Picture this: you're halfway through Netflix and chill, it’s dead quiet, and you’re about to make your move... when your stomach abruptly decides to make a sound like there's a Mack Truck driving through it. Muffling it with your hand does nothing; in fact, it may just start growling more out of spite.
What’s really causing your stomach to make those obnoxious gurgling noises? We asked gastroenterologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center Lisa Ganjhu to find out, and it’s apparently not what you’d think -- but that’s probably because you had no idea either.
Why does your stomach growl?
“Our digestive tract is a very long tube of muscles, it starts at our mouths and goes down to our butts. Our stomachs are constantly moving to keep itself clean, and move through any fluids.”
Why does it make a loud noise?
“Basically, what you’re really hearing is the air moving around in the stomach when it’s empty. When it’s empty you don’t have anything to absorb the sounds, when you have a full stomach you’re not going to hear that churning as much. So the growling you’re hearing is our stomach churning waiting for us to put the food in it -- and it’s louder because there is no food or cushioning to absorb food.”
So, basically, our stomach is always making noise and we just don’t hear it if we’re full?
“The thought is that’s true, yes -- that it’s always making noise, we just don’t hear it typically. That’s the most logical sense.”
If our stomach growls louder, does it mean we’re actually hungrier?
“It’s louder more when there’s nothing there to muffle sound, not so much that we’re actually hungrier.
Does it still signify some sort of warning?
“Basically our bodies pretty much run on autopilot, we’re the ones who stop things from working correctly. So our stomach knows when we’re hungry and it’s time to eat, and it needs calories and fuel to keep going. To alert you to this, it keeps tearing itself even when the food isn’t there, so if your mind and body is hungry, things will preemptively start moving and you’ll hear it.”
What’s actually moving around in there?
“The sounds we hear in our stomach is the sloshing around of the GI contents of the fluids that are in there; it’s not like there are joints making those noises, it’s just that actual contents passing through you.”
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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and her stomach is growling right now. She clearly needs some cushioning in the form of a Saratoga club from Parm STAT. Tweet her its coordinates at @lizn813.