What does your gut say?
by Kris Parfitt
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Dear What Does Your Gut Say:
After most meals, my boyfriend’s stomach makes LOUD sounds. I think that he has a parasite, but he says that his stomach has made these noises since he was a kid. We eat pretty much the same meals and my stomach doesn’t make that loud of noise.”
- His rumble, my grumble.
I understand the embarrassment that this can cause in certain social situations. However, it’s common, and, with a little added humor, can be comical.
Gastro-intestinal sounds are common and expected, but experiencing of consistent or common abdominal pain, bloating or cramping can be a sign of something more serious.
Similarly, your quiet digestion process is common, too. However, if your boyfriend presses his ear or a stethoscope against your abdomen and doesn’t hear anything going on after you eat, that can be a sign of an intestinal obstruction and should be treated immediately.
Your boyfriend may consider seeking counsel from medical professional who specializes in gut health if he suffers from a combination of any of these symptoms: diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, skin rashes, unexplained allergies, aches and pains, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia or an inability to sleep.
While parasites sometimes block our ability to absorb nutrients from the food that we that eat, they can cause our stomachs to gurgle. But that isn’t a common reason for amplified gastro-tract expressions.
So, now that I’ve freaked you out about your guts and his, keep reading, you’ll feel better about what is actually going on.
Our stomach is not the only organ doing all of the talking. While the stomach makes sounds when it’s empty or breaking down food, it’s the small and large intestines that rumble louder when digesting.
Once food enters our stomach, it secretes various enzymes and acids to break it down into a mush-like consistency called chyme. The chyme passes into the small intestine, and a different set of enzymes begins to absorb the nutrients from the food. If during consumption we eat quickly, talk often, or don’t chew our food thoroughly, then we also swallow air and chunks of food that are too big for our stomach to break down.
Air isn’t digested. It’s either belched out above the stomach or expelled from below the stomach where it is politely referred to as flatulence. As this air passes through the digestive tract it can cause abdominal discomfort. When our stomach can’t break the larger chunks of food into chyme, the bits are passed through to the small intestine where it attempts to absorb nutrients. But nutrients in chunks of food are harder to absorb than chyme. The presence of undigested food fermenting in the intestinal tract can also cause abdominal pain, bloat and discomfort.
Our bodies don’t rely on gravity alone to get food through our digestive system. The common auditory expression we hear from our abdomen is caused by peristalsis, which are the contractions that our stomach and intestines use to move the chyme and food bits through the gastro-intestinal tract. The technical word for the sound peristalsis makes is also the world’s best onomatopoeia: borborygmus (say “Bore-bore-IG-muss”).
The two most common causes of borborygmus are the incomplete digestion of food and an unbalanced diet filled with processed foods, unhealthy fats, processed sugars, and simple carbohydrates. Other contributors, beyond eating too fast and not chewing food thoroughly, are high fiber grains like cereals, breads, and oats. Legumes, dairy, and fructose (specifically found in grapes, oranges and apples) are also common triggers. These foods are not as easy or quick to break down, and result in the loud and compelling sounds of borborygmus. However, don’t confuse these foods as ones that are unhealthy; they are nutritious foods, they just have a reputation for causing borborygmus.
To prevent this gut concert, consider encouraging your boyfriend to start with the removal of processed foods in his diet for two weeks, and to chew his food thoroughly.