangerous for people with this disease: Intestinal villi help to absorb nutrients from food, but when gluten is consumed, the immune system attacks these villi as a result. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, and bulky or foul smelling stools.
Diverticulitis is a condition where small bulging sacs, usually found in the large intestine, become inflamed or infected. The most probable cause is a low-fiber diet, possibly a result of eating processed food. Diverticulitis is usually seen in about half the American population over the age of 60. Symptoms may include bloating, fever, and nausea.
Irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder in the lower intestinal tract, is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. It is more common in women and it usually occurs during early adulthood. There are many risk factors such as emotional stress and a low-fiber diet.
If caused by inflammation, it is treated with medicine. If caused by infection, it is treated with an antiprotozoal agent. If caused by lack of blood flow, it is treated with a liquid diet and antibiotics.
If symptoms are minimal, treat by:
Getting plenty of rest.
Using a heat pad while sleeping.
Taking pain medication.
Drinking only liquids for a few days, then build up slowly with harder liquid, and eventually solid food.
Avoid foods such as beans and peas along with coarse grains and dried fruits. Limiting consumption of coffee, tea, and alcohol is recommended.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Regular exercise and improved sleep habits can help relieve symptoms. Although IBS differs from person to person, dieting helps.
Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine.
Avoid large meals.
Increase the consumption of fiber throughout the day (helps constipation, but bloating may be an issue).
The word borborygmic has been used in literature to describe noisy plumbing. In Ada, Vladimir Nabokov wrote: "All the toilets and waterpipes in the house had been suddenly seized with borborygmic convulsions". In A Long Way Down (New York: Harper, 1959, p. 54), Elizabeth Fenwick wrote: "The room was very quiet, except for its borborygmic old radiator".Graham Greene's short story "Alas, Poor Maling" tells the tale of a luckless individual whose borborygmus takes the form of imitating noises that he has recently heard.