Most of us have experienced a growling stomach, but does the rumbling noise mean you need food and what happens if you ignore it? Will ignoring it hurt you or is it a sign that your body is losing weight?
In this post, I’ll explain why your stomach growls, and answer some common questions about what it means.
Why Your Stomach Growls – At-A-Glance
- A growling stomach is not necessarily a sign of hunger. The gurgles and sounds that we hear coming from inside of us are most likely related to the digestion of food that goes on for hours after we eat.
- Stomach contractions make noise. With no food in your system, your hollow digestive tract acts like an echo chamber, and you hear all of the gurgles and groans and growls that you associate with hunger.
- A growling stomach does not automatically mean that your body has transitioned into a fat-burning state.
- If your desire is fat loss, then your growling belly needs to be paired with two additional internal conditions: Low Insulin & Low Glycogen.
Why Your Stomach Growls | If You Need to Eat | Is It Weight Loss? [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn
- Why your stomach growls.
- Should you eat food or ignore your growling stomach?
- How a growling stomach relates to fat loss.
- The two conditions that are necessary for fat loss.
What Does a Growling Stomach Mean?
A growling stomach is not necessarily a sign of hunger. Hunger is a hormonally-driven communication between your gut and your brain. The gurgles and sounds that we hear coming from inside of us are most likely related to the digestion of food that goes on for hours after we eat.
Your digestive tract is lined with smooth muscles. When you eat something, these muscles contract to mix the food with digestive juices so you can get the nutrients out of the food.
This movement is a noisy process, but when there is food in your system, the sound is muffled.
During hunger, the muscle of the stomach and small intestine is largely inactive. The muscles experience cycles of contractions that play a housekeeping role that cleans out residual contents like mucus, food particles, and bacteria so that your system is prepared for its next meal.
These stomach contractions make noise. With no food in your system, your hollow digestive tract acts like an echo chamber and you hear all of the gurgles and groans and growls that you associate with hunger. (1)
But, here again, these sounds are caused by muscle contractions. You could be experiencing a growling stomach, but not feel physically hungry.
To Eat or Not to Eat
Should you eat to quiet your stomach or ignore the noise? The housekeeping contractions that happen in your empty stomach are cyclic, so you might experience the stomach growls for 15 to 30 minutes as the contractions are happening, but then notice that they go away for a period as the muscles move into the relaxed phase of the cycle.
If you ignore the growling, it will simply move through its cycles. As long as you’re not in a quiet meeting, have a digestive issue or a condition like diabetes in which you need to be attentive to blood sugar fluctuations, you’ll do no harm to your body by ignoring the noises.
Does a Growling Stomach Mean Weight Loss?
How do stomach growls relate to weight loss? A growling stomach does not automatically mean that your body has transitioned into a fat-burning state. As I mentioned, the muscle contractions that create the noise are always happening, but we don’t hear them when food is muffling the sound.
You could simply be a noisy digester. Excessive gas, swallowing air by eating too fast, and underlying digestive issues all have the potential to accentuate the rumbling noises. A belly growl does not necessarily equal fat loss.
What is Needed for Fat Loss?
If your desire is fat loss, then your growling belly needs to be paired with two additional internal conditions. Your glycogen energy stores must be low and insulin must be low.
When food energy is not coming in through your mouth, your body keeps running by pulling energy out of storage. Glycogen is your easily accessed energy storage tank because it is essentially stored glucose, which is easy to burn.
The glycogen containers inside of you are small and get used up quickly. Fat, on the other hand, contains a lot of stored energy. Fat is hard to access because the fat release is blocked when insulin is elevated in your blood.
Stretching out the length of time between your meals will deplete glycogen and lower insulin and likely result in more noticeable belly rumbles.
A guide to intermittent fasting.
Stretching out the time between eating is something that the weight loss world refers to as intermittent fasting and I have a blog post and video on three ways to do intermittent fasting that you may want to read or watch next.
Thanks so much for reading and I will see you back here next week with another blog post!
(1) Sanger, Gareth J., Per M. Hellström, and Erik Näslund. “The hungry stomach: physiology, disease, and drug development opportunities.” Frontiers in pharmacology 1 (2011): 145.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.