Many people feel concerned or embarrassed about any sounds coming from their gut, however some sounds—such as a little bit of gurgling—can be completely normal and nothing to be concerned about. Gurgling can occur as the muscles of the gut contract to move food, liquids and gasses through the small intestine. This movement is a normal part of the digestive process, however the noise that can arise from it may be louder if more gas is present or if the bowel is overstimulated (which can also lead to diarrhoea).
A growling noise may also be heard when significant time has passed between meals and so people often notice this when they are feeling hungry. This noise can happen because of something called the migrating motor complex (MMC). You can think of this as your gut doing some housekeeping—once the party is over (the food you ate previously has been digested), the MMC springs into action to ‘sweep’ the gut. This process helps to maintain healthy gut function and plays a role in preventing an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.
So, as you now understand, some sounds are a normal part of healthy digestion. However, if you are experiencing very loud or excessive gurgling and/or if there are other gut symptoms occurring alongside this, it could be an indication of an underlying issue and may warrant further exploration.
Here are some things to consider if this is something you are concerned about.
Tune in to your body’s messages
Your body will let you know if it is happy or not, so consider if you are experiencing any other symptoms alongside the gurgling, such as tummy pain, loose stools or diarrhoea, constipation, reflux, excess flatulence or flatulence that is newly highly odourous, and/or bloating. I also encourage you to reflect on when this started happening for you. For example, was it after a tummy bug or during a time where you were experiencing a lot of stress? Or has it only started occurring since you made some dietary changes? This may provide some clues about what might be contributing to this for you.
Consider potential triggers
In some cases, excessive gurgling can occur when an individual is having challenges digesting certain foods or drinks. For example, you may like to consider your tolerance of caffeine, especially coffee, as this leads some people to experience some gurgling and/or diarrhoea. You may also like to consider whether lactose could be an issue for you, as lactose intolerance is quite common and leads some people to experience loud gurgling. If you suspect this, you can test it out by omitting lactose-containing foods and drinks and/or switching to lactose-free options for a period of time to see if the symptoms resolve or not. Other people benefit from omitting all foods that contain casein (a protein in dairy foods). Some also find it helpful to keep a food and symptom diary for a week or so to see if they notice any patterns.
Focus on the foundations for healthy digestion
To support your digestive system, avoid drinking water 30 minutes either side of eating. Instead drink water between meals, rather than with meals. Slow down to ensure you chew each mouthful very well and do your best to eat in a calm, relaxed state. This sounds simple but it truly can make a big difference to our overall digestion. Sometimes it is more about how we are eating, rather than what we are eating.
Seek support from your healthcare practitioner
If you are experiencing ongoing digestive symptoms or new symptoms you are concerned about, please consult with your GP. Gut symptoms can occur for a variety of reasons and it’s important to rule out any underlying conditions that may require treatment.