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Strange sensations and strange sounds from the abdomen are symptoms of many diseases. Known as borborygmus, some tummy rumbles are so loud that they can be heard from across a room, even without the emission of flatulence. Among the causes of these fluttering sensations and rumbling noises are:

  • Hunger. As soon as two hours after a meal, the stomach sends signals to the brain that it has emptied, and the brain responds with instructions to the muscles lining the stomach to being motion that allows the stomach to receive another meal. The longer one goes without eating, the louder the sounds from the stomach will be. Eating something stops the noise and any fluttering sensations that go along with it.
  • Swallowing air while eating, drinking, or talking sends bubbles into the stomach that have two ways to go, up in a belch or down in noisy flatulence. As air bubbles pass from the stomach to the small bowel they make a rumbling sounds and cause a fluttering sensation.
  • Incomplete digestion. Many people lack the lactase enzyme that enables the digestion of milk sugar. A complete lack of the enzyme may result in diarrhea and flatulence, but an incomplete lack of the enzyme may only cause tummy rumbles and belly flutters. Similarly, celiac disease, a immune reaction to the gliadin in the gluten in grain protein, can cause a variety of digestive responses, including a noisy gastrointestinal tract.
  • Ischemic colitis is a condition in which the colon fails to receive adequate supply. When the problem blood vessel is the inferior mesenteric artery, there can be loud noises from the left upper quarter of the abdomen. These noises can range from a rumble to a sound that some compare to a wolf crying at the first sight of a full moon. Usually ischemic colitis causes intense pain that is made worse by continuing to eat, as well as severe diarrhea followed by complete loss of appetite.
  • Dumping syndrome is premature passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Gurgles of food passing into the empty small intestine may be quickly followed by a bloated feeling and abdominal pain that is relieved by bowel movement that passes well-formed, poorly formed, and liquid stool, and then undigested food particles.
  • Diverticulitis, inflammation of the diverticuli, the pockets in the lining of the large intestine, become inflamed. Usually this condition follows a prolonged period of constipation due to failure to consume enough fiber in the diet. Bloating, nausea, and fever accompany bowel sounds.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) usually manifests itself about an hour after consumption of large meals, especially large meals with caffeinated beverages. There can be intense abdominal pain, usually in the middle of the abdomen, that is only relieved by bowel movement. IBS also causes abdominal distention, bloating, and gas. Some people who have IBS only experience diarrhea, while others experience alternating constipation and diarrhea.

If you have one of the conditions that cause borborygmus along with other more serious symptoms, that is, other than hunger, you may have to make major changes in your lifestyle. If you have a problem with swallowing air, you may need to learn to speak more slowly or how to support your voice with your diaphragm. If you have celiac disease, you will have to take drastic measures to eliminate wheat, rye, barley, and oats in any form from your diet, and you will probably also need nutritional supplementation to make up for the vitamins and minerals your injured intestines cannot absorb. If you have dumping syndrome, you will need to avoid drinking liquids with meals (a problem for Americans who like to drink large tumblers of iced tea with refills), you will need to avoid carbohydrates (although small amounts are acceptable), and you will need to eat six meals a day, not three. When incomplete digestion is a problem, taking digestive enzymes can be a complete cure. If you have diverticulitis, you can benefit from more fiber in your diet, and also from applying a heating pad to your abdomen as often as possible.

Fluttering sensations and rumbling sounds are not a serious symptom in themselves, but they may point to a serious underlying cause. Use these unusual symptoms as an early warning system to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment as soon as you can.

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