Body sounds can be embarrassing, but usually they’re completely normal. We all know what a rumbling stomach sounds like, but what do all those weird belly sounds really mean? What else does our body do that sounds weird and can be embarrassing? Never fear — we’ve rounded up some of the most common body noises and found out what they mean.
The abdominal gurgle can be one of the loudest tummy noises we can produce, and it has an even better name that you’re sure to love: borborygmus (plural: borborygmi). Basically, your intestines are hollow muscles designed to move ingested food along before it exits your body. During normal digestion, food is pushed along your intestinal tract accompanied by liquid and gas. Borborygmi take place when food (or its remnants) is on the move, and it’s mostly the gas bubbles that contribute to the noise.
A growling stomach typically signifies hunger, and it’s interesting to note that it is also termed borborygmus. The reason it’s often louder when we’re hungry? According to Mark Andrews, associate professor of physiology and associate director of the independent study program at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, it’s because there isn’t as much stomach and intestinal content, which can muffle the noise.
Gurgling with meaning
Sometimes, the borborygmi can be way more intense — described by many as “bubble guts” — and is often accompanied by cramping, nausea or other abdominal distress. This is often followed by an immediate bathroom visit, as you realize the diarrhea gods have bestowed their gift upon you. This stomach noise should always be carefully monitored by the bearer of said gurgles and bathroom proximity should be noted. Also, definitely do not let out an experimental fart, because it may be more than just gas, and that’s just bad news.
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Everybody burps, and even though it’s common, it may be an unexpected surprise (although it’s fun at parties). Belching is normal and rids the body of excess gas (which comes from swallowing air or, alternatively, gasses produced as a normal part of digestion). Excessive belching, on the other hand, can indicate a problem, such as a hiatal hernia, infections or food intolerances.
Farting, or flatulence, is another normal noise our bodies adore producing. This oft-smelly butt trumpet noise starts in the intestines and is the simple act of the body ridding itself of excess gas from your bum instead of your mouth. Believe it or not, the average person is a flatulence-producing machine, churning out 1 to 3 pints of gas (averaging around 14 farts per diem). It can also be accompanied by the above-mentioned belly gurgles and growls, so you can be a one-person band if you’re up for it.
Hiccups are annoying AF, but are generally harmless. It all stems from the diaphragm, a muscle that really means business and is located just under your lungs (when it contracts, it expands your thoracic cavity and draws in air so you can breath). If it decides to contract for no reason at all, the opening in your vocal cords snaps shut to deal with the sudden intake of air, and bingo, you’ve got the hiccups.
No, you’re not a bowl of Rice Krispies, but your joints have probably popped before. This too is a normal human body sound. While nobody is 100 percent certain of why a joint pops or cracks, they have a pretty good idea — physical therapist Damien Howell explains that the joint capsule surrounds the two bones that make up the joint and can create a vacuum of sorts, which means there is less pressure inside than out. When the joint pops, the pressure inside suddenly changes and we hear a crack.
Overall, body noises are certainly interesting, and although some come with a degree of embarrassment, they’re often perfectly normal side effects of being a human, eating and digesting food and moving around. Of course, if you have any concerns, see a medical professional, but unless it’s a problem, enjoy the melodies your body makes.