Managing embarrassing symptoms -- burping, intestinal gas, and the growling stomach --- may be as simple as changing your diet.
Eating the Air continued...
Edmundowicz tells WebMD that
people with severe heartburn are also likely to swallow air. The natural
reaction to the backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus is to swallow in
order to force the acid back down. The more you swallow, the more air gets into
Some people develop an
unconscious nervous habit of swallowing. "There are a lot of closet air
swallowers out there who don't realize that they're doing it," says
Some of the air that you
swallow goes through the intestinal tract and out the other end. But the major
source of intestinal gas derives from the action of harmless, naturally
occurring bacteria in your intestine.
Gas is a by-product of
bacterial breakdown of undigested food that makes its way to the large
intestine. Most of the gas is hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and,
in about one-third of people, methane. The signature stink of intestinal gas
comes from sulfur.
The volume of intestinal gas
is directly related to the amount of undigested food that goes into the large
intestine. If you're eating things that can't be absorbed by the small
intestine, or if your small intestine can't absorb certain foods normally, the
bacteria in the large intestine will pick up the slack and manufacture more gas
in the process.
The Growling Stomach
Intestinal gas can also cause
the familiar sounds of the "growling stomach," a term that's actually a
misnomer, says Munsey Wheby, MD, president of the American College of
"It's not usually the stomach
making the noise," says Wheby, who is also senior associate dean and a
professor of medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
"Instead, it's caused by the intestines as they contract."
Everyone knows that a growling
"stomach" can mean that you're hungry. But the noise often stems from the
movement of air through the intestines, whether there's food there or not. So
if you've been swallowing a lot of air, or if you've been eating things that
your small intestine can't digest, you may hear some grumbling, or even a whole
symphony of bizarre and embarrassing noises.
But like burping and
flatulence, occasional growling from the intestines isn't anything to worry
about, says Edmundowicz.