Intestinal noises – causes, treatment

Bowel sounds

Bowel sounds are an expression of the peristalsis of the stomach and intestines. Based on the presence and intensity of the bowel sounds, a doctor can estimate the likelihood of illnesses such as diarrhea or a bowel obstruction. However, further investigations are always required to prove this.

What are bowel sounds?

The determination of the intestinal sounds is part of every medical examination of the abdomen.

With the stethoscope , the examiner can determine whether intestinal noises are present at all, whether they sound normal “bubbling” or whether they may sound different in individual areas of the abdomen, for example whether there is an intestinal obstruction.

Even without a stethoscope, bowel sounds can be heard with an ear on one’s head or – if the stomach is growling – even from a few meters away.


In order for the gastrointestinal tract to be able to carry out its daily work of transporting and absorbing liquids and nutrients, it must be very active. The word peristalsis describes the ability of the intestinal wall to contract in waves and thus move the contents of the intestinal tube towards the anus.

Peristalsis occurs along the entire length of the gastrointestinal tract and is therefore responsible, among other things, for the fact that one can eat and swallow while standing on one’s head without the contents of the stomach and esophagus falling out of the mouth again .

When the peristalsis mixes and transports heavy, insufficiently chopped food components and thin liquids, the bubbling noises known as bowel noises occur.

The growl of the stomach is one example, the gurgle of the stomach after eating or with diarrhea is another. Flatulence is also noticeable as intestinal noises when air bubbles are moved through the intestinal contents.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

While these bowel sounds can be heard well with the ear by laying it on the abdominal wall or even from a few meters away, a doctor uses his stethoscope as an “extended ear” for reasons of hygiene. With this, the noises are filtered well and the examiner can concentrate fully on what he wants to hear.

When examining the abdomen with the stethoscope, also known as auscultation , it is always necessary to listen to all four quadrants of the abdominal wall, i.e. all four fields on the right and left, above and below an imaginary line at the level of the navel, as there are different diseases in the different places may exist. Listening to each quadrant for at least half a minute is often necessary to capture the bowel sounds. If the intestine is very active, a shorter auscultation time is often sufficient.

The doctor describes the normal bowel sounds as “lively” or “brisk” and “across all four quadrants.” If the bubbling and gurgling is noticeably violent, this can indicate diarrhea , for example an infection caused by viruses and bacteria . Strong bowel noises can also be heard in people with food intolerances such as lactose intolerance . However, due to the presence of other symptoms, auscultation of bowel sounds is of little importance in these cases.

The situation is different if the opposite is the case: If you don’t hear any intestinal noises over the entire abdominal wall, this can indicate an intestinal obstruction (ileus) due to paralysis of the intestinal wall, a so-called paralytic ileus. If abdominal pain is present and there is no bowel movement or bloody stools, the lack of evidence of intestinal sounds can therefore be an important part of the medical diagnosis and therapy decision.

There is a second variant of intestinal obstruction: If the ileus is mechanical, the intestinal wall tries to work against the obstruction point, the intestinal noises then sound amplified, and the doctor describes them as “high pitched” or “ringing”. This sounds through the stethoscope in principle as if someone were hitting a heating pipe with an iron.

The cause of such a mechanical ileus can be a foreign body or a cancerous growth that impedes the intestinal passage. Less common occasions when auscultation of bowel sounds is of immediate importance are malformations in infancy, for example, when bowel sounds can be detected in the chest due to permeability of the diaphragm.


Gut murmurs are a temporary symptom, but they can cause various complications. These include skin diseases and nerve disorders that can occur as a result of malnutrition , as well as rheumatic inflammation of the joints that occur as a result of typical allergies that cause intestinal noises. Affected people who change their diet as a result of the flatulence often suffer from deficiency symptoms, and children can suffer from failure to thrive .

If the bowel sounds are accompanied by severe abdominal pain and shock symptoms , there is a risk of an acute abdomen . Intestinal obstruction , appendix or stomach perforation are also possible complications. Intestinal sounds are usually related to gastric complaints and can indicate aerocolia or aerogastry in the intestinal tract. As a rule, however, intestinal noises are harmless and indicate an unproblematic upset of the gastrointestinal tract . diarrhea , stomach pain and constipationare usually the result, and there is often a reduction in quality of life, since the accompanying symptoms can sometimes severely limit the mobility of those affected.

