When humans feel hungry, our stomachs seem to protest with a series of rumbles and growls that can be audible even to those around us. It’s a natural part of being human and we’ve all experienced it, but what actually happens to make those weird sounds?
The reason our stomach growls when we feel hungry is because of the hormonal reactions that tell us that we need to eat, as well as how the muscles of our digestive system contract and relax. The rumbling, gurgling sound it makes has its own fun name: borborygmus, which means rumbling in Greek.
Why does your stomach growl when you feel hungry?
There are four main explanations for why your stomach rumbles when you’re hungry — or why your porphyrygus becomes active, as we’ll say from now on.
Smooth muscles line most of the digestive tract in bundles that can contract and relax to help food move in the right direction. If you imagine a series of tubes through which the meal has to move through the sausage casing, you need a squeezing motion to keep the solids moving forward, and that’s what your muscles do. The scientific word for this squeezing motion is peristalsis, and it occurs rhythmically to keep everything moving.
In addition to pushing food, these muscle contractions can move gases and liquids, so you can imagine what types of sounds these three combine. The rumbling sounds caused by muscle contractions aren’t limited to the stomach either, and the sounds you hear often come from the lower intestines.
An empty stomach
Part of the reason why the gurgling sounds so loud when we are hungry is that your stomach is empty at this time. Food is a good silencer, so when your food pipe is empty, its muscle activity becomes noisier even though it’s not doing anything different than usual.
Hormones help us keep track of our need for nutrition in the form of ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells us we are hungry, while leptin tells us we are full. Some animal studies have shown that ghrelin may increase stomach motility and emptying, and a human study found that giving participants ghrelin made their intestines move faster compared to saline.
It is possible, then, that when we are hungry, ghrelin may increase the muscle movements that lead to porphyria, but it is a complex part of our physiology that involves many hormones that we still do not fully understand.
Does your stomach growl only when you feel hungry?
no! There are a lot of things our intestines need to clean out, including mucus, gases and fluids, so peristalsis is constantly working to keep things moving so we don’t experience a buildup of anything. As anyone who has had severe gas can tell you, gas buildup can be extremely painful, and in the case of obstructions and volvulus (when the intestines get twisted), people can need emergency surgery.
This has never been more evident than in the case of fecal impaction, which caused a man to lose the ability to walk and develop life-threatening abdominal compartment syndrome when “about 2 liters” of feces became stuck. OK.
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The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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