Also called borborygmi, stomach growling usually occurs when one is hungry. Stomach growling after eating can occur due to a variety of different causes; it can occur as a normal part of food digestion, excessive gas or stomach acid, or due to some underlying gastrointestinal problem. People who experience persistent stomach growling after eating may consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
The sound of stomach growling itself occurs due to contractions of the intestinal and stomach muscles and churning of the digestive enzymes and gastric acids and their movement between the intestine and the stomach. After eating, the food gets squeezed back and forth across the digestive system. Such squeezing is essential to breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients. The combined activity of the digestive juices and the air pressure created by gases is what causes stomach growling after meals.
The duration of stomach growling after eating is dependent on the digestive processes which vary from one person to another; in healthy adults it falls between 24 to 72 hours. The food passes across the stomach and small bowel in about 5 to 8 hours, before passing into the large bowel where water is absorbed and waste matter is prepared. The process of waste matter removal typically commences in 24 hours.
As discussed above, stomach growling after eating occurs as part of the normal digestive processes characterized by muscle contractions that squeeze fluids, gases, and food across the digestive system. In this, the growling is temporary.
In case stomach growling after eating is persistent and chronic, then it may occur due to underling diseases and conditions such as:
- IBS/Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The condition is characterized by increased gas, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and loss of weight. The exact cause of IBS is not known. It is marked by lack of co-ordination between the muscles and nerves of the intestine when digesting food, leading to irregular bowel movements, abdominal pain on occasions, and production of excessive gas. Consult a doctor if stomach gurgling after eating occurs continuously along with the above symptoms.
- Excessive gas: The stomach growling sound occurs due to excessive contraction of the intestines which in turn is caused due to air movement within the bowels. Causes of excessive gas include:
- Consuming increased amounts of veggies that cause gas such as broccoli, onions, cabbage, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beans, and artichokes.
- Swallowing or intake of increased amounts of air when chewing gum, drinking via straws, smoking, drinking carbonated beverages, and eating hard candies.
- Eating some fruits like pears, apples, and peaches.
- Deficient or inadequate levels of good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Absent or reduced ability to digest certain kinds of foods and its contents like lactose in dairy products and milk.
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease/GERD: It is a gastrointestinal condition marked by heartburn, increased production of gastric acid, and regurgitation or acid reflux. The rumbling, bubbling, and growling stomach sounds can be attributed to the elevated levels of gastric acid.
- Stress: Excess levels of stress and anxiety can trigger increased production of gastric acid and stimulate intestinal contractions leading to stomach growling after eating.
- Other causes: Stomach growling after eating may also occur due to:
- Incomplete digestion of food. Presence of undigested food in the stomach and intestines acts as food for bacteria. The bacteria then release increased amounts of gas resulting in bloating and stomach growling after eating.
- Gluten allergy, lactose intolerance, and intolerance to other kinds of foods.
- Ulcers in the stomach
- Hyperacidity, a condition when the levels of stomach acid exceed the threshold.
- Eating increased amounts of protein-rich foods.
- Fungal infection of the gastrointestinal system, Crohn’s disease, and other conditions that irritate the stomach lining.
- Skipping meals; not eating meals regularly at the stipulated times of the day/night.
- Intake of large amounts of coffee, caffeinated beverages, and re-brewed tea.
- Insufficient intake of water through the day.
- Good bacteria are needed for proper intestinal functioning. Intake of antibiotics not only kill infection causing bacteria but also the good bowel bacteria. This can harm intestinal function and cause varied problems including stomach growling after eating.
Treatment of stomach growling after eating
Stomach growling after eating caused due to presence of underlying conditions are treated with medications and other relevant medical therapies. Minor causes of stomach growling after eating can be remedied in the below listed ways:
- Chew the food properly before swallowing. This will facilitate easier and faster digestion of food, thereby preventing the risk of undigested food as well as stomach growling after eating.
- Avoid heavy meals. Instead go for smaller meals, about 4 to 5 times a day. This will help easy and quick digestion of food. Always carry easily digestible small snacks such as bland crackers with you; eat them when hungry so as to prevent stomach growling sounds.
- Drink some green tea, herbal tea, or peppermint tea after eating. This will soothe the stomach. Ensure that the tea is lukewarm and not hot, as hot tea can elicit abnormal responses from the stomach, resulting in increased stomach pressure and pain.
- Olive oil tends to produce fatty acids which can decrease the stomach and intestinal contractions during the digestive processes. Hence, take a teaspoon of olive oil before eating to prevent stomach growling after eating.
- Reduce or limit the intake of gas-causing vegetables, fruits, and artificial sugar additives and substitutes to reduce gas production in the digestive system and alleviate stomach growling after eating. People with severe gas buildup may altogether stop the intake of such foods till the time the gas problem resolves.
- Avoid foods that cause allergic reactions. Lactose intolerance patients should avoid dairy products or go for milk items with nil or minimal lactose.
- Do not take deep breaths through the mouth, or yawn excessively, or talk for long periods during meals as it can result in swallowing of air and gas accumulation in the stomach.
- Drinking clear soda can help remove excess gas via burping or in other ways. It can also help ease minor stomach pain.