Above all, an irritable bowel can negatively affect well-being due to the subsequent symptoms that occur. Due to the sensitive bacterial cultures in the gastrointestinal tract, the treatment itself, especially medication, a change in diet or the use of home remedies, can also initially make the intestinal noises worse. However, professionally supervised treatment usually leads to a reduction in the symptoms without long-term complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

Bowel sounds should be checked out by a doctor if they occur with other symptoms, do not improve with a change in diet, or even become a chronic problem. If excessively frequent and large amounts of intestinal gas escape, which sometimes also has an unpleasant smell, this is an indication of a food intolerance , which should always be examined by a specialist (e.g. gastroenterologist ) in order to avoid the development of secondary diseases.

If it is accompanied by vomiting, nausea or abdominal cramps, or if there is a feeling of fullness even when the stomach is empty, there may be a serious cause that needs to be clarified. The same applies if appetite decreases for no apparent reason or excessive weight loss occurs with a normal diet. If the intestinal noises are accompanied by flatulence or even diarrhea, there may be a disorder in the gastrointestinal tract – a medical examination will clarify the cause and can provide important information for rapid treatment.

Indicators of a disease of the gastrointestinal tract are, for example, suddenly changed stool characteristics, severe flatulence or pain in the stomach area. Intestinal noises are not a problem if they occur in irregular episodes and without accompanying symptoms. However, the doctor should also determine whether there is a food intolerance or whether another disease is the cause of the intestinal noises.

Treatment & Therapy

However, further diagnostic equipment almost always follows in order to track down the exact causes of the changed intestinal noises and to confirm or refute any suspected illness.

Depending on the intestinal disease, medicinal or surgical procedures can be used for therapy. A paralytic ileus can often be observed for a period of time as long as it is not due to an underlying intestinal infarction; with mechanical ileus, for example due to a growing tumor, there is no way around an operation.

Outlook & Forecast

Bowel sounds can bother people or be uncomfortable in certain situations. However, they do not have to indicate a malfunction immediately. Bowel sounds are usually a sign of a well-functioning bowel. The treatment is usually not carried out by a doctor, since in this case the patient can control the generation of these noises himself.

They do not necessarily lead to further problems and often represent natural sounds that occur during digestion. However, if they are associated with pain or nausea , a doctor should be consulted for treatment and eating habits changed.

Changing the diet to one that is light and easy for the stomach to digest can make the gut sounds go away. They often only occur with certain foods, so that these can be avoided. In such cases, targeted treatment is possible, which often leads to success.

Medication treatment is optional. These calm the intestines and thus prevent the occurrence of intestinal noises. However, they do not fix the cause of the problem and can only be used temporarily. In most cases, intestinal noises result in a positive course of the disease.


If you want to prevent intestinal diseases in general, you should eat a healthy diet in moderation with enough fiber. Good hygiene is crucial for the prevention of gastrointestinal infections: wash food or store it in a cool place overnight, do not eat anything that may have spoiled, wash hands or disinfect if you come into contact with other people suffering from diarrhea. Malformations or food intolerances can of course not be prevented.

You can do that yourself

Bowel noises are mostly harmless, but always embarrassing. However, patients who suffer from this can do a lot themselves to ensure that this disorder does not occur in the first place.

When you eat hectic, a lot of air gets into the gastrointestinal tract. Those affected should therefore eat slowly and chew well. In addition to how, what we eat also plays a major role in digestive disorders. Hard-to-digest foods such as animal fats and red meat should be avoided. Vegetables and legumes that cause flatulence, especially onions , all types of cabbage, beans and lentils , are at best well cooked and tolerated in small portions. Alcohol , acidic drinks such as fruit juices or coffee can irritate the stomach and make existing indigestion worse. Also many sweeteners such as lactose , fructoseor sorbitol can irritate digestion.

If the intestinal noises are accompanied by flatulence, simple home remedies will quickly bring about an improvement. Fennel tea calms, relaxes the stomach and counteracts flatulence. The same applies to caraway and peppermint oil . Gentle clockwise massages relax the abdomen, helping to relieve stomach gurgling. Putting a hot water bottle on often has the same effect. Regular exercise fights indigestion and constipation, two of the most common causes of gut murmurs.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.