Should your tummy growl before you eat?

This simple body noise can help you observe if you digestive tract is working for you or against you.

One of the many important things to know about the digestive system is how it transports food. Waves of muscle contractions move and push the contents continually downward in a process called peristalsis. In addition to moving your meal along its digestive path, these contractions also help churn food, liquid and different digestive juices together, rendering them into a mix called chyme.

When your stomach rumbles and growls in between meals, you likely take this as a cue that you are hungry. These aren’t hunger pains that you are feeling. The growling and rumbling that you hear in between meals is triggered by the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). This complex sends peristaltic waves through your stomach and small intestine, in a regular cycle during a fasting state.

These actions are thought to serve a housekeeping role. To help sweep undigested material and residual organisms further down the digestive tract.

There are four phases of activity:

  1. The first phase is a period of intestinal smooth muscle calmness lasting 45 to 60 minutes, during which there are only rare action potentials and contractions occur.
  2. The second phase is a period of roughly thirty minutes in which peristaltic contractions occur and progressively increase in frequency. Peristalsis originates in the stomach and propagates throughout the small intestine.
  3. The third phase lasts 5 to 15 minutes and consists of rapid, evenly spaced peristaltic contractions. In contrast to the digestive period, the pylorus remains open during these peristaltic contractions, allowing many indigestible materials to pass into the small intestine.
  4. The fourth and final phase is a short period of transition between the strong contractions that occur in the third phase and the inactivity that occurs in the first phase.

During the Migrating Motor Complex increased gastric, and pancreatic secretion occurs to help further digestion and decrease bacterial buildup in segments of the digestive tract. Ingestion of food overrides the MMC, therefore, fasting has to occur regularly to help complete the process. The typical “growling” sounds you hear when you are hungry might be the MMC doing its job, cleaning your bowels of waste and excessive bacteria through increased peristalsis.

What causes poor MMC function?

  1. Reduction of stomach acid by using acid reducing medications or H. pylori infection
  2. Lack of exercise, grazing, and constipation
  3. Being overstressed and anxious
  4. Finally, low thyroid function and adrenal fatigue
  5. Eating small incomplete meals through out the day

So, when your stomach begins to growl 2 hours after a meal:

  1. Be grateful!
  2. Drink room temperature water to support the digestive functions
  3. Give your body 1-2 hours after the growling to assess if you are truly hunger, this hunger sensation will be slightly different the food transport growl.
  4. If you do eat in this window, have a small snack that is NOT a refined carbohydrate. Try veggies, a piece of fruit with nuts or melon alone.
  5. Observe your sleep patterns and notice if you wake up with your tummy feeling flat and growling. If not, give your body some time to catch up.

This daily observation can support your digestive system for long haul!
Keep growling,
Heather Fleming, C.C.N


Thanks to David Goehring for the cool pic!