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Your stomach emitting sounds is usually nothing to be worried about. However, if these growls get louder, more frequent and painful, you may have an underlying problem. Here are some of the reasons for stomach (intestine) growls and how to prevent them. Correcting the underlying disease will help you stop these stomach growls.

1. Long intervals between meals

The stomach rumbling while digesting food is a natural phenomenon. However, an empty stomach may also growl. After about two hours of emptying itself, the stomach starts producing hormones. These chemicals stimulate local nerves that send signals to the brain. As a result, the brain signals the digestive muscles to restart the process of contraction and relaxation (peristalsis) that moves food along the alimentary canal. These vibrations of the empty stomach produce growls that are sometimes audible.

Such vibrations occur briefly after every hour, and are nothing to worry about. They keep recurring until you eat again. Decreasing the interval between meals is the best treatment option. 'Small but frequent meals' is the key to get rid of these intestine growls.

2. Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a condition associated with the backflow (reflux) of stomach and intestinal acids into the esophagus. The cause of this is the weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which controls the movement of contents from the esophagus into the stomach. Symptoms include chest pain, heartburn, loud bowel sounds, dry cough, nausea, regurgitation and obstructed swallowing.

Improving lifestyle and eating habits can help relieve the symptoms of GERD without any medical intervention. If the symptoms do not relieve with lifestyle changes, it is recommended that you visit your doctor. After proper examination and ruling out the other causes, your doctor will prescribe you medications that will help you get rid of this disorder. Commonly used medicines include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • H2 receptor blockers
  • Antacids

In worst cases, surgery may be required.

3. Constipation

Constipation generally means not having a bowel movement for three consecutive days. If this persists for many months, the condition becomes chronic. However, constipation can also mean prolonged time intervals between successive bowel movements, or strained bowel reflexes due to hardening of stool. Symptoms include nausea, stomach rumbles, and abdominal discomfort. Because the food is not moving ahead properly, the digestive system tries to push the food forward which produces stomach growls.

Treatment depends on the cause. Increased daily intake of high-fiber foods and fluids often provides relief. Exercise is also quite effective. In extreme cases, doctors may prescribe laxatives and stool softeners, but these must be taken temporarily.

4. Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is a chronic inflammation of the entire or some part of the digestive tract. IBD includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. If not treated promptly, it may lead to life-threatening complications. The causes of IBD are still relatively unknown. Symptoms depend on its severity. Diarrhea, abdominal cramping, loud bowel sounds, growling, fever, fatigue and weight loss is common.

If you experience such symptoms, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible. Treatment usually involves medication such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, and immune-suppressants. Surgery might become necessary if the situation worsens. The bowel sounds will fade away as soon as the inflammation resolves.

5. Gas cramps

Gas buildup is the result of intestinal bacteria breaking down food. If this gas is not expelled naturally, it leads to gas cramps or gas pains. If the situation becomes worse, sweating, nausea, bloating and fever may even be experienced.

Changing your diet, exercising, reducing stress, etc are some of the basic treatments for relief. If other more troubling symptoms are seen, visit your doctor.

6. Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal Obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the small or large intestine (colon). This obstruction restricts the movement of digested food and fluids along the digestive tract. The affected intestinal areas may subsequently get necrosed (die) if the condition is not treated. Causes may be physical or related to nervous or muscular miscoordination. Symptoms include vomiting, appetite loss and abdominal gurgling, and discomfort.

Complete intestinal obstruction is a life threatening condition. Treatment is given according to the severity of the condition. Medication, air enemas, stunts and eventually surgery are the options.

Other reasons for experiencing stomach growls include:

  • Heart problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Tumor
  • Distention
  • Flatulence

Visiting your doctor is a good idea if you have been experiencing these sounds for more than a month. Doctor will rule out life threatening and serious conditions.

Remember: Prevention is better than cure.

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