You loved this article about why your stomach is growling!
-Shana Aborn, BettyConfidential.com
Whoops! Was that really you? Right in the middle of a job interview, a lunch with a friend or – OMG – a steamy embrace, an embarrassinggrrrrrr erupts from your stomach.
Mortifying? You bet. But if it’s any comfort, a gurgling tummy, or borborygmi (bore-bore-RIG-mee – isn’t that fun to say?) is perfectly normal. Actually, it’s not really your stomach that grumbles, but the area that’s a little further south. During digestion, the muscles of your large and small intestines contract, pushing along food and liquid. When air gets mixed in, it makes that telltale growling sound – or else it leaves the body through burping or passing gas. Without those charming eruptions, your belly would stretch like Octomom’s in her ninth month – so by comparison, a little embarrassment isn’t so bad.
You naturally swallow some air when you eat and drink, but excess air can also get into your system through chewing gum, smoking, sucking hard candy, drinking through straws, or even sniffling your way through a cold or allergies. High-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and beans; vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli; sodas and seltzers; and sugarless gum with the sweetener sorbitol can add to the problem. Why? These foods can’t be digested by the small intestine, so they end up in the large intestine, which uses bacteria to break them down. The process releases the gas that has been the subject of tasteless jokes since time immemorial.
If you find that your tummy rumbles more often when you eat certain foods, then cut back a little. Over-the-counter products like Beano or Lactaid can make it easier to digest beans or dairy products, if those are a problem for you.
And here’s a big tip: Although it’s a common belief that rumbling indicates hunger, that’s not necessarily true. Growling can happen at any time during the digestive process, so don’t automatically assume it’s time to eat. Make sure you’re really hungry before you go for a nosh.
While stomach gurgling is usually nothing to worry about, talk to your doctor if it suddenly gets much worse or if you also experience stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or weight loss. Severe heartburn and burping could be a sign of a condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or even heart trouble. Don’t ignore your symptoms.
The noise isn’t all that offensive as bodily functions go – so why are we so embarrassed when it happens? “It calls attention to ourselves in a negative way,” explains Cynthia Lett, executive director of the International Society of Protocol and Etiquette Professionals, in Silver Spring, MD. “We’re supposed to present ourselves in a dignified, powerful persona, and when our body betrays us, it’s embarrassing. We know it happens to everybody, but we think we’re the exception.”
What if it happens at the office or during an important meeting? If you’re sure it was loud enough to be heard, simply say “Excuse me” to the person next to you and keep talking. “Don’t spend a lot of time on it, and don’t joke about it or make excuses,” says Lett, who’s also the author of That’s So Annoying! An Etiquette Expert on the World’s Most Irritating Habits and What to Do About Them (www.thatssoannoyingbook.com). “We really don’t want your medical history of what happens when you eat red peppers.” At business lunches, play it safe and pass up the cream sauces and Brussels sprouts.
Suppose the gurgles are coming from someone else – like your boss? Ignore it. “It’s a kindness, and that’s what etiquette is all about,” says Lett. When you’re alone, you can giggle if you must. Or just say “borborygmi” a few times, which is even more fun.
Shana Aborn is a freelance writer based in New York and a frequent contributor to BettyConfidential.