Ask A Scientist

What makes your stomach growl?

Asked by: Kylie Klinko
School: Clayton Avenue, Vestal
Grade: K
Teacher: Mrs. Broder
Hobbies/Interests: Hobbies: Swimming, dancing, reading and soccer
Career Interest: Doctor (like her favorite pediatrician Dr. Kirsch), judge or dancer/singer

Answer from Jennifer Wegmann


Research area: Eating disorder and body image
Interests/hobbies: Exercising, reading and writing
Family: Husband, Tom; two sons - Nick & TJ 

It always seems to happen at the most inopportune times.  You are sitting in class and in that one moment of silence, gurr…. It’s your stomach growling. There is no need to be embarrassed, everybody’s stomach growls from time to time and it is typically due to the normal digestive process. Most people believe that your stomach growls only when you are hungry. Actually, growling can happen with or without food in the stomach. Food simply muffles the noise so we are not as aware of it. However, if your stomach is empty and the growling begins, your body is sending you a signal to eat.

To better understand what is happening, we should take a quick look at the digestive tract.  It is approximately 23 feet long and consists of your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and other organs.  The main purpose of this tract is to breakdown food into smaller parts that can be absorbed and used by your body.  your stomach and small intestine are the main organs responsible for digesting your food.  A few hours after stomas has emptied, substances are released that trigger your brain that you need food.  Your brain then sends a message back to your stomach and digestive fluids are released and something called peristalsis begins.  (Science likes to use complicated words for simple actions).  Peristalsis is simply the contraction of muscles.  In this case, it is happending in your stomach, but it can happen all along the digestive tract.  The fluids and gases that are in your stomach combined with peristalsis cause the growling noises that you hear.  

There is nothing that you can do to prevent growling but keeping your body well fueled can decrease the frequency.  Growling is normal and not something that you should worry about unless it becomes excessive.   Persistent grumblings can be a sign of an upset stomach or possibly a medical condition like irritable bowl syndrome.

Last Updated: 3/1/17