Bowel sounds - causes and therapy

Bowel sounds - causes and therapy

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Bowel sounds are uncomfortable. If the intestines are bubbling, gurgling or groaning, then those who are present also hear it - sometimes from several meters away. But how do these tones come about?

What happens in the gut?

The gastrointestinal tract looks like a saggy bagpipe, the loops of the large and small intestine are connected to the stomach bag. The intestinal walls are made up of muscles, which relax and contract, thus transporting the food to the rectum. If there is gas and liquid in the intestine, it can expand and contract, causing noise.

The air we swallow comes with digestive gases, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane. When liquid food and these gases meet, it chuckles. This causes gas bubbles to float through the intestine, driven by liquid. The air in the stomach pushes itself through the contraction of the intestinal walls into the small intestine, and there is the food porridge. That sounds like bubbling.


We don't like to talk about flatulence, and whoever lets it down in society is considered uncivilized. Everyone knows them and they are not necessarily unhealthy. Because some flatulent foods are on the hit list of a conscious diet. The result is often a so-called bloat.

An old peasant rule even said that one day of flatulence per week is good health. Above all, this includes cabbage vegetables, legumes such as beans, onions, garlic and leeks. But also mold cheese, mountain cheese, Camenbert, fatty meat and fatty sausages, goose, chicken skin, soups with a lot of animal fat stimulate the concert in the intestine. Very fresh bread and other baked goods make the intestines rumble as well as soft fruit, figs and raw plums. The yeast ensures that beer drinkers make themselves known through unwanted "ventriloquy".

If the intestines make noises from such foods, there is no need to worry. Such flatulence can also be easily remedied: coriander, cumin and ginger reduce the bubbling of the air in the intestine. Cumin is also a good spice for cabbage dishes. Ginger is even considered a superfood and goes well with, for example, chicken soups, but less so with high-fat cheese or fat pork. But we can also drink a tea with fresh ginger.

Eat consciously

We cause bubbling in the intestine not only by what we eat, but also by the way we eat it.

For many people, eating is no longer a fixed ritual, they swallow it between appointments, swallow it while chatting on their smartphone or chewing it because they are under stress.

But if we eat too hastily, whether due to lack of time, stress or the usual fast food consumption, breathe and speak at the same time, we swallow more air than if we concentrate on the food. There is a feeling of fullness in the stomach and sometimes the intestines rumble.

Sweeteners such as milk sugar, sorbitol and fructose also bloat. They are mainly contained in "Light" products.

The intestinal gases

Most intestinal gases are produced by digestion, and carbon dioxide is formed when stomach and fatty acids neutralize. If we swallow sugar, it is fermented into fatty acids in the large intestine.

Only part of the carbon dioxide gets into the lungs, and we exhale that. What is left has to go through the intestinal exit. However, this CO² mixes with hydrogen, nitrogen, ammonia and sulfur. Carbon dioxide itself does not smell, but ammonia and sulfur all the more so. The more of these digestive gases in the mixture, the stronger the smells that escape from the intestine.


Occasional flatulence is no cause for concern. However, chronic bowel noises, a so-called bloated stomach and constant feelings of fullness can be due to the fact that those affected cannot tolerate certain foods.

Above all, this includes fructose intolerance and lactose intolerance. Those who suffer from this should not consume fructose in the first case and dairy products in the second. These are still not diseases.

The doctor is only asked if diarrhea and abdominal pain occur.


Spasms in the intestine lead to so-called bloating. The bowel then constricts the air at its curvatures. Violent bowel noises and abdominal pain follow.

In the worst case, the intestine is pinched by a tumor. Also surgery scars. Inflammation of the intestine or benign growths cause overinflation. Before you think about it, those affected should consider whether to hold their breath.

This happens, for example, when there is severe stress or when there is great fear. If we "hold our breath" so as not to give ourselves away by breathing loudly or block (violent) breathing so as not to reveal that we are aroused and then the intestines draw attention to ourselves, then we probably have no physical illnesses.

Incidentally, this also explains why the "stomach grumbles" or the "intestine grumbles" when we don't want to attract attention - as an audience during a lecture or during an interview: We hold our breath so as not to "bother with loud breathing “And that is exactly what leads to bowel sounds.

Serious complaints

If there is a buzzing in the upper abdomen under the diaphragm, this may be due to a biliary colic, grumbling pain on the left side, maybe even a heart attack.

But that doesn't have to be the case: overinflation is often accompanied by symptoms that could indicate a heart attack but are not. This includes shortness of breath, dizziness and sweating. This form of hyperinflation is known as Roemheld syndrome.

It becomes dangerous if the bloating is due to an intestinal obstruction or a paralysis of the intestine. Both are easily mistaken for constipation.

Irritable bowel

With an irritable bowel, the pain threshold in the intestinal wall is low. The doctor recognizes this by stretching the rectum with a balloon. Irritable bowel patients then quickly hurt their intestines.

The sufferers suffer from strong gas formation, which causes flatulence and pain.

You should keep a diary of the dishes with which the symptoms occur. An irritable bowel can be caused by food intolerance; If there is then a low pain threshold in the intestine, we are talking about an irritable bowel.

For example, the small intestine usually processes fruit sugar effectively. If it does not produce the necessary substances, the fructose gets into the large intestine, where it is broken down by bacteria that form gases and these gases lead to bloating.

But diarrhea associated with infections such as traveler's diarrhea can also trigger an irritable bowel.

Irritable bowel syndrome is shown as a change between diarrhea and constipation, chronic abdominal pain and bloating, which decrease after bowel movements.

Irritable bowel is not dangerous, but it is uncomfortable. Medications help against the flatulence, liquid against the constipation. There are also preparations that relieve the intestine.

What can you do?

If you suffer from returning and strong bowel sounds, you should describe them to the doctor exactly. Make a note of what and how much you eat, how long your stomach has been rumbling, but especially if you have any other symptoms.

Abdominal pain, dizziness, constipation and diarrhea help the doctor with the diagnosis as well as psychological triggers, whether time constraints or stress.

The doctor palpates the abdomen and listens to the intestine with a stethoscope - all parts of the abdominal wall.


Intestinal sounds caused by food usually stop when the food is digested.

But if the cause is a gastrointestinal disease, then the stomach cannot process the food in such a way that it reaches the digestive tract. Transporting food through the intestines puts them in contact with the intestinal gases, which triggers the unpleasant noises.

Gastrointestinal diseases are associated with diarrhea, which means loss of fluid. Those affected should therefore drink a lot or eat soups.


Gastrointestinal diseases can be avoided by washing our hands regularly, because most viruses and bacteria get into the body through the mouth.

We should also wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly to prevent infection by pathogens attached to them.

Otherwise, a balanced diet helps. If we take too little fiber, the protein gets into the large intestine, and the bacteria there break down the food, which usually happens in the small intestine, and this causes bloating. We avoid this by providing the body with sufficient fiber. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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