FOR REAL! Tween Science

Illustrated by
Getty Images | Typography by Elena Cerri

illustration of stomach

Grrrrrowl. You’ve just gotten home from school and need to find something to stop the gut grumbles. After scouring the fridge for an afternoon snack, you munch on a slice of pizza and finish it off with a glass of water. Grrrrrowl. You wonder, “Why is my stomach still making noises?”

The sound of your belly grumbling, also known as borborygmi (bor-ber-ig-me), comes from gas or food moving through your gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract; that route starts with your mouth and typically ends with a trip to the bathroom. Not to worry, though! This process is normal and is usually not painful. And we all experience it. 

Imagine you’re squeezing toothpaste to the top of the tube. The process in which your body moves food through your G.I. tract is similar. This squeezing is known as peristalsis; your organs are involuntarily contracting and relaxing, slowly moving contents further and further through your system. And the grumbling is just the result of this movement.

Think of your stomach as a tank for a second. If your tank is empty, any sounds that occur in the chamber may be louder or echoed. Also, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower tend to cause more gas buildup because of all of the nutrients found in them. Those veggies can really get the rumbles rolling.

Conditions such as lactose intolerance and Celiac disease make it harder to process certain foods, and that makes the grumbling all the more aggressive. 

So how do you get rid of borborygmi? Well, if you’re feeling hungry, just eat! And if you think you need to pass gas, find a bathroom—and quick! 

Thanks to the Department of Medicine’s Naudia Jonassaint—medical director, hepatology, and vice chair for diversity and inclusion—for helping us get to the bottom of this.