It's something we've all experienced at some point in our lives — sitting in class or in a work meeting when suddenly your stomach makes a sound so loud and grotesque you're sure it'll wake up the guy who's snoozing a few seats over.
Likely this has happened to you before, perhaps too many times to count. Maybe you're on a diet and cutting calories, or maybe you're so busy you just forgot to eat. Many of us grit our teeth and suffer through it, vowing to eat a snack before the next meeting. But for those of you who want to be proactive and find a solution to this embarrassing occurrence, you've come to the right place.
So what causes it to happen in the first place? And how can you prevent stomach growling?
Read on to find out how to prevent your stomach from growling like a wild animal.
The Causes of Stomach Growling
Most people would say that the cause of stomach growling is that they are hungry. While this may be an indirect cause, it is not directly responsible for the dreadful sounds which erupt from within.
In reality, your stomach growls because it is doing its job — the sounds you hear are the results of your digestive system working to churn the food, fluids, and digestive juices your stomach contains (a mixture called chyme) and then move it along through your intestines. The process by which your gut muscles squeeze this mixture through your intestinal tract is called peristalsis. Not only does this process move the mixture through your body, but it also assists in mixing the contents further and breaking down the food particles so that they can be absorbed.
Peristalsis occurs more often and with more power after we consume a meal (when food is present in the stomach and intestines) and after a certain amount of time has passed since our last meal exited the stomach (approximately two hours), in order to make way for our next meal. The sounds occur with the movement of the digested food and can become louder with the presence of gas. However, without any food in the stomach, the noises from these muscle contractions are amplified (and thus more embarrassing).
So, knowing all this, what can we do to stop stomach growling?
How to Keep Your Stomach from Growling
Although the stomach noises you hear are most often simply the result of a healthy gut doing what it's supposed to do, there are steps you can take to minimize the growling.
1. Eliminate Excess Gas
Excess gas in the intestinal tract can be responsible for more pronounced stomach sounds. There are two primary ways in which you can lower the amount of gas your body produces and therefore reduce stomach growling.
One way is to avoid eating certain foods that typically produce more gas, in the meal before your class/meeting/event. You may know many of the foods which tend to cause gas, but some may surprise you. Here are a few examples of foods that can make one more gassy:
- Veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Beans, legumes, and lentils
- Dairy products which contain lactose
- Whole grains
- Certain fruits, particularly those high in soluble fiber
These are just a few examples. Also note that everyone's body is different. Some of these foods will cause you more gas than others. It may be beneficial to perform some experiments in which you test which of the above foods produce the most gas for you.
Another way to reduce gas is to take certain medications, which can be obtained with a prescription from your doctor or over the counter. These medications can help prevent excess gas and the associated bloating and discomfort. Some of the top over-the-counter brands are:
Taking any of the above otc medications will help with excess gas and the amplified stomach noises that come with it.
2. Try A Meal Replacement
Meal replacements are supplements that are meant to "replace" missed meals, either purposely or not. By "purposely" we mean that sometimes people will take a meal replacement supplement instead of eating a normal meal because that way it's easier to ensure you're not eating anything unhealthy. This is fine to do on occasion, particularly if you're on a diet (but it can actually do more harm than good if you're replacing every meal).
On the other hand, sometimes people are just unable to take the time to prepare healthy, well-balanced meals, and instead of stopping at some fast food restaurant to satiate their hunger, they will consume a meal replacement. This is what meal replacements were made for, and they work superbly well in these types of situations.
Taking one of these supplements before or during your class or meeting may help to completely eliminate your stomach noises. Here are our rankings of the best meal replacement shakes on the market. Another possibility is to take a whey protein shake.
3. Eat At Regular Intervals
We know this can be difficult to do when you're at work or in school all day, but eating at regular intervals can help with stomach growling. This means not skipping lunch, even if you have an extremely busy day. If this is the case, bring food with you into your class or meeting. Most coworkers and professors will understand!
Even between your regular meals (between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner), bring a healthy snack to tide you over until your next meal. Something as simple as string cheese or a protein bar can work wonders — helping with your hunger and preventing your stomach from growling. (Our favorite protein bar is made by Quest Nutrition. It's healthy and delicious.)
If you're having trouble getting healthy meals in regularly, for whatever reason, it can help to have a pre-planned meal schedule, which lists all your meals to eat throughout each day. If you'd like some help with following a healthier, more-balanced diet, give our healthy meal planner a try. It builds a healthy plan for you based on your body, food preferences, and health goal. You can build your own plan here.
4. Don't Eat A Large Meal Immediately Before
This may seem counterintuitive, but remember that stomach growling isn't directly from your hunger — it can result from the release of hormones that signal the intestinal muscles to contract (when there's no food in your stomach), OR it can result from the movement of food and air through your digestive track (i.e. after eating).
You've likely experienced stomach noises immediately after eating (sometimes for hours afterwards). While there's not the accompanying unpleasant feeling of hunger with these noises, they still can be unbearably loud and embarrassing.
5. Slow Down Your Eating
When people eat quickly, they tend to swallow a lot of air with their food. As we've already learned, excess air in your intestinal tract can contribute to the loud grumbling noises you hear.
To avoid swallowing this excess air, slow down your eating. Give yourself enough time (for lunch or a snack) to not have to rush through it. In addition to this, it's been shown that eating slowly can benefit your health.
6. Cut Out the Diet Soda and Chewing Gum
To reduce stomach noises, it'll help to cut diet soda and chewing gum from your diet — or at least when you'd like your stomach to cooperate.
The reason for cutting out diet soda is two-fold: first, artificial sweeteners are known causes of gas, particularly for people with sensitive stomachs. In addition to this, diet sodas contain carbonation, and what is carbonation? That's right — it's air! You are literally swallowing air with each slurp. This leads to excess air in your intestinal tract (gas) which leads to loud stomach growling (embarrassment). We won't even get into (right now) why diet soda may be harming your health and is not actually helping you lose weight at all.
Most types of chewing gum contain artificial sweeteners, which again can cause the creation of gas. Also, when chewing gum, the act of chewing can confuse your body into thinking you are consuming real food, and so your body will release hormones telling your digestive system to make room for more food (when none is coming), which can be a direct cause of the noises you hear.
Eliminate these two items from your daily routine, and you'll hear your stomach talking much less.
As you can see, there are a few strategies you can try to stop stomach growling. They may not completely eliminate every stomach noise, but they will help to minimize the sounds and the embarrassment you may feel.
It's also important to remember that stomach sounds are a natural part of the digestive process and that everyone experiences it sometimes. Because of this there's no reason to feel embarrassed. It is an essential function of the human body, and the functionality and complexity of the human body (and any other organism, really) are extraordinary feats of nature.
Note: Some illnesses and diseases can cause increased bowel sounds, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn's Disease. If you are experiencing pain or any major difference in the way your bowels are functioning, it would be wise to consult a licensed medical doctor.
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