11

The stomach rumble (clearly audible sound caused by the digestive system's movements) is a common phenomenon, often believed to be indicative of hunger. It is also a common trope used in fiction to indicate a character is hungry.

Of course the gut burbles all the time, but is stomach rumbling somehow louder or otherwise distinguishable when it co-occurs with hunger?

I ask because I suspect confirmation bias—that “loud stomach rumble implies hunger” is simply a meme that perpetuates through being repeated and falsely associated.

  • I think this answer covers your question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/28932/… – GeoffAtkins Dec 10 '15 at 12:58
  • @GeoffAtkins Which part of it? It mentions hunger once—that it can cause bowel contractions—but doesn't assert that such contractions are noisier than other bowel movements. – Anko Dec 10 '15 at 13:08
  • The opening sentence. Per NLM in 2014, "most bowel sounds are harmless and normal. They simply mean that the gastrointestinal tract is working." And in the second paragraph When the walls are activated and squeeze the tract's contents to mix and propel food, gas and fluids through the stomach and small intestines, it generates a rumbling noise. - Both of which strongly indicate that noise is just a normal consequence of digestion and nothing to do with hunger. – GeoffAtkins Dec 10 '15 at 13:12
  • @GeoffAtkins That's true; bowels make sound all the time. The claim I intended to ask about (and seem to have worded poorly) is that sounds caused by hunger are louder, or otherwise clearly distinguishable from other bowel sounds. I'll edit to clarify. – Anko Dec 10 '15 at 13:28
5

The sound you are referring to is called borborygmus.

There are lots of causes for borborygmi, as you can imagine, anytime the bowels and digestive tract are working, they are bound to produce noise.

In actuality, for a "perfectly healthy" person borborygmi are mainly caused by digestion and hunger. Further, the ones caused by digestion can, for the most part, be heard mainly by a stethoscope. Thus, the only audible borborygmi, for a hypothetical, perfectly healthy person, with a perfect diet, who had perfect digestion, would be from hunger. This is of course also assuming that this hypothetical human did not swallow any large amounts of air while talking or eating. The following link details some of the possible underlying causes for borborygmi http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/symptoms/borborygmi/causes.htm.

Note that they are all diseases. The "normal process" referred to in the link arises from normal digestion and hunger. Our "perfect human" thus would have his stomach audibly gurgle mainly from hunger. http://www.symptomfind.com/health/borborygmi-stomach-noises/

However... borborygmi can be caused by foods that are hard to digest and increasingly in the modern world by irritable bowel syndrome (see this paper http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01296258)

Further, borborygmi can be caused by a variety of other issues including some as serious as Crohn's disease.

I have yet to hear of any study, where the exact underlying cause can be identified by the decibel and tonal information from a borborygmus.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 2
    Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims - especially "Thus, audible borborygmi are, for a hypothetical, perfectly healthy person, with a perfect diet, who had perfect digestion, the only audible borborygmi is probably from hunger." which is pretty much what the question is asking. – Oddthinking Dec 10 '15 at 21:08
  • Good point. The reason I phrased my answer that way was to try and explain the origin of the trope. – Realhermit Dec 11 '15 at 18:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .